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Brands reassure in a downturn – Van Cleef & Arpels
By Tom Wildhern



LONDON, November 3, 2008 – Customers are turning to well-established jewellery brands to seek reassurance and value for money in tough times, says Van Cleef & Arpels’ UK Brand Director Geoffroy Medinger.

“People are uncertain about what will happen in the financial crisis. No one knows the consequences yet,” Medinger told JewelleryOutlook in an interview.

“Very established brands give you confidence – they can stay with you and help you live through the crisis. Whenever there is a crisis, people want to be confident in the quality of what they buy. At Van Cleef & Arpels, we have a long history, and we have lived through very many crises.”

Van Cleef & Arpels, founded in 1906 in a boutique on the prestigious Place Vendome in central  Paris, is a top fine jewellery brand, whose creations have adorned some of the world’s most glamorous women such as the Duchess of Windsor, Marlene Dietrich, and Madonna.

Geoffroy Medinger, UK Brand
Director, Van Cleef & Arpels

Footfall at Van Cleef & Arpels' Bond Street boutique has held steady despite the world’s worst financial crisis in living memory. Medinger spoke of one City financier who spent 250,000 pounds ($450,000) on a necklace in October regardless of the financial storm swirling around the banking industry.

Buying enquiries were holding up well, buoyed by ultra-wealthy Middle Eastern customers who had returned to London after Ramadan, Medinger said.

“October is always slow, but it is not slower than last year,” he said.

 “Many customers who come here are curious about the financial situation,” he added. “People are puzzled over what will happen.”

Discerning Russian buyers, with increasingly refined tastes, were showing a strong interest in the sophisticated, feminine designs created by Van Cleef & Arpels.

In hard times, people are looking for value for money in their jewellery purchases, Medinger said.

Jewels whose functions can be transformed – necklaces that can be turned into earrings, for example – enable the wearer to use them more often.

 Van Cleef & Arpels
Golden Pavilion clip

Unique features in jewellery are also at a premium during an economic downturn.

The Mystery Setting, which was perfected in 1933, and quickly adopted by Van Cleef & Arpels, who established exclusive rights over it in France, the United States and a number of other countries, is one of the distinct attributes of Van Cleef & Arpels’ finest jewels.

The Mystery Setting permitted gemstones to be connected without revealing any metallic links.

No trace of the setting can be seen on the visible side of the jewel, which looks as though it had been directly sculpted from a precious stone.

 Van Cleef & Arpels clip

The stone ceases to be an ornament that sparkles with a dazzling but rather inert beauty, as in traditional creations.

It becomes a substance that is malleable, almost docile.

Medinger said that, above all, rare exquisite jewellery is an investment, and the financial crisis has boosted the appeal of unique pieces.

Medinger said that, above all, rare exquisite jewellery is an investment, and the financial crisis has boosted the appeal of unique pieces.

Van Cleef & Arpels’ Jardins and Alhambra collections are selling exceptionally well, he added.

Van Cleef & Arpels clip
Van Cleef & Arpels'
Reflection in Water 

“When you don’t know for sure that your money in the bank will be safe there, a piece of jewellery will keep its value,” Medinger said.

“We don’t feel the crisis so much because we only use top quality stones.”

People understand and appreciate the value of unique pieces of jewellery in tough times, Medinger said.

“At Van Cleef, we do many one-off pieces – many bespoke pieces,” he added.

“We’re marketing ourselves as different and creative. We have no intention of lowering our diamond quality. We’re coming up with new ideas and new shapes.”