Still Buying Diamonds & Fine Jewelry

Consumers are adapting to the new normal and diamonds continue to retain broad appeal across consumer segments.

Those are the key findings the De Beers Group revealed in its 2020 Diamond Insight report. Released in November, it collates data from consumer research the diamond producer conducted after COVID-19 erupted on the scene.

Research finds two in five (38 percent) consumers choose diamond jewelry as the gift they most desire to give or receive. Since travel, which has long been the main competitor to diamonds as a means of creating memories, has been so restricted, the market for diamonds has benefited.

“We’re thrilled people are buying diamonds,” shares Russell Weisenberg, vice president of sales for Aneri Jewels in New York City, acknowledging that lack of travel and not buying other things like apparel or electronics, have given people more disposable income, and jewelry is such a great gift to give and receive.

Consumers buy fine jewelry to celebrate or reward themselves, to give as a gift to someone they love, and also for no reason at all. These motivators are true across gender, age, marital status, and household income, finds the latest study by MVI Marketing (MVEye) of 1,027 diamond jewelry consumers in October.

The survey revealed that while diamond jewelry consumers normally like to shop and buy in store (61 percent) during COVID, 36 percent are now shopping online, 28 percent visiting the store, 17 percent arranging private in-store appointments, and 11 percent are visiting the store, then buying online later.

Earth Mined
“Our customers sell to middle America, and we’re seeing an uptick in new jewelry sales,” says Weisenberg, who notes that consumers are buying better qualities in diamond engagement rings. He concurs that classic styles are driving most of the diamond fashion jewelry business, underscoring that good design is key.

Valerie Fletcher, vice president of design and product development for Original Design Inc. (ODI) says that in classic jewelry, the trends she is seeing are for bigger diamonds, graduated diamond styles, and diamond intensive designs that are more freeform and show less metal.

“ODI has had a lot of requests for larger, diamond-intensive hoops and vertical/drop earrings, with round, pear or marquise diamonds; all diamond with very little gold showing,” Fletcher shares. “This is interesting because pre-COVID, we were doing really well with mini studs that would be stacked up the ear. So this is a complete reversal.”

Fletcher also notes that in neckwear, dangling pendants are always popular, but ODI also sees greater interest in chevron and smile style necklaces. “In bands, it’s the same story, very diamond intensive and no metal showing or straight edges. Fancies mixed with rounds, or large and small rounds in garland looks, giving that lacy edge are trending. And, enhancers are still our No. 1 band category. Again, with the graduated or lacy looks doing well.”

MVEye’s study in October, sponsored by the International Grown Diamond Association (IGDA) and Instore Magazine, revealed huge gains in consumer awareness and acceptance of lab-grown diamonds in fine jewelry.

Consumer awareness has grown organically, without major marketing investment, from 9 percent a decade ago to 80 percent in 2020, across age groups, genders and income levels.

Jewelry consumers also are asking for lab-grown diamonds. In a separate trade survey conducted this fall, 62 percent of the 138 retail respondents found that anywhere from 5 percent to 50 percent of their customers are asking for lab-grown diamonds. Moreover, consumers expect the product to be among the fine jewelry offerings where they shop, with 37 percent expecting salespeople to include lab-grown diamonds in their diamond presentation.

Lab-grown diamond attributes that resonate most for nearly a third of jewelry consumers is that lab-grown diamond jewelry can cost 30 percent less than jewelry set with mined diamonds, and also that they can get a 30 percent larger sized lab-grown diamond for the same price as a smaller mined diamond.

While size and quality may be a motive to some shoppers, ethics also plays a large role, says Monica McDaniels, communications manager for the San Marcos, California lab-grown gem brand, Chatham. “Conversations with consumers have revolved around making ethical buying decisions. After being educated on the difference between lab and mined, they felt this was a more appropriate choice.”

Most surveyed retailers who sell lab-grown diamonds feature them in finished engagement rings and loose for semi-mounts. In fact, more than half cited engagement and wedding rings to be bestselling products in the category.

But Cora-Lee Colaizzi, director of marketing and catalogs and senior merchandiser for Quality Gold in Fairfield, also sees several categories beyond bridal that are showing demand and growth. “The basics are growing, like stud earrings, solitaire necklaces, and tennis bracelets set with lab-grown diamonds. Men’s jewelry, both fashion and wedding bands, also has great potential.”

The study found that the retail sweet spot for lab-grown diamond bridal is $2,000-$4,000; for lab-grown diamond fashion jewelry it is $800-$1,000.

Let Them Coexist
When it comes to earth-mined and lab-grown diamonds, David Arnold, general manager of Daniel’s Jewelers in Kileen, Texas is bullish on the customer deciding. Displaying his loose diamonds, earth-mined and lab-grown, side-by-side, and well labeled, with trained staff, he wants his customers to choose what they want to and feel good about it.

“That’s the aha-moment,” Arnold says. “Letting your customers decide with their pocketbook, social awareness, or whatever inspires them to say yes to something.”

Arnold opted to have them coexist so his customers would get the full breadth of diamonds. He encourages jewelers to step around the counter and put themselves in the consumers’ spot, figure out what they want to know about, and say yes to what they want, not what’s comfortable for the jeweler.

Roopam Jain, president of the branded division for Jewelmark in New York City, thinks there is definitely a place for lab grown diamonds in both the bridal and fashion diamond categories, but emphasizes that it very much depends on how jewelers present the products. “Do you prefer diamonds from underground or above ground? A gift from the earth or from science?”

As the emphasis on responsible and ethical production grows, and with diversity and inclusion high on the agenda of Millennial and Gen-Z consumers, brands/jewelers are well advised to incorporate transparency, authenticity and purpose as a key part of their strategy for all their diamond products.

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