Bridal Category Buzzing at JCK
At JCK Las Vegas in June the engagement and wedding ring category was buzzing with energy and excitement as the number of couples projected to marry in 2022, over 2.6 million compared to 2.2 million in 2019, bigger than at any time since the early 1980s.
Jewelers face a bevy of opportunities for bridal jewelry sales this year. JCK trends tracker and contributing editor Brittany Siminitz, shared in her “Wedded Blitz” report a range of classic styles like the solitaire, halo-settings, and three stone rings continue to stand the test of time.
But she also sees the influence celebrity engagement rings have on consumers, like Jennifer Lopez’s green diamond and Megan Fox’s toi et moi pear-shaped emerald and diamond design have inspired more interest and demand in fancy color and shape diamond rings, as well as for other gemstones like sapphire, emerald, ruby, aquamarine, and morganite.
In a recent JCK interview with the luxury consignment marketplace, The RealReal, reports that shoppers are looking for their wedding jewelry in a variety of ways — in store, through virtual appointment, or on websites like The RealReal. Steffi Lee, editorial manager of fine jewelry and watches for the San Francisco–based company cites trends toward vintage style, simple designs, and robust interest in fine jewelry and top brands.
Couples are buying eternity and wedding bands, reports Lee, as well as brooches as their own engagement tradition. “There is no longer a clear definition of conventional and unconventional,” she told JCK, “Self-expression is at the forefront of styling, and jewelry has now become an anchor for a look rather than just an accessory.”
Wedding rings and jewelry don’t have to be limited to just engagements and nuptials; Lee reminds. There are anniversaries and other special occasions that present opportunities for new additions to pair with their ring, or to trade in to get something entirely different. “While customers still gravitate toward the tried-and-true, we’re seeing interest in color gems, multi-stone rings, and modern, clear-cut designs,” she says of trends in the category for the platform.
Variety in Play
A great overview of the diverse trends in the engagement and wedding jewelry category can be gained by browsing the booths of many of The Plumb Club Members at JCK this year — about two thirds of the over 50 member companies representing more than 100 brands offer products in the bridal category.
“Everything is in, from three-stone and multi-stone center engagement rings to bridal sets,” reports Chetan Patel, production manager for the New York manufacturer, Indigo Jewelry. “Yellow gold remains a staple for many accessories, so it’s no surprise we’ve seen an increase in yellow gold engagement rings this year. Sales across the category have been strong.”
Richard Bachu, vice president of sales and director of ecommerce for KGS Jewels, New York, says that everyone is getting married now. “Couples are not putting it off,” he reports. “Our bridal numbers are way up.”
So many of the hottest trends in bridal are reflected in the latest styles and collections introduced by Frederick Goldman. The Secaucus, New Jersey based bridal manufacturer has a robust portfolio of engagement and wedding ring brands, which include ArtCarved, Scott Kay, Love Earth lab-grown diamonds, and the Goldman private label line.
Among its new offerings, ArtCarved is adding something new in its Something Blue Collection, ready-to-sell engagement rings that feature royal blue sapphire centers (round and oval, 1 carat or 1.50 carat), surrounded by diamonds, in classic styles inspired by the rings of royalty, and contemporary designs with floral details and organic feel. The collection offers matching bands, as well as an array of contour and tiara stackable bands set with sapphires and diamonds.
“Color is trending and blue is the ‘it’ color in bridal,” says Liliana Estrella, trade marketing manager for Frederick Goldman. She also cites fancy shape diamonds hot right now, mentioning baguettes a favorite in engagement and wedding rings.
Estrella also cites the manufacturer’s men’s contemporary jewelry brand Triton, which she describes as going “beyond the wedding band” to offer high-tech, high-style designs using cutting edge materials like its grade 2 titanium. The brand is introducing styles with more design aspects, including mixed metals, and three key-finishes: faceted, brushed and two-tone.
Men’s gold rings are bestsellers, with diamond bands in demand, from solitaire to multiple stones channel set, says Jonathan Cohen, CEO of Newport, Kentucky based premier men’s jewelry manufacturer, IBGoodman, just acquired by Quality Gold as part of its portfolio of prestige brands. Yellow gold is a favorite, as well as two-tone styles.
Signet styles also are trending with multi-diamond centers. Cohen mentions that lab-grown diamonds will be added to the line under the Quality Gold umbrella. “Men will be very open to lab-grown diamonds as an option.”
Cohen believes that men’s diamond solitaire rings in particular have enormous potential to grow, especially since Tiffany debuted last summer its first men’s engagement ring ad.
In fact, in a July 15 Refinery29 article, “More Women Are Proposing To Men Than Ever Before. Why Is It Hard To Find An Engagement Ring,” Theresa Palermo, Zales senior vice president of marketing said: “Women are taking more ownership of their own relationships and what is an incredibly big choice and proposing themselves.”
As wedding traditions become more flexible, the market for men’s engagement rings and even engagement watches have expanded, prompting the likes of Tiffany and Zales to independent brands to start offering engagement and wedding jewelry for men. “This is a trend that we’re seeing across the bridal space,” Palermo told the feminist digital media and entertainment website.
This also is a result of a decades-long push from the queer community to buck traditions when it comes to the “genderization” of marriage proposals and weddings, opening up the space for men’s engagement rings. The article notes that while there are plenty of wedding band options from which to choose, there are few pieces that would make for good pairings for a band after the wedding ceremony.
Lab-Grown Keeps Growing
Lab-grown diamonds continue to rock the bridal category. JCK editors and industry insiders hail 2022 the year lab-grown diamonds go mainstream, forcing any retail holdouts to either include the product or be left behind.
At JCK Las Vegas there were many retailers getting on board with the category. “We opened over 50 retail accounts at the show, reports George Prout, president of the independent division for Craft Lab Grown Diamonds in New York, new lab-grown diamond division H.K. Designs, part of the Hari Krishna Group, a new Plumb Club Member. “And in five weeks, we opened 187 dealers.”
Prout describes the category as “democratizing diamonds by making accessible to wider market products only available to the very wealthy. He underscores jewelers are not selling diamonds as a store of value, but as a symbol of love.
Tom Pautz, director of sales lab-grown stones for Quality Gold believes lab-grown diamond sales will represent about one third of the diamond business in five years and thinks by the end of 2023 price fluctuations will have leveled off. “Technology is improving, there’s less waste, and better product,” he says, “and the demand keeps growing.”
The Fairfield, Ohio based manufacturer finds lab-grown engagement rings a bestseller. In addition to rounds, the company introduced this year oval and princess cuts. While sales remain strong for lab-grown diamond bridal, lab-grown diamond essential jewelry like stud earrings, solitaire pendants, and line bracelets and necklaces have seen a spike in demand. “We’ve never sold that many tennis bracelets before lab grown,” says Pautz.
Embracing the enormous potential lab-grown diamonds presents, Aurelie Gi, Chic Pistachio Group’s minimal and stackable demi-fine luxury jewelry brand, just announced the debut of its “Star Attraction” lab grown diamond line with a capsule collection of star motif single earrings in recycled 14K-gold available for pre-order, with delivery beginning mid-August. Alisa Bunger, U.S. vice president of sales and operations for Chic Pistachio says additional designs made with lab-grown diamonds will be available soon, including its popular stackable demi-fine recycled gold bands, as well as bracelets and pendant necklaces.
“We’re thrilled to launch the collection with a focus on the curated ear party that’s taking the nation by storm,” says Bunger, who notes it would make a great bridal party or bachelorette event for friends.