JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - Mining investors led by the former head of mining group BHP Billiton plan to revive the Faberge brand it bought from consumer goods group Unilever as a diamond and luxury goods group, an official said on Monday.
“We’re mining people, so we’re in the process of hiring a team of specialists in the luxury goods sector to re-establish Faberge as the leading name in luxury goods,” Sean Gilbertson, a partner in Pallinghurst Resources, told Reuters.
Pallinghurst, which announced on Monday along with partners it was seeking to raise up to $1.5 billion to invest in the resource sector, is headed by Brian Gilbertson, former chief of BHP Billiton BHP.AX, and father of Sean Gilbertson.
Pallinghurst, which operates like a private equity fund, bought the Faberge brand from Unilever ULVR.LUNc.AS in January for an undisclosed sum mainly for use in the diamond and gems sector, he said in an interview from London.
Most details about the Faberge acquisition, including the price are subject to confidentiality, Gilbertson said.
“What we want to do is create the world’s leading supplier of branded gemstones,” he said. “But there is a natural follow-on opportunity and that is to re-establish Fabrege as the world’s leading luxury goods name.”
Under Unilever, Faberge was mainly a cosmetics brand, but the Anglo-Dutch firm also allowed other products to be sold with the name under license.
The original Faberge company was founded in 1842 by Russian jeweller Gustav Faberge, who gained fame for designing elaborate jewel-encrusted eggs for Russian czars.
TRACE ORIGIN OF DIAMONDS
Faberge Gemstones will be a separate firm licensed by parent Faberge Ltd, owned by Pallinghurst.
The world's biggest producer of diamonds is De Beers, 45 percent owned by mining group Anglo American Plc AAL.L.
Although Faberge Gemtones will not own mines, its business will extend from sourcing rough stones through to polished and branded gemstones, which will be sold wholesale to jewellery makers. It will not be involved in manufacture or retailing of jewellery.
“As part of the process we will be able to tell consumers exactly where the stone has come from,” Gilbertson said.
In the wake of publicity such as the Hollywood film Blood Diamond, which traces the history of how some diamonds fuelled violence and wars, consumers are increasingly seeking assurances that they are buying legitimate gems.
Under the Kimberley Process, governments certify rough diamonds as being mined legally, but tracing of gems through the cutting and manufacturing process is voluntary.
“We will go a very important step further than the Kimberley Process, which has I think has widely acknowledged a number of different flaws and does not actually track where the stone has come from,” Gilbertson said.
Under Pallinghurst’s ownership, licenses have already been cut down from 10 to seven, although some will be retained.
“Some of those licensees make wonderful products, but we will put in place a new structure where there is coherent branding and coherent design approval,” Gilbertson said.
“By taking a few basic steps we believe we’ll be able to jack up the value of that acquisition many fold in a relatively short space of time.”
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