Gem Connections

Many of this season’s popular hues happen to align with gemstones traditionally used as birthstones.

Jewelry’s role to express love and connection has become even more important during these COVID-19 times. Color gemstones in particular, are trending as favorite design elements, not only for the fashion statements they make, but even more so for the stories they tell about the individual wearer.

Birthstones especially have become a huge part of the gemstone category and are a popular choice to customize any signature jewel, from monogram and signet styles to symbolic charms and bridal rings. They provide the most compelling ways for people to personalize their jewelry and still be on trend. Conveniently for jewelers, many of this season’s popular hues happen to align with gemstones traditionally used as birthstones.

In fact, Etsy trends expert Dayna Isom Johnson reported in April that birthstones have become the “go-to design element” to personalize any piece of jewelry. “The color versatility of the stones, as well as their meanings and timeless appeal, makes birthstone jewelry the most personal keepsake.”

Birthstone jewelry continues to be a strong performer for many manufacturers. “In the fall of 2019, we added a significant number of options in 10K gold that have been well received,” shares Cora Lee Colaizzi, marketing director and senior merchandiser for Quality Gold, Fairfield, Ohio. “With higher gold prices, 10K-gold helps the price point while still providing durability. Birthstone product continues to be purchased for a youthful recipient, and 10K is a great metal for it.”

Modern Takes

Quality Gold has had success with two gemstone styles in particular that are more modern and showcase sapphire in a range of colors from light to dark. “These designs are not being bought necessarily as birthstone products,” says Colaizzi, “but represent the incorporation of color stones to meet the demand of Millennial consumers looking for variations to traditional gem-set jewelry styles.”

Allison Peck of Brevani concurs, noting that while rainbow-colored sapphire pieces are selling well, she does not believe it has anything to do with birthstones. In general, though, birthstone jewelry for the New York brand, a subsidiary of Color Merchant, is selling in styles across the board, especially earrings, pendants, and rings that can be stacked and layered. With Millennials specifically, she finds greater demand for earrings and necklaces. Shoulder up and Zoom ready!

Many Millennials have been transitioning to some of the “newer” or lesser-known birthstones, reports Malia Villanueva for Breuning Inc., in Lawrenceville, Georgia. “We’ll see a lot more requests for tanzanite and alexandrite because of this. People are embracing the more modern birthstones. But there is a lot of freedom choosing non-traditional colors in traditional birthstones happening.”

Most people tend to stay in the same color zones when it comes to their birthstones, sees Theresa Namie, merchandise manager for Ostbye in Minneapolis, Minnesota. People are more likely to venture out with the variety of colors that exist in a particular gem, like sapphire, for fashion’s sake.

Millennials, generally speaking, don’t want the traditional birthstone jewelry their parents had unless it was handed down to them as a gift. “We’re seeing Millennials creating their own designs using rings and charms that would fall into the fashion category,” says Namie.

Namie cites stacking rings and pendants that can be layered, even several bezel-set stud earrings climbing up the ear. “Some buy a new birthstone statement ring for each child, a keepsake that can be given to their child when they get older, as they value gifts from heritage. When we talk about birthstones, it’s important to Millennials. It has meaning and is something concrete about their life.”

Engaging in Color

Millennials have been especially open to color stones in engagement rings and wedding bands to signify the couple’s birthstones or the gemstone representing the month they met or got engaged, tells Namie. “Many couples are choosing to set a gemstone instead of a diamond in their engagement rings. It’s a great way to express their personalities and personal stories.”

Etsy’s Johnson concurs, citing back in April an uptick in searches on the retailer for non-diamond engagement rings.

The latest survey by The Knot finds that 70 percent of couples opt for white diamond rings, a number that was more like 90 percent only a decade ago. Undoubtedly, color stones have been increasing in popularity as a choice in this category for center and accent stones. The Knot cites blue gems like sapphire and aquamarine, as well as emeralds, among its top picks for brides in 2021.

Oftentimes, a person’s connection to a gemstone has nothing to do with fashion or folklore but everything to do with their favorite color, character, and sentiment conveyed by the product, as Jewelmark has found in many of its Disney-branded collections. The Enchanted Line is filled with rich female characters, princesses, and villains that have been extremely popular.

Roopam Jain, president of the branded division of Jewelmark, New York, reports bridal sales are doing very well. He cites morganite and tanzanite among the favorite bridal color stones, even black and chocolate diamonds. It’s through color and iconography from the brand that the designs particularly resonate with consumers who already have a relationship with Disney. The Enchanted Collection features diamonds, sapphire, Swiss Blue topaz, garnet, amethyst, and morganite in rings and other jewelry set in 10K and 14K gold and silver.