The youngest segment of adults is now getting engaged, and their preferences are shaking up the traditional wedding jewelry market. According to McKinsey & Co., Generation Z, born between 1996–2010, has identities shaped by the “digital age, climate anxiety, a shifting financial landscape, and COVID-19.” Naturally, these influence many aspects of their lives, including their engagement ring purchases.
To wit, this is why Gen Z has been buying lab-grown diamonds and rings with alternative center stones, including moissanite. According to respondents to The Plumb Club Industry & Market Insights report who chose a “non-diamond gemstone,” moissanite “accounts for more than one-quarter of non-diamond stones (28%, up 9% vs. 2019) and is even more popular among Gen Z (35%).” For sure, an “eco-conscious mindset is rising among couples, with 34% finding it increasingly less important that the ring/stone be a natural stone (down 8% since 2019), with Gen Z (28%) finding it less important than Millennials (35%) and Gen X (41%).”
Other engagement ring trends among Gen Zers include personalization, symbolism, jewelry with a story behind it, and a desire to support ethics and sustainability among makers.
“Gen Z has a penchant for personalization and storytelling in their jewelry choices, creating engagement rings that hold deep emotional significance and serve as a representation of their values and aspirations,” explains Surbhi Jain, marketing director, Shefi Diamonds.
That’s why his company offers an array of styles with direct appeal to Gen Z. Among the lines are rings with colored gemstone centers, minimalist designs, vintage-inspired looks, and the Celestial Love collection. Celestial Love engagement rings feature delicate angel wings on the side galleries that evoke “a sense of freedom, spirituality, and individuality,” adds Jain. “Angel wings not only add a touch of whimsy but also symbolize protection, guidance, and a connection to something greater.”
Lab-grown diamonds appeal to Gen Z for affordability. That’s a trend that Ostbye’s Theresa Namie is hearing about from her clients. The merchandise manager maintains that because Gen Z is well educated but has less money to spend, the technology behind lab growns intrigues them.
“I think if a jeweler wants to have them purchase natural diamonds, they will have to explain why it is a benefit to the mining community for them to buy one,” she says. “They truly want to make a difference, and if buying a natural diamond provides stability to a community, they would be open to listening.”
Novell Design Studio’s sales associate Rick Mulholland agrees. “In many cases, the retailer is less successful converting the consumer from lab-grown to natural diamonds unless they clearly explain the pros and cons of each. At that point, the consumer may lean towards a natural diamond.”
Some points that he keeps top of mind for these occasions? The production of lab-grown diamonds requires a significant amount of energy, so they are not likely as sustainable and ethical as consumers might think. Plus, lab growns are not as valuable as natural diamonds given their prices continue to drop at an alarming rate.
“Natural diamonds form over billions of years, so they are much rarer and more valuable than lab-grown diamonds,” he continues.
Other important Gen Z traits to note include their penchant for online research, use of social media, and their insistence on educated sales associates and a great in-store experience. When all these stars align, Gen Z will pull the trigger on sales.
“They are educated and willing to spend when the experience backs it up,” says Neil Shah, executive vice president of Shah Luxury.
Components of the experience include both the ability to express individuality through pieces—custom abilities help here—to comfort in stores and more. “Be casual, be fun, be a place someone could have an experience at, and you’ll be most of the way there to catering to Gen Z,” advises Shah.
When it comes to product, be sure to point out every aspect of a design, from hidden diamonds to easy-for-daily-wear bezel-set engagement rings.
“Highlighting products’ key features, such as craftsmanship, precious metal attributes, and personalized results are all important,” adds Mulholland. “They help turn a piece of bridal jewelry into an everlasting billboard.”