Valentine’s Day 2023 has come and gone but everyone in the jewelry industry knows that romantic love is perennially relevant to our business, whether you’re selling engagement rings or glittering gifts for special occasions. With this in mind, we’ve got perspectives on the bridal market from industry leaders; marketing tips and inspiring images to help you capture the affections of consumers; and a shortlist of the TPC member jewelry styles that were irresistible to customers during Holiday 2022. Now let’s get to the heart of the matter!
Bridal Buzz: The Trends, Takes, & Topics to Know How
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.”
Frederick Goldman’s portfolio of brands (which includes Artcarved and Triton) offers a number of innovative bridal collections that cover off on these customer profiles.
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 Series) 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.
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 and diverse metal choices.
Romance Your Customers with Compelling Social Media Images
It’s true that a lot of jewelers are allotting substantial resources to elevate their brand creative and, in many cases, have the budget to hire a social media specialist or talented photographer to help make their product shine from all angles.
What does it take to DIY the kind of images that make consumers’ thumbs stop scrolling and their hearts flutter over and over again? For starters, set the mood for romance!
When you’re in jewelry, you know that a theme of romantic love is relevant 24/7. Valentine’s Day comes and goes but it’s one of those holidays that attunes you to want to shop for jewelry and there’s something about those pinks and reds, the hearts, the diamonds, that is perennially appealing.Whatever creative direction you take, “The most important element that is often overlooked is the question of ‘does this make strategic sense and lead back to a bigger picture goal/objective?’” says Ben Smithee, CEO, The Smithee Group, an agency specializing in digital marketing. “There is a big difference between ‘art’ and ‘creative’ as art can just be beautiful and creative has a strategic objective it must accomplish.
“Social content needs to be thought of as a cohesive approach to strategic storytelling that builds a brand. Do your visuals map back to the core brand elements? Does the way you show the story help ‘tell’ the story? Does the image cause wonder to search/find out more? Does it make me want what you’re selling?”
As for the composition of the images themselves, Robin Zachary, a prop stylist, educator, and author of the book Styling Beyond Instagram (2022 Schiffer Craft), suggests using paler variations of your brand colors as the background.
“I also like a pale blush pink or apricot for gold pieces or a pale blue for silver and platinum,” she says. “You can buy colored mat board from an art supply store.”
For still-life product shots, props can be as simple and readily available as a small velvet box, a colored block, or cloth book. “A single stem of spray roses or other flower like freesia or orchid in the photo background can express the message of love,” adds Zachary, who also teaches a commercial prop styling class in New York called The Prop Styling Experience. “Or a swirl of satin ribbon can add a nice touch and imply that it’s a gift.”
Most Plumb Members provide their retailer partners with a steady supply of compelling campaign or still-life images for use on their digital platforms. It’s a no-cost solution that allows stores to surface the brands and product they carry to a wider audience with professional, high-quality creative. Often these photos tell a larger story about romance, love in all its forms, and the pleasure that comes to treating yourself to a luxury purchase that’s chic and meaningful (or both at the same time).
For Valentine’s Day Aurelie Gi, a division of Chic Pistachio, kept it classic “with traditional valentine colors and objects,” says Katherine Whitacre, U.S. sales director. “To stay on-brand, we added a fun, sweet touch with lots of pink, and highlighted our bestselling heart designs, including our Reversible Puffy Heart in turquoise, for an extra pop of color.”
Looking ahead, some TPC members are developing their spring campaigns as we speak.
“We are keeping our color palettes simple so they will work well blending in with anyone’s social media campaigns,” says Theresa Namie, merchandise manager at Ostybe.
It’s Restock O’Clock! The Holiday Seasons’ Best-Sellers
No matter what kind of holiday season you had, surely there were some products that brought the heat. Now’s a great time to identify what they were and analyze what factors might have contributed to their success.
Your suppliers should be happy to share with you the single product or products that performed well overall during the holidays. This information, coupled with your own sales data, can help you make strategic decisions about merchandise as you prep and plan for the year’s trade shows. It can also help you decide what to promote in your marketing emails or on social media in anticipation of other gift-giving occasions like Mother’s Day and graduations.
Ahead, a few TPC members reveal the “most valuable players” of Holiday 2022.
“The top performing Triton style this holiday season was a black sapphire eternity band featuring a rich espresso color on our patented Tungsten CarbideTC.850. One customer reported that it was the ‘perfect ring’ for her husband because ‘he doesn’t like gold…and gets compliments daily.’ It’s a distinctive look for any man with a daring soul and refined sense of style.” —Lauren Calmas general manager, svp sales and marketing, Frederick Goldman
“2022 proved without doubt to be the year that lab-grown diamonds became mainstream. This holds true for both the independents and the majors. In particular, a new megatrend manifested during Holiday 2022: Monster Diamond Studs! Lab-grown diamonds have brought 2-6 cts. t.w. studs into accessible price points for moderately affluent female consumers, who, when given the choice between a fifth Louis Vuitton bag or large studs like their friends are now wearing, will be heading for the ear candy.” —Jeffrey Cohen, president and George Prout, president, independent division, Craft Lab Grown Diamonds, a subsidiary of H.K. Designs
“We saw a continued interest in our classic 14k gold necklaces with heart or linked circle designs: Our Helen necklace, Jane open-heart necklace, and Truffle pink opal mushroom charm, were the top three. We also saw an uptick in charms and pendants, especially diamond initials, birthstones, and quirky designs as interest in customization continues to gain momentum as well. These all speak to the importance of jewelry purchasing becoming more experiential, meaningful, and customizable.” —Katherine Whitacre, national sales director for Aurelie Gi, a subsidiary of Chic Pistachio
“When we reviewed all of our designs for last year, it was clear that what sold the most were the understated classic, meaningful, and multi-use designs. Our overall #1 best seller was our 0.5 ct. t.w. diamond channel-set anniversary band. There are several reasons why this item has sold so much during the holidays: It is a traditional 14k diamond band that spans all generations; it can be received as a gift for the holidays, anniversary, a wedding band, or as part of a stacking band series; it is made in the USA, which many people want; it’s a great price for the carat weight; and it’s part of a program, making it easy to replenish for retailers.” –—Theresa Namie, merchandise manager, Ostbye