No matter what your Holiday 2022 sales looked like, the so-called post-pandemic “wedding boom” is still in play, necessitating a robust demand for all manner of engagement rings and wedding bands—for all manner of couples.
For most jewelers, bridal is a steady, top-performing category, albeit one that comes with an imperative to keep up with market trends and customer appetite (never mind your personal feelings on the new hipster favorite: salt-and-pepper diamonds).
Jonathan Goldman, CEO of bridal megabrand Frederick Goldman, summarized the “state of the union” as follows:
“The wedding boom our industry has enjoyed for three years has reaffirmed that bridal jewelry sales are truly about celebrating an experience, not just purchasing a ring. We’re seeing a growing opportunity to address three very distinct bridal consumers: the complete bridal customer looking for an easy experience selecting from an expertly curated assortment; the component customer who values the experience of marrying a semi-mount engagement ring with a center stone; and the custom bridal customer driven by the desire to design a one-of-a-kind ring.”
Retailers should make sure they are assorting their bridal offering with a similarly tailored focus. Meanwhile, updating your in-store experiences to include the latest tech is another great way to deliver what your customers want, when they want it.
Ahead, more hot bridal topics to stay abreast of and keep in mind when you plan and prepare for upcoming trade shows like JCK.
THE LAB-GROWN LOWDOWN
Lab-grown diamonds—and the increased demand for them—continue to lead conversations in the bridal space. “Lab-grown diamonds are not new to bridal, but they do represent a recent and growing segment of the market,” says Harvey Rovinksy, owner of leading jewelry store Bernie Robbins, which has retail locations throughout New Jersey. “Bernie Robbins has gotten into this kicking and screaming. If you are in the diamond business, I don’t see any way of avoiding lab grown.”
Several Plumb Club Members likewise report that lab-grown diamonds top of the list when it comes to innovation and change happening within the bridal category.
Specifically, “The focus has shifted to larger centers (1.5 cts. and up), and away from large cluster styles,” says Jeff Cohen, president, Craft Lab Grown Diamonds, a division of TPC Member H.K. Designs. And at Ostbye, merchandise manager Theresa Namie observes that couples who choose larger lab-grown center diamonds “are opting to spend a little more on the mounting to accommodate the less expensive lab-grown center.”
Severine Ferrari, editor in chief of Engagement 101 (and interviewed here on The Plumb Club’s Podcast) agreed that the industry should be tuned in to lab-grown diamonds alongside “tackling Tik Tok reels” as a marketing tool and the emergence of limited-edition bridal collections (a.k.a. “drops”) sold online or in-store.
“Picking the right selection is so important,” notes Namie. “I study the bridal market extensively to ensure we are producing collections that will sell through for the stores.” Right now, she says, that’s translating to “hidden halo” styles and other fresh takes on the classic halo engagement ring. Nature-inspired designs with leaves and floral motifs are also strong sellers as well as the newer option of “wraps and inserts—these interchangeable rings let the wearer create their own unique statement,” explains Namie. “They fit up nicely to solitaires but also look great with all different kinds of semi-mountings.”
According to Ferrari, “oval and pear-shape center stones are still strong, as well as salt-and-pepper diamonds and multi-stone rings, including toi et moi, three-stone, and cluster styles.”
And at Bernie Robbins, “The mountings are becoming simpler,” says Rovinsky. “Mountings with diamonds on the shank are making a press forward. Mounting pear and emerald cut diamonds horizontally has also been trending.”
What do retailers need to know about metals? White gold is still the odds-on favorite, and many are predicting a platinum revival. Also: “With the ‘Barbiecore’ trend and the new Pantone color of Viva Magenta, rose gold might not be far behind,” says Ferrari. (“Barbiecore” refers to the spike in popularity of all things bubblegum pink and playful following the 2022 announcement of a forthcoming Barbie film starring Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling that’s slated to release this summer.)
“There’s also a growing interest in custom precious metal gent’s bands,” adds Ferrari. That may well be, but some, like Novell, a division of TPC Member Continental Jewellery, are anticipating record-high gold prices this year.
“We have always paid close attention to the difficulties retailers face as metal markets increase,” says Novell’s Rick Mulholland. “The easiest solution would be to offer lower-priced alternative metal designs and push precious metals to the side.
While we have introduced tantalum wedding bands, our desire to offer primarily precious metal merchandise has remained a priority.” As such, Novell is promoting two solutions: Different metal weight options (“most of our popular designs can be made in full, medium, or light weights. Less metal means a lower price, yet the consumer still has a high-quality and attractive product,” he says) and diverse metal choices (“almost all of our popular designs can be made in platinum, 18k gold, 14k gold and 10k gold; our 10k gold option gives the customer who has an alternative-metal budget a precious metal option that can be resized and refinished, unlike most alternative metals”).