Innovative Antwerp-based diamond company Baunat has launched a laboratory diamond division alongside its existing ethical natural diamond business, becoming the first company of its kind to offer both natural and surface diamonds, in a clear play for two separate customers. Baunat Group’s new laboratory arm, Valquère, will also offer technically complex fancy colored blue and pink diamonds, bringing together science, art and traditional European craftsmanship in a cleverly designed new offering.
In the heart of Antwerp’s historic Diamond District, Baunat was started in 2008 by diamantaires Stefaan Mouradian and Steven Boelens, offering high-quality, ethically certified natural diamonds with as short and transparent a supply chain as possible. Importantly, Bauant’s offering is based on demand rather than trends, and has allowed the team to focus on the highly lucrative engagement and buying of white diamonds, with 60% of its customers buying bespoke or semi-bespoke. Combining a digital, direct-to-consumer approach, the company has grown into a leading online jeweler in Europe over the past decade.
Potential customers can browse style libraries on the Baunat and Valquère websites and purchase ready-made, semi-cut or bespoke jewellery, with a delivery time of between two and five weeks for production at the Group’s workshops in Antwerp and Paris. Baunat was ideally placed to capitalize on the surge in online e-commerce due to Covid and 65% of its custom is still online today. “Buying a piece of jewelry should be an experience, so we have a carefully selected team that speaks over 20 languages so we can serve our customers all over the world,” says Mouradian. “Valquère aims high, so we offer seven currencies and even cryptocurrency as a payment option.”
The move comes at a time when the market for natural diamonds has weakened, due to increasing pressure from laboratory instability and global volatility, which has led to the withholding of rough diamond supply from some countries and suppliers. Rapaport reported “market stabilization amid decline in tentative supply” this week (Rapaport Market Wire November 9, 2023), as the reduction in production reduces inventory pressure. Analysts will be closely watching the natural diamond market in the coming months as India prepares for an extended shutdown for the Diwali holiday and the global political situation remains challenging.
Baunat’s existing customers are mainly men buying for women, with a growing number of female customers splurging on categories such as tennis bracelets. Under the bold tagline ‘Statement Made’, the new brand offers hand crafted jewelery using recycled metals with top quality lab grown diamonds. The offering is designed to reach a customer who is attracted to the aspirational quality of diamonds and is looking for bigger, bolder stones at a more affordable price. Most Valquère pieces are in the consumer sweet spot between €1,500-€4,000, with some exceptional pieces exceeding €10,000.
“Natural diamonds come with a price. With the steady rise of lab-grown diamonds, and in particular, their increased quality in recent years, this luxury is now available for those who want a traditional form but with a smart twist,” says Boelens. “With Valquère, it is possible to get higher carat weight at a very attractive price, or go for higher quality and brilliance, without paying the premium of natural diamonds. It is a new kind of luxury, in demand by those who want to optimize their budget and use it for smaller occasions.”
The inclusion of fancy diamonds, as an alternative to rare, high-value natural colored diamonds that can cost up to $2 million per carat, is particularly innovative, as colored diamonds are notoriously complex to produce. Valquère’s suppliers focus on color control for a uniform shade, maintaining growing and production conditions at a significant scale to allow the company to include blue and pink diamonds in its offering. Consumer reaction will determine whether there is sufficient appetite for colored diamonds, which analysts do not believe will gain the same investment value as their natural counterparts.
The company buys lab-grown diamonds directly from producers, selecting only F and E color grades, with VS1 and VVS2 clarity. “Our heritage in investment diamonds and jewelery ensures that our products have undergone extensive research and development and we only offer the cream of the crop because the forces behind the brand are by no means new to this sector,” concludes Boelens.