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Wed, May 19, 2010
The Business Times
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by Corinne Kerk

TIFFANY, Cartier, Harry Winston, Bulgari and Van Cleef & Arpels. These are some of the luxury jewellery brands that Singaporeans are familiar with. But Leviev? Not many would have heard of it.

Those who recognise the name are more likely to come from the jewellery trade, as Leviev owns close to a third of the world's diamond mines. It is the largest privately-held polisher and cutter of diamonds and has been supplying stones to haute couture jewellery houses for over a decade.

Named after Lev Leviev - one of Israel's richest men, and the diamond tycoon who broke the De Beers international diamond cartel - the brand is a latecomer on the retail scene, only opening its first boutique in London's Old Bond Street in 2006.

Since then, it has established its headquarters in New York, which is where Leviev's jewellery is designed and made. Today, it also has boutiques in Moscow and Dubai, and late last month, opened its first store in Asia at the Marina Bay Sands' hotel lobby.

The plush 1,300 sq ft boutique decked out in Leviev's signature pink and grey cost $1 million to set up and is stocked with some of the largest and most stunning diamonds you will find. With an inventory currently valued at a staggering $200 million, the exquisite pieces in its windows carry price tags that easily go up to millions of dollars. Yes, that could be a condo, sitting in the window.

Indeed, some passersby have been so taken aback by both the size of the stones on display, as well their price tags, they've left imprints of their foreheads on the windows. These are serious rocks for the really wealthy.

What has surprised many though, is that the folks who've brought Leviev to Singapore are the same ones behind Yafriro - a local retailer of luxury watches. A first-timer in the jewellery business, Yafriro's managing director, Iwan Hew, says Leviev is part of his plans to build the Yafriro group into a luxury lifestyle company that is 'able to sell anything associated with high-end luxury'. Yafriro - which celebrates its 10th anniversary this year - will open another watch boutique as well as a new Italian jewellery store called Scavia in June. Both will be at Marina Bay Sands.

'The women complain to me, 'Iwan, there's nothing at Yafriro for me' after their husbands buy $500,000 watches,' says Mr Hew. 'And I tell them, akan datang, coming soon. So Leviev is something new for customers. It creates a balance by satisfying the ladies, who want things that hold their value.'

In preparation for entry into the jewellery business, he sent his daughter, Jun Hew, to Hong Kong to study gemology. Now a GIA-graduate gemologist, Ms Hew says Leviev - thanks to its direct access to diamonds - is able to 'choose the best quality diamonds for themselves'. 'Other jewellers won't have the kind of range that we have in our windows in terms of both quality and rarity,' says a confident Ms Hew, promising even better bling come July when the boutique holds its official opening. 'Take yellow diamonds, for example, we carry the whole spectrum of yellow diamonds, so we don't just have quality, but also choice.'Adds Mr Hew: 'When it comes to luxury, it's all about instant gratification because it's an impulse buy. You need to put it on and look at it right away.'

Entry level pieces start from $3,000-plus for a pair of cufflinks and about $10,000 for a pair of diamond-studded hoop earrings, and go all the way up to a bungalow-sized $20 million for a hand-crafted platinum necklace featuring 33 pear-shaped, D colour, internally flawless diamonds totalling 77.61 carats, mounted with a pear-shaped D colour, internally flawless 15.03-carat diamond and a cushion-shaped D colour, internally flawless diamond of 2.28 carats.

One noticeable characteristic of Leviev's pieces is their uncomplicated designs. 'These stones are classics that you can keep for generations,' explains Ms Hew. 'So most of the designs are kept very simple to show the colour, clarity and beauty of the diamonds. The stones speak for themselves, and is why they are so expensive.'

Every piece is one of a kind. If you fancy an item in the catalogue that is not in the Singapore boutique, Leviev can have it flown here within a week (and within three days if a decent-sized deposit is placed).

Since its opening, some serious buyers have already stepped forward. One is considering a $1.5 million D colour, internally flawless diamond weighing 6.03 carats while another is keen on a rare, brown-pink diamond. Interest is coming from Indonesian, Chinese, Indian, European, Japanese and Hong Kong tourists.

So if things go as planned, not only will jewellery-loving women know the name Leviev, its brown box with a pink ribbon could well become the most desirable gift a woman could want.

This article was first published in The Business Times.

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