The business consultants, Bain & Company, reported that the global luxury goods industry is worth more than $1.48 Trillion (£1.07 Trillion / €1.2 Trillion). The market for personal luxury goods — the “core of the core” — reached a record high of $323M (£233M / €262M) in 2017, and the market is expected to grow by up to 5% annually over the next three years. European top-luxury brands still dominate the industry with perhaps Coach and Michael Kors from the USA mopping up the remaining mass market. This report continues a mini-series about African Luxury Brands on AlphaLuxe.
VanLeles Diamonds is one of many African-owned luxury companies integrating the continent into their brand ideology.
“I’ve been fortunate enough to study a craft I love and work with some of the world’s most prestigious jewellery houses, which has helped me find my own voice as a jeweller and as a designer.” – Vania Leles, Founder.
Born and raised in Guinea-Bissau, Vania Leles is a former fashion and jewellery model of African / Portuguese heritage. Her natural passion for jewellery flourished at the Gemological Institute of America (GIA), where she honed her skills alongside industry masters. Relocating to London after graduation, she worked for established names in the industry including Graff Diamonds, De Beers and Sotheby’s Jewellery Department. Vania developed her eye for rare beautiful diamonds and gemstones, creating bespoke jewellery for exclusive and high profile clientele, including royalty. She oversaw auctions of some of the century’s most prestigious pieces, such as the jewels of the Duchess of Windsor and the Graff Pink, one of the most expensive jewels ever sold at auction.
In 2011, Vania launched VanLeles Diamonds in London, a brand which designs fine jewellery, using rare and unique stones and, specifically, the highest quality conflict-free diamonds. Having witnessed first-hand the harsh illegal diamond trade in Africa, Vania remains personally involved in sourcing all diamonds and gemstones. Constantly travelling the world, Vania strives to source the most beautiful stones always from ethical and sustainable sources, collaborating with renowned artisans and delivering the most exceptional product and service.
Legends of Africa Multicolour Ring in 18K rose gold.
Diamonds GVS 2.40 carats. Multi colour sapphires 4.80 carats.
Out of Africa Choker & Pendant in 18K rose gold.
Ethically sourced round brilliant diamonds GVS 3.83 carats
Responsibly sourced Mozambican rubies 24.7 carats
Responsibly sourced Mozambican rubelites 10.78 carats
Vania says that Africa was her source of inspiration, especially her childhood memories of travel to more than a dozen countries during her late teens. “Probably 80 – 90% of gems come from Africa, but you don’t see brands saying: ‘These diamonds are from Botswana.’ I think it’s about time that we champion our own natural resources.”
She explains that the popularity of Colombian emeralds and Burmese rubies are more to do with branding and marketing than their real value. Stakeholders like big brands and auction houses have been investing heavily to promote them. She believes that Zambian emeralds are just as beautiful and valuable, requiring education of the general consumer. To this end, she emphasises the brand’s heritage and the origins of her gems. One such collection is in collaboration with Gemfields, which mines in Zambia for emeralds and amethysts, and in Mozambique for ruby and pink sapphire.
Legends of Africa Emerald Edition in collaboration with Gemfields
Bangle Crafted in 18K white gold
Diamonds & Gemfields-sourced emeralds
Diamonds: 200 x pieces = 1.95 cts GVS
Diamond Asscher cut = 0.28 cts GVS
Zambian emeralds: 887 x pieces = 27.55 cts
Zambian Cabochon emerald = 0.83 cts
Zambian Cabochon emerald 7.61 cts GIA certified
BONETTA octahedron ring in 18K white gold.
Diamonds GVS 0.53 carats. Gemfields-sourced emeralds 4.13 carats. Centre octahedron emerald 2.15 carats.
BONETTA cuff bracelet in 18K white gold.
Diamonds GVS 2.49 carats. Gemfields-sourced emeralds 25.257 carats.
DIDO BELLE earrings in 18K white gold.
Diamonds GVS 0.63 carats. Gemfields-sourced emeralds 17.59 carats.
DIDO BELLE necklace in 18K white gold.
Diamonds GVS 1.74 carats. Gemfields-sourced emeralds 29.82 carats.
DIDO BELLE ring in 18K white gold.
Diamonds GVS 0.25 carats. Gemfields-sourced emeralds 3.049 carats.
Heritage brands like Chopard and Cartier had time to develop global recognition. Technology can help newcomers to the luxury market make an impression. In an Age of Content and consumers that consume luxury content before consuming the luxury goods, digital channels and social media are the future.
There is a growing demand for African luxury products from global consumers and not just African residents or emigres. African luxury brands are starting to prepare to compete with improved business pratices and accessing global consumers with e-commerce and story telling. Consumers must understand the brands’ stories before they buy the products.
Previous Gemfields Articles
African Luxury Brands on AlphaLuxe:
Author’s Biography: Melvyn Teillol-Foo (MTF)
Dr Melvyn Teillol-Foo is a contributor on AlphaLuxe web-zine.
He is also a moderator on PuristSPro.com horology discussion fora. He blends his scientific medical objectivity from the pharmaceutical industry with purist passion, in his musings about watches, travel, wine, food and other epicurean delights.
His travelogue ‘Lazing’ and feasting ‘Grazing’ series of articles have now passed into “mythic legend” on the original ‘ThePuristS.com’ website. Those were the halcyon days when he was “rich and famous” that he remembers with bittersweet fondness.
Dr Teillol-Foo is a quoted enthusiast on the watch industry, appearing in feature articles and interviews by Wall Street Journal, International Herald Tribune, Sunday Times (London), Chronos (Japan), Citizen Hedonist (France) and other publications. He has authored articles for magazines like International Watch (iW) – both U.S. & Chinese editions, ICON (Singapore), August Man (Singapore), Comfort (China) and The Watch (Hong Kong).