James Sanders London Diamonds founder talks about the problem with traditional jewellery retailers

London Diamonds prides itself on standing out from the crowd of traditional jewellers by offering an innovative and disruptive alternative to consumers. Its founder James Sanders discusses why buyers should be beware of buying the wrong diamonds at the wrong price and what his firm does differently.

As with the majority of successful disruptors, London Diamonds was created to solve a problem.

Already a successful entrepreneur, James Sanders founded London Diamonds in response to a personal quest linked to engagement rings. He says: “It was when I realised how much I’d overpaid for the diamond ring I bought my wife, Miranda. I realised that the jewellery industry is based solely on gouging the highest margin possible and trying to use peoples lack of knowledge against them’.

“Despite the fact that we were dealing with a very big name in the jewellery industry and we were prepared to pay a premium for this as I thought (incorrectly) at the time that the best diamonds would only be available from the best known luxury brands, it became clear that the brand was only interested in its margin. I wanted to create something very different for customers.”

James Sanders heads an innovative firm with an ethical approach

“The fact is the traditional jewellery retailers will ensure that the customer pays through the nose for service, brands and the appearance of luxury,” says James Sanders. “We looked at the margins that these major brands are making, and decided that yes, we can undercut them while providing exceptional services at the same time.”

The demand for high end bespoke pieces made by top tier designers is very much there. And because London Diamonds is fortunate to make thousands of rings each year, we can make a smaller margin on each diamond or bespoke piece, we’ve been able to devise a sustainable business model that works for both our clients and us – we wont be the cheapest place to have a ring made, but we found that no one wants the cheapest ring possible, they just want responsive service and beautiful craftsmanship’.

And for James Sanders, London Diamonds is unique and a potential game-changer in an industry that is traditionally not geared towards consumers.

London Diamonds is a disruptive innovator in the crowded diamond market

For James Sanders, shifting as far away from traditional diamond retailers is key. Clients can expect a far more individual and hassle-free purchasing experience from London Diamonds.

Explains James Sanders: “We offer services that no one else does. Striving for perfection is very much part of our ethos. London Diamonds will continue to innovate and find new ways to disrupt this old fashioned industry – education is key, an informed client is a good client and for too long jewellers have played upon gaps in their client knowledge’. 

While London Diamonds is based in the City of London in the UK, its service reaches customers in 24 countries around the world.

A global service with fairly priced diamonds

For James Sanders, London makes sense as a base for the company, but he is very clear that, as managing director and founder, the future of the sector reaches far beyond London.

“Because of the way that we have structured the business, we can offer what we believe is the best proposition for anyone preparing to buy an engagement ring.” explains James Sanders.

“There is no pressure on clients at all. And if the best stone isn’t yet available, we will wait until it is. This kind of sales service is an art, and while customers purchasing the piece is obviously our end goal, it’s not at any cost. This innovative sales stance and use of technology as an interface with consumers means we sell exactly the same quality diamonds as luxury brands and boutiques – except they’re fairly priced. We’ll never pester you or try and persuade you to spend more than you need to or feel comfortable doing, I know how annoying that is”

The ideal balance for retailer and buyer

None of London Diamonds’ (LD) approach to doing business in an established and crowded market uses any confidential information or trade secrets. But, according to James Sanders, LD strikes a unique balance for purchasers by stripping away all of the ‘luxury’ accoutrements that are used by traditional jewellers to dazzle people into spending over the odds.

“The fact is that most jewellers use diamonds that are low to medium quality when making a piece of bespoke jewellery,” says James Sanders. “It’s usually only possible to tell any kind of difference between diamonds that are graded ‘fair’ or ‘very good’ under magnification.

“Obviously the consumer can’t tell with the naked eye what the quality of the stone is and the jeweller will inevitably use the weakest quality stone whilst charging the highest possible price. It makes no traditional commercial sense to do otherwise. Except we prefer to do otherwise and ensure that every customer, their partners and their family get the very best diamond – if it means we make slightly less money but the client has some extra sparkle – we’ll do it.”

