When Dan Scott, the founder and brand architect of Luxe Licensing, hears natural and lab-grown diamond sellers take shots at each other, it pains him. Because he has seen this movie before.
In a webinar [the week of January 28] for Gemmological Research Indsustries, Scott, the former chief marketing officer for designer Scott Kay, recounted two past intratrade battles he was involved in: platinum vs. palladium, and cobalt vs. tungsten carbide. He tells JCK that while both sides enjoyed momentary victories, everyone ended up losing.
When Scott worked for Scott Kay, the late designer—whose first love was platinum—began dabbling in its then-cheaper alternative, palladium. But not everyone in the industry considered palladium a precious metal.
One jeweler quoted in JCK said—in words that seem fit for the current market—“If you are willing to use substandard metals like palladium, then why not use synthetic gemstones or even synthetic diamonds?” Kay later called the comments “surreal.”
Eventually, an informal agreement was arranged—platinum would be used in bridal, while palladium would be used for fashion. There were plans for the two metals to be promoted in tandem. In the end, the main palladium miner went out on its own.
“That opened the door…to create palladium engagement and wedding bands without friction,” Scott says. “This, of course, led to the battle of precious, natural white metals that sent platinum and palladium in a downward spiral.
“It just wasn’t handled in a way that I think was beneficial to both sides. Look where the price of platinum is now. And I don’t know many retailers that continue to use palladium.”
Later, Kay, who was not one to shrink from a fight, got into another brawl over the merits of cobalt versus tungsten carbide, which the designer claimed was “brittle.”
This fight was more serious, with rival Frederick Goldman—which now owns the Scott Kay brand—petitioning the Federal Trade Commission to weigh in on Kay’s claims. And while cobalt did get some traction, it was short-lived.
“[The two metals] had a war when we could have lived together,” Scott says. “The retailers were caught in the middle and they didn’t know which way to turn. And while we were fighting it out, and we had all the lawsuits and all of the craziness, some smart people started to talk about the benefits of titanium—similar price tag, similar look. So the retailers went the easiest route and started selling a product without any controversy, without any issues.”
Photo © Lightbox, De Beers.