PARIS, July 2 (Reuters) - LVMH opened a Louis Vuitton jewellery store on Paris's Place Vendome on Monday, hoping to tap in to a fast-growing market for expensive baubles and expand the brand's image beyond leather goods and fashion.
The move towards jewellery allows the French brand - best known for handbags and frocks by chief designer Marc Jacobs - to capture a market that some consultants believe is set to grow faster than other luxury segments.
"The store and the workshop are an important step, a foundational decision, indicating that we look ahead with optimism," said Hamdi Chatti, director of jewellery and watches for Louis Vuitton.
The global jewellery market is worth about 40 billion euros ($50.76 billion), strategy consultants Roland Berger suggest. A recent study by Bain indicates that the market could grow by 10 percent a year until 2014, faster than either apparel or perfume and cosmetics.
The new Paris store will sell both mid-range items, from as little as 650 euros ($820), to diamond and sapphire-encrusted necklaces and rings that can sell for millions.
Like Richemont's Van Cleef & Arpels, Louis Vuitton will design high-end jewellery on the premises, both in a series of collections and as made-to-measure pieces.
"I don't think that their ambition is to compete with Cartier, per se," said Thomas Mesmin, an analyst at CA Cheuvreux. "It is more to maintain the image of a global luxury brand that is active in all product categories."
A Louis Vuitton spokeswoman said: "We are considering opening new stores for jewellery and watchmaking in major international capitals.
LVMH, the world's biggest luxury goods group, most recently made a splash in jewellery when it bought Italy's Bulgari for 3.7 billion euros, giving LVMH a valuable brand and increasing its in-house watch and jewellery expertise. ($1 = 0.7880 euros) (Reporting by Nina Sovich; Editing by David Goodman)