Tips and tricks of the trade from James Sanders

There are a number of key tips that James Sanders says help to get the diamonds you desire without overpaying.

James Sanders says: “There are tips and tricks to choosing the right diamond – especially when it’s an engagement ring, for example. We know that this is one of the most important purchases of someone’s life, and that many people can’t spend a fortune.

“One of my tips for buying diamonds is to go for the right colour, clarity and cut. When you’ve chosen that, set the budget and stick to it rigidly. Don’t be coerced into following trends that don’t reflect your taste or that of your partner.”

As managing director James Sanders explains: “We never ever deal with conflict diamonds and believe that lab grown diamonds are probably the future of the diamonds business. There is a way to do business within this sector that benefits both LD and the buyer. And that’s what we aim to do.”

Access to the best dealers around the world

It’s taken the team at LD more than five years to get access to more than 17,000 diamond wholesalers. Many of these are based all around the world, in countries such as Dubai, Hong Kong, Belgium and the US.

Explains James Sanders: “We only have contact with diamond dealers that have good credentials. Most of the ones we work with are traditional and family-run. They also have lots of experience in supplying some of the best known luxury brands with diamonds for many years.

“Because we have contact set up with so many of these dealers, we can ensure we select the best stones from their inventories. Rather than being seen by the dealers as a standard luxury brand, LD is viewed as a bulk buyer. This means we get the same quality of stones at the very best possible price. We’re not limited to using lesser quality stones and can make sure every ring is truly special regardless of budget’.

Utilising technology to cut costs to the customer

LD displays its designs and speaks with potential buyers via Instagram. Explains James Sanders: “By getting rid of the over-priced showroom and refusing to pressure people through the traditional sales techniques, we can use technology to bring buying an engagement ring, or other bespoke luxury pieces into the 2020s.”

And it certainly seems to be working well for the brand. So far, LD can claim a full 1% of the UK’s engagement ring market. While city-based, the firm actually conducts its sales and customer comms online only, so there are none of the restrictions of having an ornate showroom in Britain.

Every luxury brand in the UK has a showroom – usually in the City – and all of the associated business costs such as the property rent will be passed directly onto the buyer. “We break down the myths around diamonds, and that a lot of the traditional retailers are passing on unnecessary costs. If you buy from a showroom property, then you’re overpaying.”

LD has a sparkling future under James Sanders

James Sanders wants LD to go from strength to strength and firmly believes that honest, accessible and practical advice is the way forward.

“We have all of the expertise at LD,” James Sanders says. “Our opinion is that the GIA is the most reliable and trustworthy mined diamond grading lab, so buyers can be sure that if they grade a stone at K colour and VS2 clarity, for example, then that’s what it is. For lab grown diamonds, we only use IGI or GIA with no exceptions.’

“There are lots of other labs grading stones out there, but they tend to be looser with their gradings. Colour, cut and clarity are all important, whether you’re a big spender or looking for a more modest stone. And you are not guaranteed to get the truth from traditional retailers.

“For example, the GIA only grade rounds for their cut. Therefore, any retailer that says a different shape, such as an oval, has an ‘excellent’ cut grading, then that’s solely their own opinion rather than the lab’s. However, they won’t tell the buyer this’. 

The final word from James Sanders

From an idea sparked by difficulties getting a fair price on the engagement ring for his wife, James Sanders has developed a business that appears to offer every benefit for the buyer, rather than only the retailer.

James says: “Why should people have to pay for extraneous frills, such as an upscale property in the City, when they choose their engagement ring? We know how to get the same quality diamonds onto the hands of people who might otherwise be priced out. Our success so far shows that this approach works and that people are happy to get a much more personal, down-to-earth service without sacrificing quality, style or beauty,”

Find out more about James and London Diamonds at their Instagram page. They may be non-traditional retailers but, the chances are, their approach can bag you the perfect piece.