The Belgian Embassy in Tokyo was the setting for the launch of a new initiative to bring certified, Antwerp-sourced diamonds to the Japanese retail market under the quality label: "Diamonds & Antwerp" (DnA). The Antwerp World Diamond Centre (AWDC), Japan's CGL (Central Gem Laboratory) and Japanese diamond jewelry wholesaler and retailer AP Diamond have joined forces to set up a partnership whereby Japanese retailers have the option to display the quality label in shops if they sell Antwerp-crafted and CGL-graded diamonds. The diamonds are shipped directly from the Diamond Office in Antwerp to CGL, the leading diamond grading lab in Japan, which in turn confirms the orgin of the diamonds, grades them and provides them with a certificate bearing the DnA label, should the purchaser so desire. All of which delivers tremendous added value, according to Takuya Ito, Management Strategy Division Manager at AP Co., Ltd. and 'Diamonds and Antwerp Ambassador'.
The official Belgian Ambassador to Japan, H.E. Gunther Sleeuwagen, told the audience at the launch, "Quite simply, the Diamonds & Antwerp label is your certified guarantee that a diamond has come from Antwerp. It enables you, as well as you customers, to have complete confidence in the quality, craftsmanship and origin of your diamond. Because when it comes to diamonds, Antwerp is synonymous with quality and craftsmanship – precisely those characteristics valued by Japanese jewelers and consumers. Antwerp is the leading diamond trade centre in the world, not only in regard to scale, but also in regard to ethics and reliability. It has remained the leader in the diamond trade for centuries by developing lasting partnerships with countries and cultures around the world. It succeeds by building relationships of mutual trust with partners that share the same values: The pursuit of perfection. Technical innovation. Authenticity. Respect for heritage."
AWDC spokesperson Margaux Donckier said interest in the Antwerp quality label was high, adding that the initial group of 15 retail partners, "exceeded our expectations. It has gone faster than we expected. The Japanese diamond jewelry market appears robust, and they are enthusiastic about European goods." Her impressions are confirmed by current research, as according to De Beers 2016 Insight Report, Japan is the world's fifth largest consumer of diamond jewelry with a growing market - up 8.1% to over $6 billion in 2016.
The diamonds and Antwerp quality label launched in Japan could form the blueprint for other markets as well. The Diamond Loupe spoke with Takuya Ito of AP Co. after the event.
DnA Label: Differentiation and Consumer Confidence
The Diamond Loupe: Representatives from the Antwerp World Diamond Centre (AWDC), the umbrella organization of the Antwerp diamond industry, are in Tokyo discussing a Diamonds & Antwerp initiative. Can you tell us how it came about?
Takuya Ito: Over the last few years, the Japanese diamond market has become very tough in terms of price competition, and people have been trying to find ways around it. Especially in Japan, there are many second-hand diamonds in the market and these are sold as brand new goods. These diamonds are very cheap. In addition, differentiating one's own diamonds from others is not easy for Japanese jewelry makers and retailers. In this kind of situation, the DnA label should give confidence to retailers and promote commitment to their diamonds. Many Japanese companies hope to use this to add more value to their own brands.
DL: What does it mean for Japanese jewelers to display the Diamonds & Antwerp quality label?
Takuya Ito: The logo signifies high quality and highly ethical diamonds. If DnA becomes recognized by consumers, it will help jewelers to differentiate their products from others, so they can sell these diamonds without playing the pure price competition game. It’s the same as other goods and foods; Japanese consumers care about the origin of every product. That’s why the logo is so important for retailers and consumers both, because it increases confidence.
DL: Are Antwerp diamonds known to discerning consumers?
Takuya Ito: Some heavy users know about it, but at this point it’s a minority. Most consumers, especially of bridal jewelry, do not know about the diamond supply chain and origin issues, because most retailers cannot explain it. That is why the DnA initiative is significant: it will enable retailers to talk with confidence about their product, and in turn generate confidence and understanding among consumers. And at the end of the day, that is what consumers want. We just have to make it more available.
DL: How many jewelers have already joined the initiative, and how many more do you expect in the coming year?
Takuya Ito: 14 companies already joined DnA. I expect 20 - 25 additional companies will join DnA this year.
DL: Last year, representatives from AWDC travelled to Tokyo to meet representatives from the Japanese diamond jewelry industry. Later in the year, a delegation of 26 Japanese diamond traders travelled to Antwerp to participate in an Antwerp Diamond Experience. How did this relationship develop? And what were your impressions of Antwerp?
Takuya Ito: Some of the participants of Antwerp Diamond Experience decided to join the DnA project as a result of traveling to Antwerp. The tour was very impressive for most of the participants, as most had never had the chance to visit Antwerp before. It is important that retailers understand about the Antwerp diamond industry advantage, as importers and wholesalers will purchase goods according to what the retailers desire. For this reason, the recent vist was very successful. Now many retailers are very positive about the DnA project. Before visiting Antwerp, they thought Antwerp was just another trade center. Now they understood why Antwerp is really the capital of world diamond industry, they felt proud to be invited as special guests and are also feeling proud to sell such high-quality diamonds in their store.
The DnA project is just starting in Japan. But I have received very good feedback from many companies and they are hoping to utilize it as part of their core business. I believe that this year will be very fruitful for DnA project in Japan and our efforts will pay off.