European jewellery has always been popular in Australia. In the halcyon days of generic jewellery sales the ‘Made in Italy’, hallprint was a well recognised symbol of quality design and workmanship.
Today such a ‘country of origin’ label doesn’t seem to be so prized by consumers purchasing generic jewellery items such as gold and silver chains and other wardrobe basics – it IS however highly-valued on branded jewellery.
After all it can’t be coincidental that most, if not all the big jewellery brand names, in Australia hail from Europe rather than the US, Asia, South America, the Middle East or even our own shores.
Italy is of course no longer the sole source of Australians’ jewellery dreams: the southern European country has been joined by the likes of France, Germany, Holland, Finland, Sweden, England and Denmark as the most desired homes of quality jewellery designs
The reasons may be many and/or nameless but the fact remains European brands do sell and the companies manufacturing and/or distributing them know it – that’s why the country or city of origin is so often featured in the advertising and promotional materials of many of the best-selling European jewellery brands.
Out of the box
Pandora, established in Copenhagen in 1982 and launched in Australia by Karin Adcock in 2004, is undoubtedly Australia’s best known example of a successful European brand.
A designer, manufacturer and marketer of “hand finished, modern jewellery made from gold and silver and offered at affordable prices”, Pandora’s initial success was based on the sales of its charm bracelets but has since expanded to include a jewellery collection featuring over “100 unique designs”.
Karin Adcock, the president of Pandora Australia, says she launched the collection in Australia after having “fallen in love” with the charms and bracelets while holidaying in Denmark.
Adcock recalls that although she immediately realized Pandora’s potential in Australia many local retailers were initially reluctant to stock the product.
“While retailers thought the bracelet and charms were attractive, some of the first retailers who were approached didn’t think their customers would warm to the concept.
“The opposite was true however, and women embraced the bracelet and charms, collecting pieces to commemorate their special moments.”
She believes the brand “enjoys high brand awareness” as “Australian women like to choose jewellery that matches their style”.
“They have an independence of spirit that they can celebrate with the jewellery: women often wear the pieces in a way that is unique to them.”
“Although it’s hard to generalise about European brands, we know that Pandora is popular in Australia because it offers attractive designs in gold and silver, a wide range of styles and price levels and high quality craftsmanship.
“The jewellery is created to be treasured and to last and this is appreciated by Australian women.”
Duraflex Group Australia is another Australian distributor which is enjoying the surging popularity of European brands with Danish brand Spinning Jewelry and German brand Thomas Sabo.
Founded in 1984, Thomas Sabo is an “innovative” jewellery and watch company that has responded quickly to trends and market demands with its sterling silver collection, Charm Club and watch collection, while Spinning Jewelery, founded just a year later, is “a market leader of combination jewellery” offering sterling silver and nine carat gold rings and earrings set with enamel, pearls, diamonds and semi-precious stones.
Duraflex managing director Phil Edwards says the “outstanding success” of Thomas Sabo in the Australian market since its launch in 2004 inspired the company to take on “another European brand”, Spinning Jewelry, in 2011.
“Branded jewellery was a relatively new concept in the Australian market in 2004 and was therefore treated with caution by retailers and some were slow to respond but the ease with which the benefits of a brand like Thomas Sabo can be seen created a buzz and excitement very shortly after the initial launch phase,” he recalls.
He says Thomas Sabo is now firmly established as a leading luxury fashion jewellery brand in Australia and continues to see growth in all areas while Spinning Jewelry has experienced exceptional growth in its first year in the Australian market with Duraflex.
He believes Australia’s long distance from Europe “makes Australians hungry for all things Euro”.
“European brands have a reputation for using quality materials in cutting edge designs and trends.
“Consumers have established faith in European products which feeds through to the European jewellery brands available now in Australia and the world.”
Stephen Brown from RJ Scanlan agrees that Europe’s reputation for producing quality products is a key to local success of its brands.
“Europe is a mature market that thrives on design and quality, so successful brands in Europe are those that are innovative and produce a quality product,” he says.
“I have always thought that in tough times people either purchase cheap products that can be discarded if they break or are no longer fashionable or premium products that will last and are therefore seen a good value…
“Europe is generally at the premium end and with the Australian dollar at its current rate, European brands are even better value than they were a couple of years ago.”
