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De Beers popularized the idea that diamonds are forever. Lazare wants to popularize the notion its diamonds are a cut above the rest.

Lazare Kaplan International, which cuts and shapes gemstones before selling them to jewelers, broke the first consumer ad campaign in its 96-year history.

"Consumers want more brand-name products," said Marcee Feinberg, marketing director. "We felt it was a good time to advertise to the consumer and build a relationship."

The "My Lazare diamond"-themed effort, from Heitner Weiss, New York, uses a first-person narrative describing the attributes of the diamonds. Print ads broke in September issues of magazines such as Elle, In Style and Modern Bride, and will run through June 2000.


The campaign is budgeted at just less than $2 million. Lazare previously limited its marketing to training jewelers' sales staffs, with some spotty consumer efforts in the 1980s.

Savvy consumers know that cut is the most important of the "four C" criteria -- cut, color, clarity and carat weight -- when selecting a diamond, Ms. Feinberg said, because it's the only factor that can be controlled by human hands.

The campaign doesn't compete with De Beers Consolidated Mines' long-running "Diamonds are forever" effort, which, coming from the diamond cartel, attempts to sell consumers on the stones generically, instead of buying other gems. The Lazare advertising is designed to convince consumers to ask jewelers specifically for a Lazare-cut diamond.

Lazare was the first to produce the "ideal cut," a precise geometric formula that gets maximum sparkle and brilliance from the stone by catching the light at just the right angle. The equation behind the cut was developed in 1919 by a cousin of company founder Lazare Kaplan as his thesis for a university course.

Today, all Lazare diamonds use the ideal cut -- instead of emerald, pearl-shaped or traditional round cuts -- and each stone is laser-engraved with the company's "LD" initials and a six-digit code invisible to the eye that helps identify the individual stone.

The ad campaign stresses those features and the emotional connection with diamonds, Ms. Feinberg said.

Since Lazare sells its diamonds only through jewelers, the ads also direct the reader to a listing of authorized retailers.


Lazare just launched in-store promotions for a limited-edition line of diamonds that will add the 2000 date to their code, aimed at couples engaged to marry next year.

The company also will celebrate the new millennium with a sweepstakes to give away a flawless diamond worth $30,000, engraved with "LD 2001."

Founded in Antwerp, Belgium, in 1903, Lazare is planning its own centennial celebration.

Lazare has been riding the economic boom. Last month, the company reported sales of polished diamonds rose 34% for the fiscal year ended May 31, to a record $112.6 million.

The $22 billion U.S. diamond jewelry market has seen seven consecutive years of sales growth, including a healthy 9% increase in 1998, said a spokesman for the Diamond Information Service. The service is an arm of J. Walter Thompson Co., New York, which handles public relations as well as advertising for De Beers.


De Beers broke millennium-themed print and TV advertising in August and hiked its planned fourth-quarter media spending by 30% over its original plans, to aid an expected boost in sales keyed to 2000.

De Beers' media spending was $17 million through May, according to Competitive Media Reporting. It traditionally spends the larger portion of its ad budget in the latter part of the year; for 1998, its media outlay was $68 million,

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