Tying the Knot

Today’s bridal couples are anything but typical. From where and how they wed to what they wear, couples tying the knot are creating their own rules of engagement that reflect their unique personalities. Straight or gay, the territory is open to interpretation. And, the category extends far beyond the wedding rings to include wedding day jewels and jewelry gifts for the bridal party.

“There are no rules when it comes to weddings these days,” tells Carley Roney, co-founder of The Knot, leading online wedding planner. “The ideal wedding looks however the couple envisions it. The perfect wedding is when you can see the couple’s personalities infused in all the elements.”

Ring Trends
Never before has there been such diversity in the bridal category. Brides and grooms are embracing key trends in their rings like classic design styles with a twist; color in metal and gem use; texture and contrasting finishes; and customization and meaningful connections.

There’s a minimalist, back-to-basics aesthetic that connects with the current mood—simple, clean ring styles with a twist. Recent celebrity engagements were celebrated with solitaires and plain or diamond pave bands, notes Amanda Tropila of the Platinum Guild International. She acknowledges halos are no longer “trendy,” but rather “classic.” Single halos, double and even triple halos and halos with a twist continue to attract consumers. The concept is even evolving with less stone and more metal in etched, beaded or twisted settings.

What’s trending on the bridal beat: fancy shapes like oval, marquise and pear. “In fashion there are lots of embellishments and details in fancy shapes that naturally translate in fine jewelry,” tells Phyllis Bergman, CEO of Mercury Rings, a division of Interjewel Group, New York. Fancy shapes are personal and create a more custom look, inspiring fresh settings. Amanda Gizzi of Jewelers of America is especially bullish on baguettes, citing Angelina Jolie’s engagement ring with baguettes tapering down the sides of her emerald-cut diamond ring.

White gold and platinum remain strong in the bridal category. But experts see a return to color in metals, not only rose gold but yellow gold and two-tone styles. Allison Goodman, director of merchandising, Frederick Goldman, New York cites a major resurgence in yellow gold largely because brides are looking to complement the popular yellow gold trend in the fashion jewelry world.

Demand also is strong for yellow diamonds and stones. “It was big news when George Clooney proposed to Alamuddin with a 7-carat canary yellow diamond and odds are the yellow hue will remain popular for a while,” says Gizzi, who also cites blue and fancy sapphires as well as ruby and emerald becoming poplar. Moreover, cognac diamonds set in rose gold are popular for grooms, as well as black and white combinations.

Same Sex Savvy
While the rings they choose may be the same as their heterosexual counterparts, same sex couples need jewelers to court them in a different way. Language and imagery are critical in letting same sex couples know they’re welcome.

“If everything in your store and online is positioned as ‘bridecentric’ (no mention of a groom, let alone two grooms or two brides) then you need to update your presentation,” says Kathryn Hamm, president of gayweddings.com, partner in the WeddingWire Network, and co-author of The New Art of Capturing Love: The Essential Guide to Lesbian & Gay Wedding Photography.

Consider inclusive language like: brides and grooms, couples, partners, and sweethearts. Hamm also suggests displaying images of same-sex couples and references to same-sex couples in examples of products and services you offer. Keep books on your bookshelf, links on your website, and social media connections to same-sex wedding experts and resources. Develop packages that support the needs of same-sex couples. Bernadette Smith, founder and president of the Gay Wedding Institute and 14 Stories in New York, suggests jewelers display a rainbow flag, WedWeCan or Human Rights Campaign icons.

Smith notes same-sex couples are freer to invent, design and re-purpose wedding rituals. Traditional rules of engagement and ring shopping don’t always apply. “Same-sex couples generally both buy rings and may or may not buy a matching set, and may or may not purchase engagement rings,” says Hamm. “In a survey with WeddingWire of couples married in 2012, we found that more than two-thirds of same-sex couples signified their engagement with two rings. For jewelers this presents an opportunity not generally presented by opposite-sex couples.” She believes engagement rings are not as big a trend among gay men.

“I’m not sure how much gay marriage changes what products are trending, except that we’re selling more diamonds,” tells Grant Mobley, vice president of sales, Simply Diamonds/Jewelmark, New York. “We’re seeing an uptick in band sales, big expensive pieces with diamonds, perhaps in lieu of an engagement ring. But also we’re seeing more engagement rings without bands, where the ring is substantial, wider, and with more diamonds.”

Beyond Bands
Although the wedding rings are paramount to the occasion, jewelry is an important part of the nuptials. The average spend on jewelry, above the cost of wedding rings, is about $500 says The Knot, with the potential for more in special gifts for the bridal party. Eight out of 10 brides buy jewelry to wear on the wedding day with earrings, necklaces, and bracelets tops; one out of three buy hair jewelry and one in 10 a tiara. Nearly 60% wear fine jewelry. One out of three grooms wear jewelry, with cufflinks No. 1. It also cites six in 10 brides giving jewelry to bridesmaids with birthstones or gems that match the dress top choices.

Diamond remains a hero for its ability to complement everything and never go out of style. Top choices for brides include classic diamond jewelry with a twist, like solitaires and studs with halos or dancing diamond styles. Brides are also showing off their personality with a bold splash of color in gemmy solitaire, drop or chandelier style jewels.

Pearls remain the quintessential wedding accessory. “Rich with symbolism and tradition, they embody all that weddings represent and enhances a bride’s radiance,” hails Kathy Grenier, marketing director Imperial Pearl, Providence, Rhode Island. Everything from classic studs with diamond halos and draping chandelier earrings to multi-row pearl bracelets and traditional strands as well as pearls on chain are in vogue in Chinese freshwater, Akoya and South Sea varieties. Jewelers should position their pearls close to their diamond bridal department.

Jewelry and accessories for men are more exciting than ever in product categories, materials and price points, touts Jonathan Goodman Cohen, president of I.B. Goodman Co., Newport, Kentucky. “Men highly value keepsakes as reminders of these notable life events especially when they’re gifts from family and good friends,” says Cohen. On trend products to offer include stainless steel and silver cufflinks, money clips, fine cigar cutters, and lapel pins.

Success today is about having compelling stories relevant to Millennials, says Rebecca Foerster, executive vice president, strategic planning and marketing for Schachter and Co., New York, citing its latest collection LVE for Forevermark. “Many couples are worried about the future. They’re the first generation not expected to do better than their parents. They need compelling stories that translate the intrinsic value of the diamond—responsible sourcing, transparency, innovation, uniqueness, and to be a part of the process.”

Online tools also help retailers close sales, says Taylor Burgess, director of bridal for Stuller, Lafayette, Louisiana. “Our Quick Shops are a fast and easy online tool to help customers quickly find exactly what they’re looking for. We feature a variety of best selling styles. I’m excited about our new bestsellers grid, too, as it offers a unique shopping experience.”

The No. 1 thing to keep in mind is mobile first, believes Laura Gladfelter, brand manager, Alison and Ivy, division of Fantasy Diamond. “Almost 26% of our customers browse our website from their phone, so it’s imperative it’s mobile friendly. These days everyone is on social media, you have to be. But you have to think out of the box with your promotions, update frequently, and post content your followers want to read about. There are no shortcuts; it takes time.”

Gladfelter says the brand has expanded its social network, and just added a snapchat account to connect with customers on a deeper level. “It’s been great to show everyone what goes on behind the scenes. We’ve also started a linkedin group with advice on how to dress professionally. We’re using typical social platforms in unconventional ways and posting interesting content to stand out.”