RJ Scanlan distributes three European brands: Dora Wedding Rings and TeNo jewellery from Germany and Trollbeads from Denmark.
Dora is the “best known branded wedding ring in Australia”, TeNo is a stainless steel range of jewellery featuring materials such as black and white diamonds, enamel, horn, ceramic, rubber, wood and mother of pearl and Trollbeads is “the original ‘bead on bracelet’ designer”.
Scanlan, which began distributing Dora in 2001 (although it wasn’t a branded collection until 2006) and TeNo in 2003, added Trollbeads to its brand collection last July.
“We had been approached earlier by the Danish embassy export department to see whether we were interested in taking on another brand,” recalls Brown.
“Once we saw the quality and the product we were hooked,” he says.
“We believe Trollbeads is the premium bead brand in the market.
“The quality, quirkiness, diversity and creativity of the brand makes it successful but… it’s also interesting to note the number of Danish global companies that are at the forefront of their industries.
“For a small country they certainly punch above their weight.”
Ole Ole Ole
Ole Lynggaard Copenhagen is another Danish brand that has captured the imagination of Australian women.
Established in 1963 to fill a gap in the market for fine jewellery that was “not only for going out but also for everyday wear” today, the brand, which was introduced into Australia in 2008 with “great success”, has evolved into a collection of “personalised and flexible fine jewellery that uses only the highest quality metals and gemstones”.
Ole Lynggaard’s Australia and New Zealand Country manager Kamilla van der Velde believes Australians “recognise and love Danish design for being timeless, functional and stylish”.
“Thanks to Princess Mary, Australia and Denmark are almost like ‘family’,” she says.
“We share the same relaxed, outdoor lifestyle and Australian woman look for designs that she can wear from day to night either dressed up or down which is what makes our collections so special.”
“Our family run business has a well established reputation throughout the world as a luxury brand, while still maintaining production in Denmark.”
The appeal of Danish design has also attracted the attention of Lily Webber, the managing director of Webber & Tonkin, which has recently introduced a new Danish brand onto the Australian market.
Founded in Denmark just two years ago by Charlotte Biehl, the byBiehl jewellery collection is made up of “a large number of pods for bracelets and necklaces, earrings and rings”.
Webber says she was attracted to the brand as “it is a unique versatile product that is designed by Charlotte Biehl who takes great pride in innovative and functional jewellery design”.
She says retailers have quickly supported the product because it is high quality original jewellery at an affordable price.
She also believes that the brand’s county of origin is important.
“It is a Danish design of high quality craftsmanship and inimitable styling,” she says.
“The Danish designers in our opinion are attuned to new and progressive jewellery design.
“European brands have the timeless and traditional craftsmanship that Australians love whilst always developing new and exciting functional design and styles,” she says.
“In this current market, Australians look for quality difference and affordable prices. It is no mistake that the Danes have faired so well in the current European market because of their independence and outgoing culture which is in many ways similar to Australian values.”
Craig Symons, the director of Osjag, also appreciates the European heritage of the brands he sells – Breuning, Bastian Inverun and Marc O’Polo Jewels from Germany.
Established in 1929, Breuning produces sterling silver and gold jewellery while Bastian, which began trading in 1974, offers sterling silver, diamond, semi-precious and pearl jewellery, and Marc O’Polo Jewels, a licensed brand just two-years-old, features designs crafted from “natural materials and gems”.
Symons says he began distributing Breuning in 1998 because he was looking for an opportunity to represent an international manufacturer.
The launch of Bastian in 2009 and Marc O’Polo last year was then part of the company’s strategy to become “known as a supplier of high quality silver” and that the brands’ European pedigree “makes a significant impact on retailers and consumers”.
“We try to offer a genuine quality difference to many brands in the market,” he says.
“All our brands are all German in origin which speaks volumes.
“Many independent jewellers recognise that fact and are supporting us as part of their own desire to differentiate themselves from the chain stores and cheaper silver shops. In turn, consumers are discovering the quality/value difference too.”
He believes that European brands are typically successful in the current market as “European jewellery houses have always been the leaders in design, style and quality.
“It was only a small step to begin the branding of those collections (in much the same way as their watch and timepiece cousins) to receive recognition and popularity.”
