Antwerp, to many, is a city that is synonymous with the diamond trade. It is the place where the famed painter Anthony Van Dyck was born, it hosted the 1920 summer Olympics and to this day boasts a vibrant and cosmopolitan culture that many places would be envious of. Yet, like a stone embedded into an engagement ring, the fact remains that Antwerp is firmly placed within the general psyche as a centre of the diamond industry.
The reasons for this are various and will be addressed within this article. But what is crucial to take from them is that companies within the diamond sector use their place within its history to enhance their marketability. As such it is all the more remarkable when newer ventures into the industry become so lucrative. One of these success stories is BAUNAT jewellery. Formed in 2008, their journey began within the hallowed streets of Antwerp and saw them rapidly create a name for themselves. Through an obsessive strive for perfection, they have crafted a classical yet unique collections of diamond. Such products do not need to harken back to previous glory days in order to sell, their quality does that for them. However, by combining this artisanship with a forward-thinking digital marketing strategy, BAUNAT has seen their business flourish exponentially. It has managed to prosper even within the cataclysmic Coronavirus pandemic that has seen many luxury brands falter.
While BAUNAT has grown across the globe it still retains its Antwerp heart; all their products are made there. They have managed to carve out a unique place in the market. One that embraces the heritage of their city and its craft, but also looks forward in its business strategies.
As stated, Antwerp is predominantly associated with the diamond trade. It is important to address why this has come about because it gives us a sense of the prestige holding a business here provides; and therefore, how hard it is to be the new kids on the block within it.
In the mid-fourteenth century the city was the site of a watershed moment in the diamond trade. Here Lodewyk van Berken invented a new form of diamond polishing called the scaif. This tool was a polishing wheel that was infused with a mixture of olive oil and diamond dust. The result was that it became possible to polish all the facets of the diamond symmetrically at angles that best reflected the light. As such the characteristic sparkle of the worked diamonds we know today was born.
From here Antwerp became the centre of the early modern diamond industry. Nobility from all over, such as Charles the Bold of Burgundy, commissioned artisans in Antwerp for their jewellery and the economy boomed. It led the city to become the economic and cultural centre of the Low Countries, and an important source of tax revenue for the Spanish Empire who ruled over it.
However, this golden period was cut brutally short in 1576 following the start of what is now known as the Eighty Years War. During this period, Antwerp laid host to unimaginable sights of ferocity and savagery including an event aptly named the “Spanish Fury” which saw a mass pillage of the city leaving around seven thousand of its civilians brutally massacred. The devastation of this event was so complete that Antwerp ceased to be the economic and cultural hub of the Low Countries and allowed the rise of Amsterdam, the city that would form the heart of the Dutch trading empire.
It was not until after the Second World War that Antwerp regained its place as a crucial part of the global diamond industry. The city’s mayor encouraged Jewish citizens to return to Antwerp and many had previous experience in diamonds, particularly those from the Hasidic sect. After the horrors wrought upon them through the Holocaust, they were given a new beginning in which to forge a better future for their children.
With this, the industry flourished and the reputation for unparalleled quality was rightly earned, the reputation it has to this day. To this day, 84% of the world’s mined diamonds end up in Antwerp. Their place as the centre of the world diamond trade is absolute. It was earned through blood, sweat and tears but it is rightly theirs.
This tragic story of triumph over horrific odds shows, perhaps, why Antwerp has come to be synonymous with the diamond industry. As such many businesses dream of making their name within its niche market. Therefore we shall look at how BAUNAT has done just this, and how they have made such a success of it.
BAUNAT was forged by the two minds of Stefaan Mouradian and Steven Boeler. Mouradian previously held various management positions in the banking industry and was a strategic counsellor and manager in the diamond and jewellery industry at an international level. He then met a like mind within Steven Boelens who had also attained great experience within this competitive market. The latter has held various successive positions as a broker, consultant, and manager. In 2008, jointly with Stefaan Mouradian, he founded BAUNAT.
They began this endeavour online. The importance of this is that they decided to combine the past with the modern. By utilising expert artisanship they ensured the products they made maintained the beauty of the market they were about to encroach upon. Then, by utilising the fluidity of the internet they ensured that they managed their own design, production, sales, shipments and customer service. Because of their connections to purchase the diamonds directly at the source, they ensured that they could offer their clients high quality pieces at an unmatched price. In doing so they could make it attractive to the smart buyers all over the world.
BAUNAT is thus a Digital Native Brand, or DNVB. Therefore they have their focus on an excellent customer service and are specialists in digital communication. The efficient strategy that BAUNAT applies does not include unnecessary costs such as high stocks or the need for representation by celebrities that, while looking aesthetically pleasing, have no knowledge of the market they endorse.
As a relatively new company, BAUNAT realised that they had to stand out from the crowd. How could a company without heritage flourish in an industry that fetishises heritage? BAUNAT answered this in a beautifully simple but unconventional way. The product’s themselves could sell themselves, but it would take a bold and unique marketing strategy to ensure that such products would reach a mass appeal.
BAUNAT has flourished during the recent pandemic because of its easily accessible online service, but it has also flourished for two other reasons. The most important of which is, obviously, the quality of their products. Mouradian and Boelens both have extensive knowledge of the market in which they operate and therefore know how important ethically sourced diamonds are to consumers. Their contacts open them up to a wide range of procurers, but they have an unflinching commitment to not using blood diamonds. They have the ethical mentality to realise that beauty can be crafted without exploitation and death.
The next reason as to why they have flourished is two faceted. They offer a great service at fair prices. The cost of their jewellery is unbelievable, and yet the quality is absolute. Their perfectionism is not only limited to the jewellery but is extended to their service. During the pandemic, BAUNAT saw that it was crucial to maintain the customer satisfaction that has given them such a loyal clientele. Yet how can you allow people that are told to stay at home access to appointments? The answer, for BAUNAT at least, was simple. If you had access to camera technology, you could take part in a tour virtually. BAUNAT could adapt to a cataclysmic event because they had put in the infrastructure. They had built a business model that could adapt to the fluidity of the free market and thus stayed afloat.
The marketing techniques of BAUNAT are thus extremely impressive but this alone does not explain their rapidly attained success. The products they craft are also of exquisite quality that is worthy of the city they inhabit. While some companies in Antwerp will pass their diamonds onto factories in India, every item of jewellery that BAUNAT offers is crafted by their atelier in Antwerp.
The Iconic Collection they have recently released epitomises the dedication to their artisanship and they regard it as one of their most important ranges. They have designed a unique, low-placed chaton and six exceptionally slim split-prongs, created in a way to catch and reflect the light for a dazzling effect. Just as van Berken placed emphasis upon the light of the diamond six hundred years ago, BAUNAT proudly strive for the same. Each item of jewellery within the Iconic Collection is available in 18 karat white, yellow and red gold. The price does not change depending upon which you choose. Their artisans are comfortable working with any type of gold and assure all are subjected to rigorous testing before adding the 100% natural and conflict free diamonds. For those interested in responsible investments and purchasing, you can rest assured that BAUNAT only works with the most renowned certificates of the global diamond industry: such as GIA, HRD and IGI. BAUNAT has thus earned its rightful place within the Antwerp diamond industry. With a range of products that are made of beautifully crafted precious metals and responsibly sourced diamonds, combined with a forward-thinking marketing strategy, this relatively new company has erupted onto the scene and encrusted themselves firmly within a competitive market. Due to the rich history Antwerp has with diamonds, many within the industry would salivate at the thought of setting up shop there. But it is due to this heritage that beginning a business here is so challenging. BAUNAT has achieved this and, what is more, grown into a global company within a very short space of time.