Japanese que for free diamonds

2009-06-01 10:57

Tokyo - Lines curled around for blocks in downtown Tokyo on Monday for 5 000 tiny but freebie diamonds French jeweller Mauboussin was giving away in an attention-getting drive in Japan, a nation where it's still unknown.

"A value of a diamond doesn't go down. And you never get tired of a diamond," said Noriko Suzumaru, a 39-year-old housewife, who jumped on a train from the nearby city of Kawasaki to stand in line after seeing the deal on TV news.

Suzumaru was among a crowd of bargain-hunters lined up in the glitzy Ginza for the 0.1 carat diamonds Mauboussin was offering for its first 5 000 customers. The gems are valued at about ¥5 000 ($50).

Mauboussin's flagship Japan store opened in Ginza, one of the most expensive pieces of real estate in Japan, in February.

But the store had often been empty because its name, though associated with international celebrities, isn't widely recognised among Japanese. Many still don't even know how to pronounce Mauboussin ("Mo-bu-SAN").

Trend-loving Japanese have also stood in lines for products like Apple's iPhone, the egg-shaped toy Tamagotchi and countless video games. So drawing lines in Tokyo has become a signature way businesses drum up publicity.

When Swedish clothing retailer Hennes & Mauritz, or H&M, opened its first Tokyo stores last year, they drew lines for weeks, but the lines have since disappeared.

Mauboussin, which was founded 181 years ago in France, is encouraging people to get their free diamond be made into rings and pendants at its store. But that will come at a cost, starting at about ¥50 000 ($500).

"We hope to blow away the recession and provide an opportunity for people who are holding back on spending to have fun shopping and glow even more with beauty," it said in a statement.

- Sapa