|Jean Dousset in his showroom next to a portrait of great-great grandfather, Louis-François Cartier.|
In the luxury jewelry world, pedigree means something and there are few who can claim to be a descendent of Louis-François Cartier, the founder of one of the world’s most renowned jewelry and watch brands. Jean Dousset, owner of Jean Dousset Diamonds can make this claim.
However, the French born jeweler didn’t rest on his Cartier name recognition. He worked his way through stints at some of the best known French high jewelry houses in the world, beginning at the epicenter of French style, Place Vendôme, with Chumet. This was followed with stops at Boucheron and Van Cleef & Arpels before first going on his own with an online jewelry business in 2005.
|The Eva cushion engagement ring.|
In 2010, he opened a showroom on the edge of Beverly Hills, Calif., on Santa Monica Boulevard. About half of his work comes through the store and the rest is done online through his website. In 2012, he produced approximately 70 rings, mostly engagement, which is his specialty, although he does other custom pieces as well. What may a bit surprising is that his inspiration for creating a custom high jewelry business was Blue Nile. He said the success of the online diamond and diamond jewelry company left a void in the business of provide service oriented high jewelry.
“Blue Nile was whole selling diamonds and they were really offering mountings as a must but not really as a message of design,” he said sitting behind an antique desk inside his showroom. “So I thought that might be an interesting void to fill … offering design, branding, craftsmanship, service.”
Whether he is working with clients in person or online the process is the same. He personally selects three diamonds through his dealers and then explains to the client the strong points of each stone. The clients select which diamond they prefer then he creates the mounting using his drawings and builds them from scratch. Again, the client will have their choice of mountings to select. If it’s online he’ll shoot high-definition videos of the diamonds and mountings for the client to view.
|The Riviera cushion engagement ring.|
“The biggest thing now is people are highly educated about diamonds. They understand diamonds by browsing the Internet. There’s a lot of resources and that is great. They do their due diligence. They know what the 4Cs are,” he said. “They come with a certain amount of knowledge. The four Cs are trade guidelines to define the price of diamond ... but they do not say anything about the beauty of a diamond. The beauty of a diamond comes from its cut. The way the rough is taken down to a polished stone. So if you put four stones with the exact same cut, say four cushion cuts same price, same 4Cs there will be one stone that will be much more desirable. That’s the stone I’m looking for.”
He continued, “I work backward through their budget because it’s essential. Prices vary so much we need to know what people feel comfortable spending for their ring. So they share that with me and I try to optimize that budget to deliver them the best 4Cs but most importantly the most beautiful cuts. And that’s just a matter of taste and experience. That’s the way for me to distinguish myself from everybody else. I work very hard at that. And I also want to make that the cornerstone my reputation.”
In addition to his specialization in engagement rings, custom design and personal service; he also works primarily with cushion-cut diamonds of approximately 2-carats. He does so because round diamonds have largely been commoditized by Blue Nile and other similar mass marketers and thus makes it easy for people to buy their own stones once they are educated.
|The Victoria cushion engagement ring.|
“I’m big on cushions, again, because of the Internet. It’s very hard to compete on round diamonds,” he said. “Because of the cut distinction and finesse of selecting a (cushion-cut diamond), there’s really an argument for me to make for people to work with me and trust me in making that search for them. It would be incredibly difficult for anybody to find a great cushion by themselves without knowledge, without experience just by looking at the 4Cs. If they are not exposed to what a great cut is, then they just don’t know what to look for so my hope is once I present them with my taste, my selection of stones, then they can benchmark anything they see to that.”
He said his focus is on engagement rings because that is the foundation of the jewelry business.
“You have to start with what truly creates the original idea of jewelry, which is a man and woman is buying something that’s significant and the engagement ring is just that,” he said. “It is still the core message of even the bigger brands … but the truth is that today the bridal business, those big famous brands, do not cater to that market. It’s too time consuming for them. There’s not enough profit in it. But they must still advertise and create bridal collection, because that’s where it all begins.”
He hopes to grow into other areas but he doesn’t seem to be in a hurry. He is more interested in differentiating himself in the marketplace, creating a place that few occupy. His traditional French high jewelry training makes this type of business a natural fit for him. He says in his own small way he wants to give his customers the same quality and service of the French luxury jewelry houses but do it in a more casual way and do it with an emphasis on value.
“On the rooftop of Place Vendôme, each of the jewelers have 25 or 30 hands working (ona piece of jewelry). They all have very distinct and specific responsibilities. There’s woman who is outstanding at polishing pieces with cotton strings…. All of this is to deliver the kind of product that they do. So I’m humbly in my own means, trying to incorporate as many of those steps into how I work. It’s a decision I made that I want to stick with to really establish those cornerstone values. Well-crafted and well-made jewelry doesn’t have to be expensive. It’s how much you really care about delivering a really outstanding product. Handcrafted jewelry is about people who are skilled, experienced, with a desire to execute really well. That is something I feel very strongly about.”
Jean Dousset Diamonds, 10100 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90067
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