Maximizing the Bridal Market

The strength of the jewelry business is in the bridal market. Despite ebbs and flows in the economy, one thing rings true, people are still getting married. And, couples consider jewelry an iconic symbol to celebrate their union. From the engagement and wedding rings to the jewelry the couple wears and gives to loved ones, there is plenty of opportunity for jewelers to maximize this life event.

According to The Knot 2016 Real Weddings Study that was just released, couples are splurging on personalization and creating the ultimate experience for themselves and their guests. The study, in its 10th year, revealed the national average cost of the wedding is $32,641, up $2,688 over the previous year. In fact, the engagement ring spend is up from $5,871 in 2015 to $6,163 last year.

Moreover, the average spend on jewelry above the cost of wedding rings is about $500, reports The Knot, with the potential for more. Six in 10 brides give gifts to their bridesmaids with the most popular gifts including birthstone jewelry like studs or solitaires or gems that match the color of the bridesmaid dress. Eight out of 10 brides buy jewelry to wear on their wedding day, 60% of which is fine jewelry. One in three grooms wear jewelry, notably cufflinks.

The Engagement Rings
When it comes to the rings, trends continue for big diamond looks. “As long as the engagement or wedding ring or bridal set is showing diamonds, that’s what customers want,” says Renato Cruz, VP of Product Development, Laxmi Diamond/Sumit Diamond, New York, who cites halo and composite styles very important.

Halos remain one of the most popular styles, translated in many ways from a simple row of round diamonds around a round diamond center to a double halo and alternative halos mixing different shapes like a round center with cushion frame, says Rebecca Foerster, executive vice president, strategic planning and marketing for Leo Schachter Diamonds, LLC, New York.

The other big story is in two-stone diamond rings, says Jeffrey Cohen, vice-president of sales, KGS Jewels, New York. “It’s an iconic concept in design and story. The majors came out with it in a big way and it has had an umbrella effect.”

With the push for personalization, designer Phyllis Bergman with Mercury Rings, division of Interjewel Group, New York, sees enormous opportunities for consumers to customize a look with fancy shaped diamonds, with ovals, pears, and baguettes trending.

Color continues to intrigue in accent, side and center stones, even use of different metal colors, notably rose gold. Millennials are looking to gems to personalize a piece, because they are unique and different, as well as have emotional value and symbolism. Sapphires and birthstones like aquamarine, garnet and topaz are popular.

Interest continues to rise for lab grown diamonds, albeit 1% of the market. Chatham,Inc., a pioneer in lab created gemstones, has never witnessed in its 75-year-history a more rapidly growing introduction of a new gem than lab-grown diamonds, reports Monica McDaniels, communications manager for the San Marcos, California-based brand, who notes consumers like that they’re conflict free, eco-friendly, and can get a bigger stone for less. “The buzz has created higher demand from consumers and retailers. Jewelers who embrace lab-grown diamonds are doing well. They understand it’s essential to keep up with what consumers want rather than try to dictate to them what they should want.”

Angelique Crown, director of sales west region for A. Jaffe, says the New York based brand’s four core collections capture the designs resonating with brides today—reflecting classic, vintage, floral, and architectural styles.

The Wedding Bands
When it comes to the wedding rings, the band business is booming. Inspiring greater sales are a number of factors from the stacking trend, to same sex couples choosing bands for both engagement and wedding rings, and a shift in attitude that the bands also serve as fashion statements.

“We’re seeing single bands as a trend, wider bands worn separately on the right hand,” says Foerster, who notes that consumers are exploring new ways of styling their wedding rings. Bergman cites a trend for slender platinum and diamond bands, and more mixing of diamond shapes in the setting.

Both full and half eternity style bands are popular, says Crown. For men, the brand introduced five new men’s bands that are doing well with small diamonds in Morse Code spelling out: “I Love You”, “Beloved”, and “Forever”.

Diamonds and gold are resonating with men, says Jonathan Goodman Cohen, for IBGoodman Company, Newport, Kentucky. “We’re doing a robust business in men’s gold and diamond rings, usually five stones in .50 carat total weight and larger. Mixed gold colors are especially popular like yellow and white or rose and white.”

Many jewelers miss the opportunity to make the wedding bands sale with the engagement ring because they treat them as an afterthought, says Foerster. “The staff must be trained to link sales beyond the engagement ring.”

The Jewelry
Jewelers need to identify products they can sell for this occasion, advocates Wendy Fox, senior director of sales independent division for Honora, a Richline pearl brand in New York. She touts pearl’s variety of types, colors and price points ($35 retail on up) as offering many choices for affordable bridal party gifts and wedding day accessories, particularly earrings (stud and drop), strand bracelets, and necklaces including choker and Y-styles.

Crown says A.Jaffe’s Maps line of pendants, charms and cufflinks has been very popular as gifts between the couple and with their wedding party attendants in round, rectangular and heart shapes, silver and 14K gold, starting at $125 retail.

For the groomsmen, Goodman Cohen says jewelry accessories including cufflinks, money clips, ties bars, and pins, even rings, pendants, and bracelets make great gifts in prices from $35 to $300 retail. He says items that can be engraved are particularly popular.

There are many ways that manufacturers and retailers can personalize jewelry to appeal to their customers’ desires, including inscriptions, monograms, material selections, and even custom design work, says Goodman Cohen, who encourages jewelers to provide that level of service.Crown says working with brands can help deliver those services. A.Jaffe, for example offers free engraving and free overnight shipping. It also assists jewelers in messaging with online promotions, social media posts, digital newsletters, and other advertising and marketing collateral.

Ecommerce and social media are critical components that must be in place for jewelers to succeed, says Cohen, who is a big proponent of visual tools including quality photography, videos, and use of platforms like Pinterest, Instagram and YouTube. “Retailers need to put all of their focus in creating an online experience that carries through.”