ICA Ambassador to France, Pascale Savigny

ICA Ambassador Reports,

French Luxury Goods Firms Illustrate Importance of Luxury Jewelry Brands

by ICA Ambassador to France, Pascale Savigny, October 2016.

France accounts for the largest concentration of luxury jewelry brands. They are part of three big groups: Richemont, LVHM and Kering. The big French jewelry names are renowned for their creativity and the quality of their jewelry manufacturing, along with their tradition and history.

According to French jewelry brand development directors, the success of the collections is due to the quality of the cutting, fitting, shaping and polishing of gemstones by highly skilled and experienced craftsmen. The high brand jewelry groups are in good health and their customers benefit from the competition among the different brands.

These groups have also extended their domination of the sector by acquiring foreign luxury jewelry brands. LVMH now owns Bulgari, and Kering has acquired another Italian house, Pomelato, in addition to the Chinese luxury brand, Qeeling.

The clientele of the top houses, such as Cartier, Van Cleef & Arpels, Dior, Louis Vuitton, Piaget, and Chanel is still principally in the Middle East and the Gulf, followed by China, the USA where the French groups are not leaders apart from Cartier, while the Bulgari brand is strong.

With the improvement of the American economy, U.S. jewelry imports are increasing, and are seeing the best turnover for the past four years.

The medium-priced jewelry market has been shrinking almost everywhere in France where local sales have been affected by a significant drop in the number of foreign visitors due to fear of terror attacks. The domestic market is also significantly slower.

Jewelry brands have now developed a fast-growing segment, the so-called 'small jewelry lines', with pieces available worldwide and priced between $1,000 to $10,000. This range of jewels features lower-priced and smaller sizes of stones of a somewhat more commercial quality with the pieces all made in France.

French brands use more and more colored stones of all types, with a strong liking for emerald, followed by ruby and pink sapphire which remain in high demand.

Other colored stones in demand for setting in luxury jewelry are red spinel, and tourmaline - especially Paraíba and rubelite. Meanwhile, demand for colored diamonds is strong and steady.

French jewelry groups and houses succeed globally due to their global marketing and international reputation.

The big groups have set up a traceability system which is becoming a very important part of their criteria for working with colored stones suppliers.

The luxury world market is expected to slow down in 2016, a consequence of the continuing slowdown in China and Hong Kong, while the American market is suffering from the strength of the dollar and Europe is seeing lower tourist numbers.

Purchasing patterns are changing in France. Using social networks and new digital technology, consumers of luxury items now increasingly dictate where, when and how they make a commitment to buying luxury brands. They have become both critics and creators; they require a more personalized luxury experience, and expect to have the possibility of shaping the products and services they are consuming.

Luxury global French brands thus have to answer to the new demands of the market and emphasize value in order to satisfy the expectations of the new breed of consumers.