Senior vice president of Lazare Kaplan International, New York, Charles C. Rosario is no stranger to the diamond industry – from starting his first job in the company as a stock clerk in 1974 to taking on numerous roles within the company including polishing diamonds and managing factories, Rosario lives and breathes diamonds, his enthusiasm for the subject unwaning as the years go by.

For this interview, held at DeGem’s flagship store in Bangsar (DeGem is the sole distributor in Malaysia for Lazare Diamonds), Rosario excitedly details his experience at the recent Lazare annual dinner, where he engaged with customers, exchanging stories and experiences.

“It’s always good because I enjoy visiting – I’m lucky enough to travel and visit our important customers, they help me stay relevant,” he says. “This is important to me not just in helping DeGem on a promotional level but also in terms of learning and ensuring that anything we can do as a company at least I can see it touch it … there’s only a certain amount of learning you can do from a book, you have to live it”.

Rosario shared some insights into the industry, adapting to changes in the industry, and the future of diamonds.

Have you noticed any changes in customer demographics, attitude and preferences in Malaysia?

What I found interesting in the gala was how it moves in the different generations … I’m sitting with the woman who brought her daughter and they both bought a piece from Lazare. The continuity, what we do and what DeGem does is something that gets passed on, that’s something I picked up on on this trip. The client has the interest and the support is generational and the appreciation for fine jewellery here – the Malaysian consumers are very educated and very loyal. I was speaking to the daughter of this woman and she was asking me really intelligent diamond jewellery questions – anybody who is in the field, when someone asks you a question that makes you think, there’s an appreciation that they’re interested, and that they have the confidence that you have an answer.

How have the dynamics of the global diamond industry changed in the past few decades and how has Lazare adapted to them?

We all know that the world is getting smaller in terms of communications – access to information and news and communication has become very easy and instant. One of the things that we recognise is as a brand, you have to support the values that the brand stands for and you have to do that transparently, almost as a public service.
We’ve used all the modern communication devices, that’s been a big change in the industry and that has illuminated some of the cloak and dagger information about buying – it works perfectly for us because we’re promoting that information all the time. What’s very interesting in the diamond industry is that the Indian diamond manufacturers and producers have become much more powerful in the diamond industry, they’ve increased their technology, their power in terms of distribution networks and the world has had to adapt.
What hasn’t changed is that the US is still the number one consumer of diamonds and diamond jewellery in the world and then you have Asia right behind the US. The influence of the US market is automatically overlapping particularly in Malaysia and in South-East Asia because of the recognition of the value of branding in diamonds.
We were the first company to ever brand diamonds, by inventing a laser inscription machine to inscribe a unique serial number on each diamond. Only Lazare has the unique laser inscription that identifies it as our brand, that’s a level of confidence and branding so that the consumer knows it’s a Lazare diamond.

Charles C. Rosario started out as a store clerk in Lazare Kaplan

What are the challenges presented by lab-grown diamonds?

In the context of diamond luxury jewellery, diamonds have appreciated in value over the course of the history of mankind. Diamonds have existed but only recently have they figured out how to mass produce it.
Producing a lab grown diamond is inexpensive and it matches the concept of synthetic because it is not genuine. Just the whole idea that it’s man-made, there’s no balance yet in the value of that material. And at every iteration, the value goes lower not higher.
The genuine magic of a natural diamond will continue to supersede that of a synthetic.
It’s education but it’s also talking about what separates us from the crowd – we have a history, a longevity, it’s confidence in the brand, it’s the company’s level of integrity and the technical background that creates the Lazare Diamond that allows us to categorise it as the world’s most beautiful diamond.
Lazare Kaplan came across this concept of how to control the light in a diamond and he was skilled enough to put it into practice – he cut a diamond based on this formula of ideal proportions, he came up with a diamond that was so much more brilliant and sparkling and beautiful, it actually changed the value propostion of the diamond. Back then the size and weight were the most important factors, he changed it to the beauty of the diamond – he was convinced the consumer would pay more for beauty.
It is science, it is mathematics but it’s also a passion to continue his dream of making the most beautiful diamonds possible. It’s kind of like taking a wonderful piece of marble and making a tremendous sculpture or taking it and making a stick figure. If you have the materials for beauty, it’s almost a sin not to maximise it.

What advice would you give to someone who has never bought a diamond?

Research. Get educated and learn how to ask questions, look for a jeweller that is going to promote the information about quality, and then ask more questions. Be an informed consumer and challenge the information. One of the things that I like to tell new customers is you go into a jewellery store first, ask a couple of questions. If the jeweller doesn’t give you the answer and continues without an explanation, then get out of there fast. There’s no reason to not tell you everything.