Large Retailers Move Into High Jewelry


Over the past decade, retail jewelers, long considered the power brokers of the industry because of their close relationships with consumers, have increasingly found themselves competing with brands like Bulgari, Cartier and Tiffany & Company to capture the attention, and discretionary income, of globe-trotting high-end jewelry buyers.

But two can play at that game, and lately, a number of regional multibrand retailers have been trying.

Take Jared Atelier, a limited-edition, high-jewelry collection from Jared, the American jewelry chain owned by Signet Jewelers. Signet, based in Akron, Ohio, is the largest jewelry operation in the United States and one of the largest in Britain, with about 2,800 stores in the two countries operating as Kay Jewelers, Zales and other retail jewelry names.

Introduced online and in five select Jared locations in October, the collection features 21 diamond-decked styles in limited quantities of one to three pieces each, at up to $125,000.

The Atelier pieces reflect “an intentional move to push up and attract a higher-end customer with products not normally seen in Jared,” Bill Brace, president of Jared and Jewelry Services at Signet, said on a recent video call.

In mid-November, Bucherer, the high-end Swiss watch and jewelry retailer, held an event in New York to introduce a high jewelry collection composed of 12 elaborate pieces, set with diamonds and colored stones, to celebrate the opening in late October of its first store exclusively dedicated to selling Bucherer high jewelry, on the luxury shopping street Göthestrasse in Frankfurt.

“The collection further establishes Bucherer fine jewelry’s worldwide presence,” Carina Ertl, chief marketing officer of Bucherer USA, wrote in an email. “We’ve always had a rich history of craftsmanship, design and unique stones and this collection embodies our atelier’s expertise.”

The high jewelry pieces arrived in the midst of a growth spurt for Bucherer. In October, the company announced that it had acquired Leeds & Son, a fine jewelry and watch retailer in Palm Desert, Calif.

Founded in Lucerne, Switzerland, in 1888, Bucherer embarked on a high-profile expansion in 2018, when it acquired Tourneau, the American watch retailer with 36 U.S. retail locations, including its TimeMachine flagship at 57th Street and Madison Avenue in New York City, now known as the Bucherer 1888 TimeMachine.

Birks, one of Canada’s leading jewelry retailers since its founding in 1879, has a similar story. Earlier this month the company, based in Montreal, introduced a snowflake-inspired high jewelry collection of five pieces — earrings, necklaces and a ring — ranging from $15,800 to $50,000. (The brand scored a rash of free publicity in June, when Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex, wore an earlier version of the snowflake-inspired earrings to Queen Elizabeth II’s Platinum Jubilee celebration.)

“We wanted to take a signature Canadian symbol, something ephemeral, and immortalize it in the finest materials (18-karat white gold and diamonds) with a unique and intricate design,” Jean-Christophe Bédos, the company’s chief executive, wrote in an email.

The high jewelry push coincides with a plan to expand Birks’s digital footprint in the United States with the debut of an e-commerce website in April.

And the growth opportunities extend well beyond the Canadian brand’s southerly neighbor. “Our goal is to continue growing in the U.S. and Europe with our retail partners,” Mr. Bédos wrote. “We also see great growth opportunities in the Middle East and Asia.”



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