Transparent journey of BAUNAT jewellery with blockchain technology becomes new marketing strategy
In 2023, BAUNAT came up with an innovative proposal to inspire the whole diamond industry. The city selected their project for further development and, together with Verhaert, a new marketing strategy was worked out step by step to make the origins of the jewellery’s raw materials and its manufacturing process visible. We asked Steven Boelens, Executive Director at BAUNAT, to tell us more about the programme the company followed.
What was the innovative project you proposed?
Steven: “In the diamond and jewellery market, it's important to inform consumers about the origins of the raw materials. We sell jewellery. For us, it is obvious that our raw materials are purchased sustainably and transparently, our jewellery is created by skilled craftspeople and the entire manufacturing process takes place correctly. Today’s trend is that the consumer wants to know these things too. Especially when we talk about luxury goods that no one truly needs.
BAUNAT only works with recycled gold and diamonds of which we know the origin. We’ve never really carried out a marketing campaign based on this, precisely because it is so obvious. Besides, it wouldn’t feel right to make too much a big deal out of it. Still, we had the impression that customers are increasingly requiring proof.
That’s why we had already started with this exercise. We had found a company that uses blockchain technology to establish the required proof and thus make the 100% honest raw materials and the integrity of our manufacturing practices transparent.”
You already got that far at the start of the programme?
Steven: “Yes, the technology had been tested. The innovation programme guided us through the process of launching this proof-of-transparency in the market. How should we explain it and how to link it to our products? The process with Verhaert | Masters in Innovation helped us to roll out this marketing strategy in a structured manner and to communicate about it consciously.
We wanted to avoid giving customers the impression that they had to buy these blockchain certificates to be sure of our transparency. On the contrary, we wanted to turn it the other way around. The gold we use is fine, it’s recycled. Every diamond is conflict-free, naturally sourced and comes with a certificate because it has gone through the pipeline properly. But if a customer wants proof of that in black and white, we can offer it to him. It is up to the customer himself to decide whether he wants that proof.
We get audited either way. We can present all the certificates that are on the market. However, to provide 100% transparent proof of evidence of the jewellery’s origins, its journey and the processing, requires time and effort. For this evidence, we charge an administrative fee, based on the size of the stone.”
What are the results of this innovation?
Steven: “Actually, customers can buy documented jewellery from BAUNAT. With one click on our website, they can order the documentation along with their jewellery. They will receive incontrovertible evidence of the origin of the jewellery’s raw materials and its transparent manufacturing process. This documentation covers the entire process of the jewellery’s creation, uploaded step by step using blockchain technology. It can be supplied either digitally or on paper. We can even provide a replica of the original diamond, what it looked like.”
Founded in 2008 in Antwerp by Steven Boelens and Stefaan Mouradian, BAUNAT is a leading digital native brand for diamond jewellery. The brand is known for its commitment to customer centricity, exquisite craftsmanship, personalised offerings and constant innovation. 65% of Baunat’s clients purchase items online, from over 50 countries. The company has 12 showrooms in nine different countries. In Antwerp, BAUNAT is located in Schupstraat in the diamond district, near Central Station.
How did you roll out this marketing strategy together with Verhaert?
Steven: “Above all, Verhaert challenged our ideas. They guided us through the process and forced us to think about every step. As a company we work thoroughly, but we can be too rushed and too impatient at times. We are aware of this, it is a point of attention for our company.
Together with Verhaert, we took the time to reflect on everything. During the preparatory stage, we were forced to go through the process step by step and not to jump to conclusions or take action right away.”
Does Verhaert use a particular methodology?
Steven: “Yes, they did use certain methods specific to the go-to-market approach, to business and concept development. They work with checklists that forced us to consider every aspect from multiple angles. These methods and processes were not new to us - we use similar processes ourselves - but under their guidance, not a single step was ever skipped.”
What is the added value of having an innovation agency collaborate with you on your innovative project?
Steven: “I am in any case convinced that it is always good to have an outsider’s view. Also, Verhaert didn’t shy away from asking all the questions, including things that are not obvious or simply not done.”
What insight did you gain?
Steven: “Even if you know the direction you want to go, prepare step by step and work out the details before taking action. This is the most important conclusion we made – in other projects too. To be able to develop a solid strategy, we must rein back the impatience natural to us as entrepreneurs.”
Was the increased demand for transparency the cause of this innovation project?
Steven: “I can’t give a simple answer here. Right now, transparency is still more often written about than requested. Only few consumers use it as a guidance for their actions. However, we at BAUNAT are convinced that this will be the future. When it comes to luxury goods - items people like to have but don’t truly need - companies can no longer afford not to work transparently and follow correct practice. Sustainability is part of that as well.
As a company of high quality, this will be the reason for being. Consumers currently still tend to overlook a lot. But there is a growing awareness, especially amongst young people, and it is only set to accelerate. All those separate sparks of today will in the future merge into one big flame.
If you think it through and execute it well, there are no disadvantages to transparency at all. Recycled gold does not cost us any more. Our jewellery is crafted in Antwerp. We know our diamonds’ origins. All that is required, is a shift in mentality and to realise that it’s inevitable for the long term.”
Do you see further steps in this innovation project?
Steven: “Absolutely. It’s a continuous process. We want to provide as much proof as possible, wherever we can. Among other things, we are considering making short videos to demonstrate how our jewellery is crafted. For example, we can show how the purchased diamond is set in a piece of jewellery. We would like to capture that important moment on screen for our customers.
By telling the story behind a piece of jewellery and the underlying processes even more, our customers get a better sense of the care, attention, value and authenticity with which we have created their jewellery. Above all, it’s important for us to show the creative process, because that’s what it’s all about, that’s our brand.”
Thanks for your insights, Steven.
Do you, as a diamond company or jeweller, have an innovative project that you would like to develop through such a process in cooperation with Verhaert | Masters in Innovation, with the city’s support?
Your innovation should serve to future-proof the Antwerp diamond industry in finance, digitalisation, automation and robotisation, data analysis, cross-industry networking and sustainability & ESG.