From a young age, John Yu was fluent in the crystalline language of diamonds.
“Basically, I grew up in a diamond family,” he says. “My father was a diamond trader and wholesaler in Taiwan, so I started learning about diamonds early on.”
After some time away forging a career of his own, Yu returned to the family business to help his father.
“What I realized is that it wasn’t what I wanted to do, or even something I enjoyed,” he says, although his path wasn’t destined to stray too far from diamonds.
“I went to the Gemological Institute of America to become a gemologist,” he says. “This was 2004, and I was 25 years old. Some of my friends were starting to propose and get married and, knowing my background, they started asking for my expert opinion when it came to buying diamond rings.”
It wasn’t a matter of taste. Most of the questions revolved around the hows of diamond purchasing.
“They’d ask, ‘How do I know I’m paying a good price?’ or ‘How do I know I’m not getting ripped off?’,” Yu recalls.
“I started to realize a lot of people that had the need to purchase diamonds didn’t really know what to do, and that it was actually quite a painful process for them. It’s very hard to look for prices, difficult to pick a design. So I finished my gemological studies in the United States, returned to Taiwan and started ALUXE.”
Now one of Taiwan’s most renowned luxury jewelry brands, ALUXE is the answer to all those questions and more. While it began as an online business, ALUXE has grown across 10 stores in Taiwan and a physical presence in Singapore and Hong Kong.
“We did very well in the online-only era, which was surprising for a wedding ring company without a physical store,” Yu says. “We had prices clearly labeled, and we also taught consumers the pros and cons of different grades of diamonds as well as various ring designs.”
Eventually ALUXE had enough requests to see its wares in person that a brick-and-mortar outlet became necessary. In 2009, the first ALUXE store opened in Taiwan to instant success.
“It was so important to us,” he says. “That was one of our biggest milestones, and milestones are how we progress.”
As CEO, Yu’s experience and qualifications have helped set ALUXE’s sparkling range apart. Armed with his expert knowledge, Yu has partnered with some of the industry’s best in his pursuit of excellence.
“In 2011 we started working with our German partner Acredo to introduce fully personalizable wedding rings,” he says. “They’re very interesting, very specialized products that are very high quality, made by the same manufacturer as many of the big international brands in Europe.
“At the same time, they’re completely customizable, from the width to the profile to the number of precious metals customers can include. They can set two, four, even 10 diamonds.”
Along with Japanese company Sainte Pure, ALUXE has also teamed with Disney to produce a range of products themed around the Disney princesses.
“We bring out the childhood fantasy of being a princess through our wedding rings,” he says. “They’ve been very, very popular in our market.”
The ALUXE name is gleaming these days, but Yu says establishing the brand was at first a difficult process.
“That first year we had no traffic. Nobody knew who we were and it was tough to gain consumer trust,” he says. “Our breakthrough was working with different ecommerce platforms such as Yahoo Shopping and PChome, which is big in Taiwan.”
Once orders began to pick up, Yu asked his customers to share their stories.
“That changed everything,” he says. “It brought with it more trust, greater awareness and ultimately more customers.”
Now, ALUXE’s goal is to gain a foothold in Singapore.
“We’ve opened one store there already, and a second will be open by the end of 2023. Starting in 2024, our plan is to open 5–10 stores per year.”
ALUXE hopes to have 30 stores outside Taiwan by the end of 2026.
“We want to be one of the biggest players in Asia’s wedding ring industry,” he says.
The challenges along the way are many, Yu admits.
“We’ve worked hard to create an ALUXE culture here in Taiwan, but when we expanded into other countries, they didn’t share that culture,” he says.
“In Taiwan, for instance, we’re more service-centric and happy to approach customers. That’s not the way it is in Singapore, where they like to give customers space to walk around.”
As a result, Yu has worked hard with his team to find a way to combine cultures for the best of both worlds. Then there are matters of taste, some of which are beyond control.
“Singaporeans tend to buy pure gold as a wedding gift, and that’s not something that happens much anymore in Taiwan,” he says.
“Elsewhere, the trend of having one large diamond in the middle of an engagement ring is dropping off. The answer is the advanced level of customization we’ve made possible.”
ALUXE also has an eye on things other than sales, including an aspiration to be a carbon-neutral business over the next few years.
“We want to make sure our business is sustainable,” he says. “So we constantly assess the manufacturing processes and the packaging, and we do more charity activities to lower emissions. We planted over 15,000 trees last year in Taiwan, for instance.”
In a business so reliant on ever-shifting trends, Yu believes it’s important to keep a finger on the pulse of the industry – and share those insights with peers.
“We’re very open about our insights. We’re happy to share them with our partners and vendors,” he says.
“For me, it’s always about teamwork. I want to make sure we’re all in on the win–win situation. It’s not just about ALUXE surviving. We need to make sure the whole industry survives.”
It’s an extension of the positivity Yu has imbued within ALUXE from the beginning, making the company’s heart as strong as diamonds themselves.
“We’re in the wedding ring business, so I always tell my colleagues we’re also in the love and happiness business,” he says. “It’s the most important thing about our company, that we are here to spread love and happiness.”