Interview: Tiffany Highlights Heritage As It Ramps Up China Presence

    As the jeweler displays its iconic Tiffany Diamond in Beijing for the first time, Jing Daily talks to the company's Asia-Pacific Group Vice President about its expansion and marketing.
    Jing Daily
    Jing DailyAuthor
      Published   in Fashion

    Actress Carina Lau poses with the Tiffany Diamond at the brand's Beijing celebration. (Tiffany & Co.)

    Earlier this month, Tiffany & Co. brought together top celebrities and renowned composer Tan Dun of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon for a Beijing gala to celebrate one very special diamond.

    To mark its growing investment in China, the jeweler flew its iconic yellow Tiffany Diamond from its home in New York to China for the first time, where the piece will be on display in an exhibit entitled "A Brilliant Legacy" at the company’s Beijing China World flagship until January 5. Set in a diamond and platinum necklace, the gem is accompanied by several other famous Tiffany items, including the brand’s specially made headband for this summer’s blockbuster The Great Gatsby.

    In order to learn more about Tiffany & Co.’s China strategy, Jing Daily reached out to Tiffany & Co. Asia-Pacific Group Vice President Stephane Lafay to discuss the brand’s plans for expansion, the company’s most successful ad campaigns of the year, and why a rapidly growing number of Chinese consumers are beginning to use engagement rings.

    Tiffany & Co. Asia-Pacific Group Vice President Stephane Lafay. (Tiffany & Co.)

    Tiffany’s celebration coincides with plans to ramp up investment in China. Why is now the right time for the company to do so?#

    We opened our first store in China 12 years ago at the Peninsula Hotel in Beijing. We now have 24 stores in China which is quite an impressive milestone. Our commitment to the China market continues to grow, which is why we are intent on introducing more people to Tiffany’s heritage and status as the purveyor of the finest diamonds in the world. Although Tiffany has a rich history spanning more than 175 years, we are still considered a young brand in China, so we need to cultivate brand knowledge and understanding with our customers. So far, the result has been extremely positive.

    What are the marketing benefits of holding an exhibition in China?#

    Our “A Brilliant Legacy” exhibition, on display in our Beijing flagship store in China World, is a great opportunity for us to present our customers and anyone who appreciates the beauty of jewelry with an intimate look at the Tiffany Diamond, one of the largest and most beautiful yellow diamonds in the world. Also on display is a collection of archival jewels from our Fifth Avenue flagship store in New York City. This exhibition provides a rare look into Tiffany’s legendary history.

    The Tiffany & Co. exhibit in Beijing. (Tiffany & Co.)

    What have been some of Tiffany’s most successful marketing campaigns in China this year?#

    I would say the Tiffany Diamond event and the Great Gatsby collaboration are two successful campaigns that we are quite proud of.

    The Tiffany was on display for the first time ever in China. This is a monumental event, as the Tiffany Diamond rarely leaves its permanent home at our New York flagship. This diamond is the ultimate embodiment of our brand, representing Tiffany’s mission to offer the highest quality diamonds, unique designs and superior craftsmanship. The feedback we have received about the diamond has been quite enthusiastic. We were able to tell the story and the true spirit of the brand which has resonated with the media and customers.

    As for The Great Gatsby, it is one of the most successful films of 2013, not only in China, but also around the globe. Tiffany was a natural partner for the film because the brand was the jeweler of choice for New York’s elite during the Jazz Age, and the house of Tiffany defined style and sophistication in that era of exuberance and optimism. Through this film, we were able to bring to life the glamour and timelessness of Tiffany.

    Tiffany & Co.'s Beijing party. (Tiffany & Co.)

    One focal point of the new Beijing exhibit is the 128.54-carat yellow Tiffany Diamond. Tiffany’s CEO recently told The Wall Street Journal that yellow diamonds are a favorite with Chinese consumers. Why do you think this is?#

    The Tiffany Diamond is, indeed, the focal point of the exhibit, as it sets the highest standards for all Tiffany diamonds in terms of quality, craftsmanship and design. Tiffany’s reputation as the diamond authority—combined with our selection of the best yellow diamonds sourced from our exclusive agreement with the Ellendale mine in West Australia—have made Tiffany the favored jeweler for yellow diamonds. We have seen Chinese customers become increasingly more knowledgeable about diamonds, and they have come to appreciate the beauty and rarity of fancy yellow diamonds. The demand for diamonds is a reflection of maturing tastes and being exposed to some of the finest stones available.

    A close-up look at the Tiffany Diamond. (Tiffany & Co.)

    The use of diamond engagement rings by Chinese couples was almost nonexistent in the 1990s, but is now estimated to be at about 31 percent. How much do you think it will grow in the next five years and how will this affect Tiffany’s China business?#

    Proposing with a diamond ring is, indeed, a burgeoning new tradition for Chinese couples. As the middle class booms and Chinese consumers are more exposed to a global perspective, the bridal market has massive potential. Through our successful marketing efforts, we are fortunate that Tiffany is first and foremost associated with diamonds in China. Tiffany also represents love, romance, commitment, and the Tiffany Blue Box® is seen as the ultimate symbol of these ideals. On a global scale, Tiffany is recognized as the leader in bridal and engagement jewelry. The Tiffany Setting®, which is designed to maximize a diamond’s brilliance, is recognized as the standard for engagement rings; for more than 100 years it has been the best-selling engagement ring worldwide. This iconic ring will continue to be an effective factor in driving the wedding and bridal jewelry business for us in China.

    Celebrity couple Guan Yue (L) and Tong Dawei (R) at Tiffany's Beijing celebration. (Tiffany & Co.)

    Tiffany released a special year of the snake charm for Chinese New Year last year. Will you be doing anything for the year of the horse this year?#

    We generally do not design market-specific jewelry or gifts, as we believe that the desire for good design is universal. We do, however, offer Chinese zodiac charms designed by Paloma Picasso exclusively for our customers around the world. Tiffany jewelry and gifts help people celebrate life's important occasions, such as heralding in the Year of the Horse for our Chinese customers. Each Tiffany gift is presented in our iconic Blue Box as an expression of one's deepest affection and respect.

    The exhibit features a “Great Gatsby” headband, which highlights the fact that Tiffany’s pieces were in the recent blockbuster film. Has Tiffany’s Great Gatsby affiliation helped boost popularity in China?#

    The Great Gatsby collaboration has made quite a positive impact for us in the Chinese market. The Savoy headpiece in the collection was designed exclusively for The Great Gatsby in collaboration with the film’s director Baz Luhrman and costume designer Catherine Martin. This collection represents the spirit and design aesthetic of Jazz Age elegance. In addition to the Great Gatsby Collection, comprised of dramatically significant jewelry pieces, we also launched the Ziegfeld Collection, based on Tiffany archival jewelry designs from the 1920s. Both collections have received overwhelmingly positive responses from our Chinese and international customers. Tiffany’s ties with New York glamour and timeless elegance were reflected in this film collaboration, which resonates strongly with our Chinese customers.

    An ad featuring Tiffany & Co.'s Great Gatsby headband. (Tiffany & Co.)

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