Q&A with Jean Dousset
One generation to the next...
Jean Dousset seated under the watchful eye of his ascendant Louis Cartier.
Q: What is your philosophy about engagement rings?
I create every ring as if I were getting engaged every time. Getting engaged is a highly emotional milestone in one's life. Rightfully so, women have romanticized what that moment would be. Because it is also a financially significant decision as well as being a life commitment, men approach it from an analytical perspective at first. My priority is to reconcile her dreams with his reality. The amount of money spent on a ring is never the measure of a man's sentiment. The amount of effort he will commit to create the ring with her in mind will best demonstrate how thoughtful he was. I think that the designer, the story and the overall attention put in the purchase of the ring will add a significant layer to the sentiment. I also think that men are a lot more romantic than they get credit for.
Q: Do women take an active role in creating their engagement ring? Should they?
Statistically, about 75% of women are involved in some fashion with the creation of their engagement ring. I think they should definitely build a "stealth," subtle communication campaign to let their boyfriends know what they like; most importantly the diamond cut and the overall design they prefer. It actually takes part of the pressure off for men to know what would make her happy and makes the process all the more easier for him. As long as the actual completed ring and the proposal moment remains a surprise, I think that the emotions and thrill of the event is intact, even if she has had some input into the ring.
Q: What advice would you give to women trying to decide what they want?
That would be if women needed any advice when it comes to their own style! Jokes aside, I think that women read and follow a lot more fashion and style reports than men do and they develop an clear idea of what their engagement ring would look like … from a very young age! The very first thing is to decide what diamond cut she wants. They should go and try on rings with different diamond shape and look for an instinctive connection with a shape. My personal favorites are the cushion cut for its very flattering presence on a women's hand. It is slightly elongated; its rounded corners give it a feminine and vintage flair. I also like the sophistication and purity of the emerald cut. That's my personal opinion and I make sure it has no bearings on my client's intuition. They simply follow your instincts. As far as the style of the ring, the same process applies. Try on different rings as a trouble shooting of sort until you can narrow what you like. Remember this is the only piece of jewelry you do wear everyday for many years to come. Timelessness is of the essence.
Q: Tell us a little bit about what inspires you and what is your creative process like?
I am very visual and my creativity comes in the form of images. Creativity for me appears suddenly and at anytime of the day. I have an extensive photographic memory of everything I have ever seen and liked in jewelry but also in various artistic media. I really appreciate everything that involves aesthetics and I build up my creativity each day a little more as life goes on and I try new things. Other people's work, both past and present inspire me as well. Even though I have been in jewelry for 20 years now, I did not fully embrace my creativity and put my stamp on it until the last few years. It requires building self-confidence and letting go of the fear of not delivering. I am really picky about the diamonds I choose. I never settle until I have found a stone that delivers true beauty. I know it is out there. I buy on behalf of my customers as if I was buying for myself and it seems to work. I am also very attentive to the execution and details of every ring we make. It has to be perfect and it can be if you don't settle or get complacent.
Q: What is the first thing you ask a man who comes to see you?
Frankly the most critical information to best assist anyone with their engagement ring is to know what diamond cut she likes but most importantly get a sense of what budget he is confortable spending for their ring. It is by no mean a disqualifying measure or question. Setting a budget is an essential part of the search and is a necessary starting point. Our approach is unique in that we optimize our customer's budget by making a value orientated diamond selection and proposal. We apportion dollars where they matter most: Greater color with balanced clarity to maximize carat weight and value. I also don't believe that there is such a thing as a perfect inventory ring. You might have the right diamond but in the wrong setting and vice versa. It might be the right diamond cut and carat weight but not the appropriate color and clarity to fit within the budget. There are so many variables to consider that the perfect engagement ring should be custom thought and made, from the diamond selection to the design, within the parameters of one's budget.
Q: What do you mean when you say, "We apportion your dollars where they matter most: Greater color with balanced clarity to maximize carat weight and value?"
It is well know that color (colorless) is key because it is the first thing anyone can see. Anyone can appreciate how white a diamond is. The concept of diamond clarity is a harder to grasp from a financial perspective. If you compare stones side by side ranging from D to I color, you will most certainly notice a slight gradual and noticeable change in color from one diamond to the next. The same side by side test for clarity with diamonds from IF (internally flawless) to SI1 will show no difference to the naked eye, yet the price of each stone will have been drastically impacted. A 1 carat D/IF diamond will cost 3 times the price of a 1 carat D/SI1 GIA certified diamond. At the current rate of diamond prices, that is over $10,000 difference between the 2 diamonds with absolutely no visible difference to me, or you.
