Pandora Jewelry is the world’s largest jewelry brand, generating some $3.2 billion last year by selling over 102 million pieces of jewelry in 100+ countries through 6,800 points of sale, including some 2,400 of its own stores.
It became what it is today by reimaging the classic charm bracelet in 2000, which remains the company’s flagship producing just over 70% of its revenues.
Widely thought of as a one-note brand, it’s easily overlooked in traditional jewelry circles. Other brands are thought of for exciting, trend-setting jewelry design, while Pandora keeps churning out charms. It’s the everyday jewelry that soccer moms named Karen wear ferrying their kids around town in mini-vans.
That may be the popular perception, but it is far from Pandora’s reality. Ever since CEO Alexander Lacik joined Pandora in 2019, coming from the beauty industry, including 13 years with Procter & Gamble, he’s been bringing it up-to-date and ready to take its place as a jewelry industry trendsetter, befitting its size and global scale.
The launch of Pandora’s Brilliance lab-grown diamond jewelry collection puts the industry on notice that Pandora refuses to stay in its lane.
Just as it reimagined the charm bracelet, it’s found white space in the diamond jewelry market that it is ready to fill. And while many brands have been playing in the lab-grown diamond space for years, none have the heft or the vision to pull it off like Pandora can.
Finding the diamond door for Pandora to enter
De Beers’ Lightbox lab-grown diamond line would be Pandora’s closest competitor in the lab-grown diamond space. But lab-grown diamonds’ very existence threatens De Beers’ core mined diamond franchise, so De Beers set up an artificial distinction between the two. Mined diamonds are true luxury for serious purchasers for serious purposes, like bridal, while lab-grown diamonds are frivolous fashion.
Pandora sees lab-grown diamond jewelry as a natural extension of its mission and vision and not just a cheap substitute for the “real” thing:
“Pandora’s mission – then and today – is to offer women across the world a universe of high-quality, hand-finished, modern and genuine jewelry products at affordable prices, thereby inspiring women to express their individuality. All women have their individual stories to tell – a personal collection of special moments that makes them who they are.”
Natural evolution of the Pandora brand
As Lasik tells it, the new Brillance line is right on brand for Pandora. “Pandora sees jewelry as more than a style accessory. Our jewelry is embued with meaning so you can express something that is near and dear to you. And it can be something you aspire to do or aspire to experience. It’s not just memories, but moments that can be yesterday, today or tomorrow.”
One of its core values is making fine jewelry accessible to all. “We are an inclusive, not an exclusive brand. We play in the middle of the market where affordability is incredibly important to our core customer,” he said. “Yet our customers want the luxury experience too, so that is where we needed to be.”
In effect, Pandora has always been an accessible luxury brand since it doesn’t sell costume jewelry, only fine jewelry made from precious silver and gold. However, it’s made affordable by being sold in small bite-sized chunks priced starting from around $30 per charm. But added up, a fully-decked out bracelet with 20 charms can easily cost $500 or more.
Technology has advanced to make real diamonds more affordable – lab-growns have the same chemical and structural composition as mined diamonds but are priced at 30% to 40% less. So offering the accessible luxury of lab-grown diamonds was a natural step in the evolution of the Pandora brand.
“If you look at it from one direction, going from a $30-$50 price point to $300-$500 looks like a giant leap,” Lasik said. “But from another, if you are looking to buy a one- carat diamond ring in 14k gold, you can expect to pay around $7,000 or so. Now you can come to us and pay $1,995. That is where the reframing happens.”
Not just for engagements, though it can be
Pandora also ignored the distinction between bridal and fashion, sticking to its proposition that the customer supplies the meaning in a jewelry purchase, not the brand. “Some 60% of all volume in diamonds is associated with the wedding space. That’s a crowded field, but we are Pandora and our jewelry has to be meaningful and relevant personally for our customers,” he said.
In plotting its course into lab-grown diamonds, the company looked closely into Gen Z and Millennials’ perception of marriage and the industry’s traditional positioning of diamonds as representing eternal love. It found that the younger generations doesn’t regard diamonds and marriage in the same way as previous generations.
“They believe people should stick together when it works and when it doesn’t, they have a different view. That is a strong undercurrent that may force traditional brands in the bridal and engagement category to rethink their ideas,” Lacik observed.
More reasons to purchase
In addition, women aren’t waiting around for their prince charming to pop the question. “The modern woman is perfectly capable of celebrating and taking the future into her own hands, whether there is a guy there or not,” he continued. “We believe we’ve hit on unique positioning that is culturally relevant and different from the traditional idea of diamonds.”
The self-purchasing woman is a target the diamond industry has been chasing for years, with only moderate success. However, Pandora already has her in its hands: about 44% of its customers are aged 18-to-34 years. Further, women aged 18-to-24 years have higher unaided brand awareness of Pandora than women 41-to-64 years, 38% to 32% respectively.
As Lasik looks at the diamond jewelry industry in general and the lab-grown segment in particular, he says they continue to “copy-and-paste” traditional diamond positioning onto their lab-grown offerings, effectively cutting the same pie into smaller and smaller slices.
“The cultural forces are sloping in the wrong direction for them,” he believes.
Growing the diamond pie
Lacik said that Pandora wants to grow the diamond jewelry pie. “We are expanding the use of diamonds and making them more accessible to more people,” he said.
He added, “We also have a strong sustainability profile that will become increasingly important in the future because the carbon footprint of our lab-growns is a fraction of mined diamonds.” Plus, the product line uses only recycled gold and silver.
The starting price for a diamond ring in the Brillance collection is $300 and tops out at $1,995 for one-carat, and they are designed to be stackable, which keeps with Pandora’s the more-the-merrier vibe. The collection also includes bracelets, necklaces and earrings, all offered in varying carat sizes within the same $300 to $1,995 price range.
Commenting on Pandora’s launch of the Brilliance collection, luxury industry consultant Ram Glick, who worked with Lusix, the lab-grown diamond company in which LMVH Ventures just recently invested, succinctly summed Pandora’s move into lab-growns.
“It’s one of the boldest and smartest decisions Pandora has ever made,” he said, adding that very few saw it coming.
“They have everything they need to make it a huge success: an amazing and trustworthy brand, a fantastic and forward-thinking team, an ‘exquisitely beautiful’ design, a worldwide retail network, spectacular e-commerce and social media platforms, and most importantly, a loyal, daring, passionate, feel good and do good modern customer,” he concluded.
Lab-grown diamond jewelry is an evolutionary step for the Pandora brand and a revolutionary one for the company, consumers and the industry.