Amazon Offers Diamonds, Watches With 16.6% Stake In Ashford.Com

Internet retailer is bringing a taste of the rich life to its ever-growing Web site.

Beginning today, the Seattle-based company will offer Cartier, Tag Heur and other brands of watches, as well as diamonds, pens and other luxury goods in a deal with another online retailer, has invested $10 million in, in exchange for a 16.6 percent share of the Houston company.

Yesterday, announced it acquired Back to Basics Toys, an online store and catalog retailer specializing in hard-to-find classic toys. A category, or store, named basic toys was added to the Web site.

"Ashford is an example of a company that adds value to our customer base," said spokesman Paul Capelli. "They share in our passion and commitment for the customer."

This is's first foray into high-end goods, though it does sell some higher-priced items, such as tools and electronics, in addition to books, music, videos and toys.

The partnership has clear value for, which is dwarfed by, the Web's largest retailer with sales of $963.8 million in the first nine months of this year. expects to record $15 million in sales in the final quarter of 1999.

" choosing to work with us is a clear endorsement of us as a category leader," said Kenny Kurtzman, chief executive officer of "We have the largest selection and the largest number of relationships with brands."

Under the deal announced today in Houston and Seattle, becomes a strategic partner for The luxury-goods retailer joins three other strategic partners -, and - which receive prominence on the home page in rotation.

"The real value of this is not so much that we are on the home page; it is looking at their customer base and seeing which of those customers will be interested in and targeting them," said Kurtzman.

According to Capelli, partners receive the marketing clout of, which uses its customer information to identify those customers that might be interested in specific partners.

"Once we make the decision to work with a company, we are going to help make their businesses as successful as possible," added Capelli. was founded in April 1998 and issued an initial public offering in September, which gave it a valuation of some $700 million. has a current valuation of almost $30 billion.'s stock gained $2.25, or 12.5 percent, to $20.25 at the close of trading today; stock was off 6.3 cents to $85.