Q: What is unique about your diamond selection and why did you trademark "Beyond the 4Cs"?
Most jewelers will focus solely on the 4Cs simply because it is the basic knowledge most consumers gather and understand about diamonds upon their research. The 4Cs are in fact a very useful information and the universal trade guideline, which were developed to grade and judge a diamond's rarity and therefore its price ... it does not speak to a stones beauty! While two stones can have identical 4Cs as listed on their certificates and an identical price, when viewed side-by-side they will visually appear different to the naked eye in terms of beauty. This is also known in the diamond trade as the "Make" of a diamond. The diamonds "Make" is the unique result of its Cut, Proportions, Facets and Luster combined thus resulting in a diamond visually standing above all others. Identifying the best "Make" is a matter of taste, photographic memory and experience ... not color, clarity or measurements. Beautiful stones don't have to be expensive. Diamond cutting has always been done by hand and thus remains a true art form. Identifying the best cut diamonds comes down to the integrity, taste and experience of whom you decide to work with and how committed they are in looking for the finest cut diamonds within your budget. Finding such diamonds and going beyond the 4Cs is the cornerstone of our brand.
Q: You mentioned that you send HD videos of your diamond selection to your customers. Why did you choose this method?
I came up with this concept because of the many customers we work with live in other states or countries and won't have an opportunity to meet with me in person. Once the analytical part of the purchase is done, the decision has nothing to do with gemology anymore but rather with one's taste and personal aesthetics. All the diamonds I selected are at that point all incredibly similar and only small differences set them apart. I tell customers to trust their instincts. The videos we provide are in HD and close up. They reveal the cut, proportions and brilliance of the diamonds and are very instrumental to provide a visual to make that decision.
Q: On the topic of diamonds, what is your position on conflict free diamonds?
All of our diamonds are conflict free. At the higher end level of the industry where we trade, we have and follow very stringent conflict free practices. The Patriot Act also forces us to sign declarations with our diamond suppliers as well as with our bank regarding our sources. As a result, everyone we work with takes the Kimberley Process very seriously and the provenance of our diamonds is unquestionably transparent. Ethical sourcing is a must.
Q: Does the type of diamond certificate matters when selecting a diamond?
All our diamonds are exclusively GIA certified. No exceptions.
The certificate and laboratory provided with a diamond is key because the grading determines the price of a diamond per carat based on its Cut (shape), Color, Clarity and Carat weight combined (4Cs). The slightest upgrade or downgrade of any of these elements can result in thousands of dollars price difference. GIA grading is the reference to establish the worldwide trade prices of diamonds and therefore should be the guideline followed by consumers alike to compare "apples to apples" when it comes to their diamond selection. Therefore, while doing your due diligence we recommend not to consider any diamonds graded by EGL or AGS. These stones are over graded and will give you a false sense of quality and value.
Q: Can you explain to us what custom made jewelry entails?
I was fortunate to be trained in and around the best workshops in the world, in Paris Place Vendome and I want to continue the tradition of jewelry making and attention to details they have not waivered from for over a 100 years. I believe it is exciting in knowing that your engagement ring is unique and one of a kind when you make such an important purchase and commitment. Everything about it was tailor made for you and you had an opportunity to make some addition or modification to it. It becomes far more personal that way. All our rings are entirely handcrafted, custom-made from a plate of precious metal, in our workshop, based on the precise specifications of your center stone. Each ring generally takes 3-4 weeks to complete. We do not use CAD/CAM computer generated wax or any casting that will result in a ring stripped of that inspiring back-story of artistry.
Q: You have amazing testimonials on your website. Tell us what makes your customers speak so highly of your brand and their experience?
Buying an engagement ring is a unique purchase. It's rare. It actually should be a once in a lifetime experience ... surely one you should always remember. I think it is important to remind ourselves that in addition to be an emotionally charged purchase, people also enter a complex, unfamiliar and somehow secretive industry. We are very conscious of our customer mindset and apply ourselves to be very sincere, transparent and available. I personally see to the progress and quality of the work through frequent visits to our workshop where I inspect each of our rings. Our team updates customers at key points throughout the process including sharing photos taken of their ring as it's being made. Overall, I like to think of our customer experience working with us as a throw back to a time when the word luxury really meant something in terms of quality and service.