Rapaport Magazine

Serious About Diamonds

January Retail Profile

By Rapaport
RAPAPORT...  Ninety-year-old DeScenza Diamonds has forged its New England trail in a unique way and is currently inducting its fourth generation into the family business.

You know a retailer is serious about diamonds when he includes the word in his name. Boston-based DeScenza Diamonds was founded in 1915 by Alfred F. DeScenza, passed to his son and son-in-law Hugh MacIsaac, to his grandchildren and, most recently, great-grandchildren.

At the time of its founding, the store was located on the sixth floor of a building in an area known as Downtown Crossing, Boston. Today, the main store is in the same place, but has greatly expanded in size. DeScenza Diamonds now occupies the sixth floors of two adjoining buildings for a total of 15,000 square feet.

Much about this operation is unique, from its location to its merchandise selection and pricing. First, there is the upstairs location. While many retailers that start in upstairs locations eventually move their businesses to street level, this has not been the case here. Over its many decades, DeScenza has imprinted its location firmly in the minds of its clientele and has managed to enlarge at a greater rate than would have been possible on the street. The only difficulty in recent years has been a lack of downtown parking, a situation alleviated by an agreement between the retailer and a nearby parking garage that allows three-hour free parking with the store’s validation.

Two newer branches, in Framingham and Peabody, Massachusetts, are freestanding, each situated across the street from a major mall. These operations, too, are quite sizable. The Framingham store is 22,000 square feet, of which 17,000 square feet is selling space, while the Peabody branch is about 12,000. All branches carry the same broad inventory of diamonds, jewelry, watches, gifts, writing instruments and tabletop. While the overall customer base is similar, the downtown store caters mostly to city workers, while the other stores are tailored to suit the needs of suburban shoppers, with adequate parking facilities, playrooms for children and other amenities.


Unmounted diamonds and diamond jewelry contribute the lion’s share of sales to DeScenza, providing an estimated 65 percent of the store’s revenue. “We are the largest diamond dealer in New England,” says Tyler DeScenza, a grandson of the founder and the retailer’s gemstone and diamond buyer. Qualities are generally in the middle to upper-middle range — D through I color, VSI to SI2 clarity.

DeScenza says his major concern is offering his customers diamonds that are cut to maximize their brilliance. “There is really no one right way to cut,” he says. “I have to see that the stone has the proper look.” Over the years, he has traveled to Antwerp and Israel to do his buying, but now does most of it in Antwerp and the U.S. Branded diamonds don’t mean a lot here, but the company has had some success with a Canadian brand known as Nordic Fire.

New England conservatism is illustrated by the styling of the diamond jewelry that DeScenza stocks, which is largely composed of basics, such as diamond solitaire earrings, line bracelets and pendants. Some of the more stylish pieces in the catalog include designer collections from Sasha Primak, Caressa and Piero Milano. The strongest price point for diamond fashion jewelry is around $2,500, but engagement rings average $6,000 to $8,000, says DeScenza.

Discounted Pricing

The pricing policy for much of the diamond jewelry sold is unique. Some items have suggested retails. Others have two prices stated: a standard retail price, followed by DeScenza’s discounted price, which averages about 35 percent lower. Retails are generally calculated by doubling the cost, the diamond buyer explains.

Providing information to its clientele about buying diamonds is an important part of DeScenza’s strategy. Telephone waiting messages and the website detail the 4Cs — cut, color, clarity and carat. A large portion of the retailer’s staff of 120 is made up of graduate gemologists. Interestingly, DeScenza says that while most first-time customers request certificates for their diamonds, 80 to 85 percent of established customers don’t ask for a cert when buying a second engagement ring or trading up. They have faith in the retailer’s reputation.

Another popular policy for this jeweler is its trade-in policy for diamonds, which DeScenza terms as “more generous” than that of many other stores. Shoppers planning to trade up a minimum of 50 percent in value are guaranteed to receive credit for what they paid originally or current selling value, if higher.


Like many traditional retailers, bridal business is a pivotal part of overall business, says DeScenza. In fact, one of the store’s major annual events is a bridal extravaganza that attracts shoppers from all around the region. This annual invitational event is usually held on a Sunday, and is partially supported by a number of bridal-related businesses, such as florists, caterers, travel agents, jewelry designers, etc.

This past year’s event featured a guest appearance by Yolanda Cellucci of Yolanda’s of Waltham, a well-known New England bridal designer. The designer made a personal appearance at the store and brought along a number of models for a fashion show, accessorized by DeScenza diamonds. Brides-to-be were invited to meet designers, discuss their wedding plans and make contacts. Topping out the program was a raffle for a honeymoon vacation.

To promote this event, DeScenza uses its quarter-million- name household mailing list, composed of the store’s regular clients, supplemented by purchased lists. Much of DeScenza’s advertising and promotion revolves around its annual catalog, a 40-page publication filled with a mix of all products, including several pages of gifts for brides, children and anniversaries. Originally created as a holiday catalog, the book has instead become a year-round source of product and promotion for the store. Catalogs are mailed to the customer list in late fall and additional copies are displayed around the stores for ready reference.

Established about five years ago, DeScenza’s online site is growing substantially, but still represents a minor part of overall business. The site contains store history and services, as well as lots of information about diamonds and jewelry but, like the catalog, has room for just a minimal portion of the total inventory. It’s an efficient way to get information out there, says DeScenza, but both catalog and online outlets still represent single-digit portions of overall sales.

Article from the Rapaport Magazine - January 2007. To subscribe click here.

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