The latest weddingreport.com research reveals that overall spending for weddings was down 4% from $25,764 in 2017 to $24,723 in 2018, based on nearly 6,800 survey samples taken throughout last year. While the wedding market is worth $54 billion a year, trends reflect cautious spending by couples influenced by general life expenses and changing priorities.
“While spending is generally flat with some decrease in service categories, it’s the demand for traditional wedding expenditures that is driving the lower overall spending,” according to weddingreport.com. “Almost every item is seeing lower demand with the exception of a few. Event location, food, and decorations all saw higher demand. This points to couples looking for an experience, not a traditional wedding.”
Demand for jewelry like earrings, bracelets and necklaces declined 11.4%, 11.1% and 9.1%, respectively, from 2017 to 2018. Engagement rings and men’s wedding bands saw a slight decrease in demand of 1.1%, and women’s bands dipped 2.3%.
Samuel Sandberg, Chairman of the New York-based A. Jaffe, advocates that jewelers, particularly independent retailers rise to the moment to be competitive with service, experience, and special/unique offerings.
“Be a destination for diamond engagement and wedding rings and things, now is the time,” Sandberg encourages. “I have serviced both types of retail, from the majors to mom and pops, and I see great opportunity for independent jewelers to be successful today in this way, at a time when department stores and big box retailers are being challenged.”
What the industry has to get, is what Millennials want. “They want personalization and customization, they want a shopping experience,” says Robin Gandhi for Aneri Jewels and Laxmi Diamonds in New York City, who describes himself on the topside of Millennials. “We really need to listen to their needs and they are pretty clear about what they want, more than any other generation.”
Gandhi endorses Pinterest as a great place to track what’s popular in engagement and wedding rings — and right now classic solitaires set in rose gold are trending. He adds that celebrities and bloggers inspire Millennials — like Princess Meghan Markle’s three-stone ring. It’s not surprising that to see many suppliers doing their own take on this popular style.
Keep It Simple
In this environment of simplifying things and making it your own, it’s not surprising that solitaires are popular again.
“Solitaires are distinguishing brides today because everyone has a halo,” says Sandberg, who sees halo demand tapering. “The trend is shifting back to the diamond having a solo performance, a return to traditional.” Although he underscores that these solitaires are far from plain, citing the trend for designs under the profile. He also adds that the trend for stacking diamond bands lends itself well to dressing up a simple solitaire and changing the look.
Cynthia Speight, Merchandise Manager for IB Goodman in Newport, Kentucky sees greater interest in halos as design elements, like creating flower petals, than to pump up the center stone.
Round cut continues to be most popular for engagement ring centers, says Sandberg, but there has been greater interest in fancy shapes, namely ovals, followed by pears and cushions, and emerald cuts on the higher end. White gold is still No. 1, but two-tone is coming on strong, with yellow gold gaining every season, platinum, too. He cites rose gold popular with Millennials.
There is no desire by couples today to keep up with the Jones. “Having a ring that’s unique is key,” says Valerie Fletcher, Vice President of Design and Product Development for the NYC-based Original Designs Inc. (ODI). “While classics will always sell, our customers lean towards bridal that has a combination of traditional and unexpected styling. Updated Ballerinas are a popular choice because they mix a large center with a fashion look. Also, bridal that includes large stones in a halo, almost with a fashion cluster feel. Think Katy Perry’s engagement ring.”
The fact that a large majority of women are part of the engagement ring purchase has grown the trend for customization, says Neil Shah, principal with Shah Luxury in New York City, noting that in the past few years customization services have become half of his business. “That has been a huge change for the industry.” He believes that catering to that trend provides jewelers with the opportunity to create memorable experiences, new traditions, and lifelong customers.
It must be said that men, too want interesting wedding rings, favoring industrial/architectural elements, two-tone white and yellow gold, and, yes, diamonds, says Speight. She notes that sales are very strong for five-stone diamond bands for men, up to 2-carats total weight.