The Jewelry District

The Jewelry District

Episode 53: Guest Sean Kell

September 28, 2021

In This Episode

You’ll hear JCK editor-in-chief Victoria Gomelsky and news director Rob Bates talk to guest Sean Kell, CEO of Blue Nile. They'll discuss how Sean got into the jewelry industry, how Blue Nile has done during the pandemic, the De Beers Ten/Ten campaign, and expectations for the upcoming holiday season.

Show Notes

00:30 Rob and Victoria introduce their guest, Sean Kell, CEO of Blue Nile.

7:40 Sean explains how he got into the jewelry industry after jumping around and working in several different industries.

13:36 Blue Nile did well during the pandemic. Hear how.

17:38 Victoria asks Sean about Blue Nile’s social presence.

19:20 Sean explains the success of the De Beers Ten/Ten Campaign that Blue Nile took part in.

20:56 Sean talks about Lightbox, Brilliant Earth going public, and his holiday expectations.

Episode Credits

Hosts: Rob Bates and Victoria Gomelsky

Producer and engineer: Natalie Chomet


Show Recap

Introducing Sean Kell

At the time of this recording, Victoria had just gotten back from Denver, where she'd been attending the Hard Rock Summit; she said the show was fantastic and that she promises to chat about it at a later date. Rob and Victoria then introduce their guest: Sean Kell, CEO of Blue Nile, who is calling in from just outside of Seattle. Sean says it feels like things in the jewelry industry are finally returning to normal. He also expresses his love for Blue Nile and how much he enjoys working there.

How Sean Got Into the Industry

Blue Nile has 13 showrooms, with 5 more opening later this year. Ultimately, the company plans to have 40 more showrooms across the country. Sean says Blue Nile is looking at expanding into colored stones and men’s jewelry. He then explains what attracted him to the jewelry industry in the first place: its size, and its difficulty for consumers to figure it out and how it's difficult for consumers to figure it out—he wants to change the industry to be a little more convenient or shoppers. Blue Nile originally operated solely on the web, but it has since opened brick-and-mortar stores to meet customers where they want to be met.

Blue Nile During the Pandemic

Back in 2020, Blue Nile’s showrooms were closed for a time. But since the brand was already established as an online company, it didn’t have much trouble during that transition period. Sean says Blue Nile has seen terrific growth, and it continues to enjoy that growth as the country opens back up and it opens new showrooms. Earlier in the pandemic, Blue Nile also offered virtual appointments, which it continues to do. It uses actual studios for its one-on-one sessions, and the personal jewelers have multiple cameras to provide an immersive experience, similar to one in a brick-and-mortar store.

Blue Nile’s Social Presence

Victoria asks about social media. Sean says Blue Nile has fully embraced Instagram in the United States. He also talks about social media platforms in China, which are even more important to the Chinese consumer than Instagram and Facebook are to the American shopper. While Blue Nile hasn't started doing virtual appointments on Instagram, it's working hard on its video and phone business.

De Beers and the Ten/Ten Campaign

Victoria asks about Blue Nile's teaming with De Beers and 10 independent designers in 2020 for a design collaboration called Ten/Ten. The designers created limited-edition engagement rings featuring center stones all sourced from De Beers' mines in Botswana. Sean discusses the success of that partnership. A hundred rings were created in total, and the program highlighted 10 wonderful designers—all women—and the beauty of natural diamonds in center stone engagement rings.

Lightbox and Natural Diamonds, Brilliant Earth, and the Holidays

Rob asks about Lightbox, and Sean says Blue Nile’s partnership with De Beers and Lightbox has been a good way for the company to test the waters of lab-grown diamonds. Blue Nile continues to sell only natural diamonds in its center stone engagement rings, and its customers are mainly looking for natural diamonds. Rob also mentions that one of Blue Nile’s competitors, Brilliant Earth, is going public, and Sean answers the question of whether he sees that happening for Blue Nile any time soon. Victoria asks if Blue Nile is seeing any bottlenecks in the shipping capacity for holiday sales. Sean says Blue Nile is expecting its largest holiday season.

(Photo courtesy of Sean Kell)