As young millennials turn their back on all that glitters, one Dubai-based diamond seller believes that with the right retail concept, diamonds will indeed be forever.
Fergus Appleton, CEO and owner at Dubai Rocks, is hoping that the opening of the region’s first diamond museum will help engage millennials in an industry beset by a bad reputation for ‘blood diamonds’ and competition from synthetically cultivated stones.
“We’re planning a revolutionary retail concept that brings some tangibility and interactive learning to our process,” Appleton told Inc. Arabia.
The new retail concept will, according to him, highlight the worth of naturally-sourced diamonds by charting their journey from mother-nature’s formation, into the hands of highly skilled craftsmen mining, cutting and polishing them.
“We go through a process with the customer [where] we educate them…we talk to them about the ethics of the business. It will show you where the rough diamond was mined, what it looks like, where it got sold, and what happens to it before it ends up in a ring.
According to Appleton, this will engage people in not just the products, but in the industry in a way that they haven’t been able to do before.
Their new retail concept will replicate diamond museums in Bruges and Amsterdam, which offer diamond polishing shows, and treasure chambers of precious diamond collections dating as far back at the 16th century.
The museum will be composed of different sections that aim to recreate the sensory experience offered in lavish department stores such as London’s Selfridges, he added.
A floor plan seen by Inc. Arabia maps out a centerpiece diamond bar, showcasing a selection of real diamonds of differing shapes and colors.
Appleton will also have replicas of the most famous diamonds such as the largest cut diamond in the world, the Cullinan (also known as the Star of Africa); the priceless, colorless Koh-i-Noor diamond set in the Queen Mother’s crown in Britain; and the world’s largest black diamond.
Another section is equipped with ‘black boxes’ where visitors would get to explore themes such as ‘diamond fluorescence,’ the soft glow emitted after a gem has been exposed to UV light.
“We are going to have things in here that are interactive so people can get hand-on experience understanding what different dynamics of the diamond are about,” he said.
Another area will be dedicated to local designers in partnership with a local design school: “Every single month we’re going to have students there who would create their designs, and we make it for them. So there’s a local influence in there.”
The store opening in September will target a range of customers from those shopping for billionaire bling to simple diamond sparkler engagement rings.
Appleton set up his hybrid-online diamond store, Dubai Rocks, in 2013, that offers custom made diamond jewelry at a third of high street prices, by saving on retail space and VAT, he said.
His store, according to him, is a diamond in the rough in Dubai, where aggressive haggling in diamond districts, such as the Dubai Gold and Diamond Park, is the price of doing business here.
“If you come to us and haven’t got a clue what you’re doing, and we know you haven’t got a clue, you’ll still get a great deal.”