How a Dutch Startup Offers Rare Colored Diamonds, for 35 Times LessMay 15, 2015 - by Forbes
It’s amazing to see how the new Dutch jewelry brand, House of Eléonore, is completely disrupting the diamond market. The new startup, now raising on Kickstarter, is bringing innovation and transparency to the fine jewelry world, and we can’t wait to see what they do next. –Sailthru
Emma Watson, Amal Clooney and Her Majesty Queen Máxima of the Netherlands, are amongst the women where he would like to put a ring on it. Bernd Damme, is the 25-year-old Dutch entrepreneur behind a fine jewelry start-up called House of Eléonore. Though the first collection – a mix of bespoke and ready-to-wear jewelry – is set to be launched late summer, the start-up has already won the support of famed Dutch jewelry house Royal Asscher. The same jewelry house notorious for catering diamonds to Europe’s royal families. What makes House of Eléonore worth Royal Asscher’s while you ask? Well, the company specializes in conflict-free, rare colored diamonds. The non-mined kind.
Damme previously founded the biggest online eyewear retailer of the Benelux area, Eyewear.nl, which he sold to a Dutch consortium in early 2013. He believes the way in which many jewelry brands connect with their customers nowadays is outdated. The House of Eléonore founder is aiming to bring change by reinventing the fine jewelry online shopping experience, as well as the offline variant via a 24/7 concierge service, that arranges the perfect wedding proposal for clients.
“Often I feel like a big part of the jewelry industry is still stuck in the Nineties; there’s very little activity online for example. The overall mentality is pretty much ‘Just come to our store at Place Vendȏme’. Shops here in Amsterdam for example, are typically opened from 10 till 6. Which means that by the time you get out of work, everything is closed already. There’s also very little transparency in terms of where the gold or diamonds come from. The industry is a little outdated and it’s time for a fresh approach,” says Bernd, while sitting in his office chair inside the in 1906-established Amsterdam headquarters of Royal Asscher. Damme further explains, “Brands such as Blue Nile, Cartier and Tiffany’s are cashing in through their online efforts, but they’re amongst the few jewelry brands to embrace online retail.”
The House of Eléonore founder admits to understand that when shopping for fine jewelry, there’s the customer’s need to actually fit and carefully analyze a product, prior to making the purchase. Nevertheless, he believes to have found a solution for that, via 3D printing techniques. “Our website will feature a 3D tool that shows the jewelry from various angles, which makes it possible for customers to determine their ring size. When making use of our bespoke service, you’ll also receive a 3D printed version at home. I don’t believe it would be right to completely ignore the concept of a physical store, so we will open our first concept store in Amsterdam, and will subsequently expand our presence internationally via a shop-in-shop model.”
Besides the fresh approach to online retail, it is House of Eléonore’s specialization in non-mined, rare colorful diamonds, that is suppose to place the jewelry brand in a league of its own. “Generally speaking, colored diamonds can cost up to 4 to 90 times as much as regular diamonds. So for a half carat blue diamond, you could easily drop €70.000 or more. Since our diamonds are non-mined, we can offer the same quality at a price between the €2000-€3000. Sure, not everybody will be able to afford that, but it does make it accessible to a much bigger group. Plus the diamonds are sourced in an ethical and transparent manner,” Damme concludes.
Mike Asscher, a sixth generation Asscher family member, and current Vice President of the in 1854-established Royal Asscher family business, shares Bernd’s enthusiasm when it comes to non-mined diamonds, explaining “My father and I are great supporters of the non-minded diamonds movement, as we believe this is the future of our industry. If you look at the pearl industry for example, it has become practically impossible to find natural pearls. So it gets to the point where the natural product is so rare and costly, that people will look for a replacement.”
About that replacement, House of Eléonore’s founder reiterates the non-mined diamonds are no different from the mined kind. Physicially speaking that is, as well as chemically. Even on an atomic level, the start-up’s diamonds would be identical to their natural counterparts.
The type of support Royal Asscher gives House of Eléonore, mainly concerns providing the necessary advice and delivering skilled craftsmen. Plus offering an office space to the young start-up, inside the family’s historic headquarters. All of this came about quite casually, when Damme – who had known the Asscher family for a few years already – had lunch with Mike Asscher, and mentioned his desire to give a traditional Dutch craft, a modern upgrade. “The reason why we, Royal Asscher, didn’t launch a line of non-mined colored diamonds ourselves, is simply because I believe that good entrepreneurship means knowing what to focus on,” Mike Asscher says. Adding, “But we’re definitely interested in investing in the company down the line. This is the future.”