My initial reaction to lab-grown diamonds was disgust and fury, followed by fear, then finally curiosity.
Images of three-digit diamond prices, trade-in nightmares, negative online reviews, confused sales associates and my friends buying these online flooded my mind. My disgust and fury came in defense of the integrity of earth-mined diamonds and every word that had ever come out of my mouth to a guest about diamonds. My fear was born out of the unknown. But ultimately, my curiosity about how consumers would feel overcame my anger and fear.
After publicly emoting my opposition to lab-growns to our owners (my parents) and our other team members, sneaky regret slowly washed over me, and I decided that I would focus my curiosity on the consumer.
As a 27-year-old newlywed, I felt qualified to level with the millennial “target market” that most lab-grown companies seem to be pursuing. Keeping true to that millennial spirit, I headed online, where I immersed myself in blogs, forums, review sites, wedding industry articles — anywhere I could find the voice of the consumer. I needed to find out what they were thinking and feeling. That’s my job: to study the market and give them what they want, when they want it; to position our brand as the jewelry experts on whatever product we have in our store and to ensure everyone that might want it knows where they can get it.
What I unearthed calmed my anxiety.
The vocabulary and perspectives of these women were not at all what I expected to read. I read statements such as “I’d never tell my friends it wasn’t real,” “I just don’t think it would feel as special if it wasn’t like my mom and grandma’s diamond,” and “How do we really know they are ‘better’ for the earth?”
"I wanted control over writing the lab-grown script in our markets.”
Others voiced casual interest in lab-grown diamonds, saying they “didn’t care one way or the other” or wouldn’t mind one if it meant they could get a larger size for the same price.
I couldn’t find a significant amount of evidence that projected any rapid bandwagon-jumping that would leave us and our earth-mined diamonds in the dust. These women prized the sentiment, integrity and value of earth-mined diamonds and were positioning the two products against each other. Even though the products share the same physical, chemical and optical properties, there was a difference in the emotional way the two were discussed.
This discovery actually took my disgust and fury and morphed them into excitement and determination. It looked to me that lab-grown diamonds were weaving themselves into our industry, whether we wanted them to or not. Therefore, I wanted control over writing the lab-grown script in our markets, to stand on the absolute truths and merge them with our brand personality to deliver a safe, consistent, and intelligent message to the consumer about lab-grown diamonds.
Who are we to stand in the way of something the guest wants (or doesn’t know they want yet)? As long as the product introduction, store integration and sales-floor conversations are honest, transparent and unwavering, I see no reason why we shouldn’t expand our selection to serve even more members of our community.
Ashley Daily Stegall is the marketing manager of Bremer Jewelry in Peoria and Bloomington-Normal, IL, which is owned by Ronda and Craig Daily.
This article originally appeared in the September 2016 edition of INSTORE.