While romantic love remains the key driver for diamond jewelry sales among Millennials, according to De Beers, their attitudes toward how they express and symbolize their love are evolving. Although many still want to follow tradition, Millennials want personalized products and relaxed experiences that reflect their values and preferences.
Couples are expressing their personalities in the details of every aspect of the celebration, says The Knot, online wedding hub. Instead of starting with colors, they’re coining words that express the party they’re throwing—like “rustic with a bit of romance and touch of retro”—to communicate their vision to the professionals pulling off their day. Instead of hiring one form of entertainment like a band or DJ, they’re booking multiple performers. They’re getting food trucks over a caterer; mixing their wedding party with both genders on either side of the couple; and honoring relatives in special ways (like flower grandmas).
Millennials, consumers aged 21 to 39, represent 29% of the world’s population and are the largest group of diamond consumers today. They accounted for nearly 60% of diamond jewelry demand in the U.S. in 2017, finds data published by the De Beers Group. The bridal market continues to be of central importance, representing about 27% of diamond jewelry demand.
The unconventional is conventional in the wedding ring category today. In recent seasons, brides are showing an affinity for the avant-garde, choosing rings that incorporate unusual gemstone shapes and colors, unique settings and detail accents, and mixed metals in design. The trend is for the unexpected, a shift towards uniqueness and craftsmanship.
The Knot cites top engagement ring trends in 2018, including the use of color stones like sapphire, morganite, and gray diamond; two- and three-stone style rings; east-west set stones; fancy shapes, especially pear, oval, marquise, and trillion; twisted and open double shank designs; nature and vintage inspired accents; and delicate settings. Stone cut, setting and quality rank as the top considerations when choosing the engagement ring.
Fancy shape heads continue to be interesting cites Rebecca Foerster, Executive Vice President of Strategic Planning and Marketing, Leo Schachter Diamonds, New York. This includes not only fancy shape stones, but also fancy-shape halos. “The center stone could be round, but the overall look is a pear. The halo has morphed into something new. It is not just surrounding the diamond to amplify the diamond look; it is also transforming the look of the center stone.”
The use of fancy shapes is popular in bands, too, with stacking a lasting trend. Baguettes are favorites with the younger generation, reports Cora-Lee Colaizzi, Director of Marketing and Senior Merchandiser for the Fairfield, Ohio manufacturer, Quality Gold. She sees consumers, particularly Millennials, open to options, including lab-grown diamonds, moissanite, and color stones in their rings. She notes that bridal priced under $3,000 is the sweet spot.
A big part of the wedding ring business is in custom work, says Neil Shah of Shah Luxury, New York. “A high percentage of customers choose to modify their design in someway, including different metal color/combination, stone size and shape, color instead of diamond, different setting style (east-west), and distinctive details like miligrain.”
The Knot finds couples are spending more time researching online, and looking at fewer engagement rings in store. The average time spent ring shopping is 3.5 months, up from 3.3 months in 2011. During their search, couples looked at an average 26 rings, down from 28 in 2011. Research suggests it may have to do with the changing technical landscape. Couples are used to a fast, seamless purchasing process. Their appetite for browsing dozens of options has fallen.
Most ring customers want a non-intimidating online experience first to do their research and customize,” says Jay Gerber for the diamond jewelry manufacturer, W.R. Cobb, based in East Providence, Rhode Island. As digital communication natives, Millennials appreciate online features like a Design Your Own platform, 3D images, and diamond magnification.
“The challenge is generating traffic and offering options important to Millennials,” says Gerber. “You have to give reasons to consumers as to why they should buy from you. Consumers want ease of purchase, service and education. The kind of experience retailers offer is critical.”
He advocates incorporating more technology in store—including interactive TVs and iPads for inspiration, information and customization. Why not have a wedding selfie wall or wedding cam that captures behind-the-scenes moments of couples shopping for rings. Host meaningful in store events. Invite specialists like stylists and wedding planners to meet with couples. Cross-promote with non-competing businesses your clients use and put on a bridal show. Get creative!
With digital analytics tools, jewelers can learn a lot about their customers, from how they browse their website and interact with the brand on social media to what influencers they follow and products they buy. If you realize your best customers take a certain path to doing business with you then your marketing becomes geared to getting others to do the same.
The Knot advocates jewelers optimize their website and social media posts with descriptive ring terms that have more to do with the setting, shape and stone cut than designer/brand names or gemological specifications. “Custom” and “unique”, “quality” and “craftsmanship” are words that resonate with Millennials searching for rings, reports Gerber. “Couples are more concerned about the product, process and getting what they want than a deal.”
Millennials also display strong concern for social causes and responsibly sourced products, De Beers finds. This highlights the opportunity for diamond brands and retailers to be proactive in communicating the good that diamonds do throughout the supply chain, and the contributions their individual brands make to important social causes. Foerster recommends jewelers visit the Diamonds Do Good website for more information.
Love Millennial Style
All posts in series “Forever & Always: What’s New in Bridal?”:
 Bridal Trends Embrace the Unexpected
 Diamonds & The Zeitgeist
 Speak Their Language
 Love Millennial Style