Jewellers De Beers : Swarovski open flagships in Japan
A woman walks past the world's largest diamond trader De Beers' flagship shop in Tokyo - Photo : Yoshikazu Tsuno/AFP
De Beers, the British-South African diamond giant, and Switzerland's Swarovski cut the ribbons on the stores blocks away from each other in Tokyo's glitzy central Ginza district.
The stores will compete with Italian jeweller Bulvari's flagship store that opened in Ginza in November and already established French rival Cartier.
To mark the opening to the public on Friday, De Beers is planning to display a 296.56 carat yellow rough diamond produced 3.3 billion years ago, according to the company.
The 220 million-yen (2.2 million-dollar) diamond will be displayed alongside a 5.23 carat cut-cornered green diamond worth 500 million yen (5 million dollars), it said.
Designed by French architect Christophe Carpente, the two-floored store that curves upwards will display its diamond collection and other jewellery including high-end watches and bridal goods.
The De Beers Diamond Jewellers Ltd, which runs the store, is a joint venture between De Beers Group and French luxury goods giant Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessey (LVMH).
De Beers, which produces 40 percent of the world's rough diamonds, drew fire for selling diamonds from conflict areas in Africa until pledging in 1999 to trade "conflict-free" stones.
The Swarovski flagship store is the Swiss crystal jeweller's fourth after Boston, Hong Kong and London.
"Japan remains an important market for Swarovski and since Ginza is increasingly international, we hope that this will be a springboard for the rest of the world," a spokeswoman said.
Japanese designer Tokujin Yoshioka, known for his glasswork like tables and chairs that look like they are covered in water, used thousands of prisms to create a "Crystal Forest" in the 450 square-metre (5,000 square-foot) store.
The two floors will be connected by a crystal staircase made of steel and thousands of facet crystals that will be lit up by background lighting.
"When I let my thoughts run loose on the intimate relationship between crystal and nature, the forest became an important component for my inspiration," Yoshioka said.
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