Richemont buys Italian jeweller that sells diamond-encrusted R3m iPhone covers

Richemont announced on Friday that it bought a 100-year old Italian jewellery-maker from the Chinese conglomerate Gangtai Group.

The Milan-based Buccelatti is known for its traditional, handcrafted gold jewellery, using techniques dating back to the Renaissance.

Five years ago, it also revealed the world’s most expensive iPad and iPhone covers, made with gold and diamonds and sold for $485,000 (R7.3m at current exchange rates) and $208,000 (R3.1m) respectively.

The company’s products are primarily distributed in Europe and the US.

The Chinese conglomerate Gangtai bought Buccellati almost three years ago and proceeded to expand its presence in the Chinese market. It opened a flagship Buccellati store in a large Shanghai mall, and also established a store in Beijing. It wanted to open more than 80 new shops.

But according to a report in the luxury goods publication Jing Daily, Buccellati suffered losses last year, compounding Gangtai financial problems, which saw it default on bond payments last year. Gangtai, which is one of the largest gold jewellery distributors in China and owns an online jewellery retailer, also has finance and health interests.

"We are extremely glad to have successfully contributed to the introduction of the prestigious Buccellati brand in the Greater China market, strengthening Buccellati's identity and enhancing all of the elements which make it one of the best-known brands worldwide in the fine jewellery sector,” Xu Jiangang, founder of Gangtai, said in a statement on Friday. “We are now honoured and proud that Richemont will continue the journey.”

Richemont didn’t confirm the price it paid for the Buccellati, but said the deal won’t have a material financial impact on its results for the current year.

Chairman Johann Rupert said Buccellati is one of the few jewellery-makers that is complementary to Richemont’s existing jewellery Maisons, “in terms of style, origins and craftsmanship”. "Buccellati meets the needs of today's customers who are looking for creative jewellery, with a highly distinctive style," Rupert said.

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