Similarly, although only open for business for two years Lady Schmuck has quickly established its credibility with seven jewellery brands brandishing their distinctly French heritage: Kenzo, Lacoste, Paul & Joe, Nina Ricci, GL Paris, XC38 and Valles Dordal.
“Our licensed brands of jewellery all have established fashion pedigrees and distinct identities that direct their jewellery offerings,” says Lady Schmuck managing director Maja Karavasilis.
She says her launch collection was the Kenzo range as she “fell in love” with the brand’s unique and ever evolving designs as well as “the incredible finish” of the jewellery.
“I believed that sometimes it is up to jewellers to grow and educate their market by offering products that reflect values that are important to them – quality, innovation, purity, exclusivity,” she says.
“I wanted to offer jewellers options and work with people who share an appreciation of a point of difference.”
Fortunately the initial response by retailers and consumers was “really positive”.
“The ranges I import (all from one high quality international manufacturer) all stand out in the market place − also importantly, they do not cannibalise between themselves.”
“The designs stand out which can mean it takes a bit longer to ‘wrap a mind around it’ however I consider it a great blessing. In the end, it will mean a market place with a greater appreciation for fine design and playful detail.”
Karavasilis believes the popularity of European brands reflect “the heritage of this migrant nation”.
“We may be positioned in Asia Pacific and we may watch American TV but our roots are predominantly European and there is a natural affinity for this shared history,” she says.
“In addition, European brands take the mantle for world’s premium luxury.
“No matter what our background, Europe’s greatest brands are accepted as the benchmark by the world. These brands understand the quality, design and time that it takes to make a brand of significance.
“Additionally the Australian jewellery market is very similar to the French industry. Built on independent family jewellers and with a conservative approach, the Australian market mirrors many European markets.
“Change and growth is slow but we are also undergoing the radical shifts that have accepted branding, fashion jewellery and more.”
Europe’s move to jewellery branding has also benefited local distributor Lindsays, which began distributing Italian brands Morellato in 2003 Sector watches and jewellery in 2009.
Morellato, established in 1930 and now Italy’s largest watch and jewellery company, designs and manufactures stainless steel jewelleryfor men and women featuring diamonds, 18 carat gold, freshwater pearls and semi-precious stones while Sector, which was founded in the 1970s, produces “masculine and edgy jewellery” combining stainless steel, leather and black diamonds.
Lindsays sales manager Mark NcNeil believes the European heritage of both brands is a key reason behind their success as “we can offer something our competitors cannot”.
“We offer a large range of Italian design jewellery featuring precious materials at affordable prices for everyday wear,” he says.
“We are backed by Italy’s largest watch and jewellery company, have extensive point of sale material and have many new product releases each year.
“We also have an international brand presence and recognition which is important as the market and trends are becoming increasingly more global and we find that Australians now want to be able to be presented the same jewellery offering without having to go overseas to purchase.”
He concludes that Europeans are the artisans of fashion and design.
“The jewellery industry is a perfect example of this,” he says.
“This is why the European trade fairs are the biggest in the world and attract the greatest amount of exhibitors and visitors as everyone wants to see the latest European creations.”
International Brand Distributors has experienced similar success with its Ti Sento-Milan and Charming by Ti Sento brands.
Company managing director Hannes Coetsee says the brands were conceptualized in 2002 to fill a market gap for “high quality, highly fashionable, flexible trendiness but also very accessible silver fashion jewellery”.
He says he launched the brand on the local market as he realised there was an “ever increasing demand for a good quality fashion brand that has a DNA that will ensure a long lifespan rather than a gimmick with a use-by-date”.
“What you see on the catwalks in Europe today (colour and textures) are represented in this fashion brand.”
However, although he readily acknowledges the brand’s European heritage, Coetsee insists that the quality of the brand’s products are the key to its success.
“My belief is that regardless of where it is from, if the brand is well made and designed, well marketed and realistically priced in such a way that it supports and enhances the jewellers’ offer and image to his target market it has to be successful.
“The challenge for me as a distributor is to choose the right retailer that understands the values and positioning of the brand and knows how to handle a brand in all aspects to ensure in longevity. Mutually that is what we should strive for.”