The wedding category is expected to receive a major shot post COVID, as a record number of couples are looking to tie the knot in 2022.
Hailed the year of the wedding, 2.5 million couples are expected to tie the knot in 2022, following a two-year lull when 1.3 married in 2020 and 1.9 million in 2021, finds The Wedding Report. This number surpasses the previous record set in 1984 of 2.49 million marriages in the USA.
When it comes to the rings, couples spend more on their engagement rings and bands — $5,500 for an engagement ring plus $900 for the bride’s band and $500 for the groom’s ring in 2020 according to The Knot — than on any other category after direct costs related to the reception.
“Couples are spending over 20% of their wedding budget on the engagement ring,” underscores Sagar Manilal, who manages sales for Indigo Jewelry, and recently shared diamond trends in a podcast for The Plumb Club. What they are looking for is not only a quality diamond, but also a ring design that reflects fine craftsmanship. “The importance of finer, more delicate work on the jewelry has been a key factor for consumers.”
Etsy’s Marketplace Insights 2021 expects the holidays will be prime time for proposals, with top ring style searches including re-envisioned classics, horizontal stones, fancy bands, vintage gems, and affordable diamond alternatives.
“In engagement rings, I’m seeing a return to traditional styling, with vintage details like filigree, milgrain and sapphire accents,” shares Valerie Fletcher, vice president of design and product development for Original Design Inc. (ODI).
Theresa Namie, merchandise manager for Ostbye, expects classic bridal designs to continue to be important through 2022. “There’s comfort in the familiar things, a sense of belonging and the security of knowing it will last forever,” she explains. “It’s what many are looking for after such a long time of isolation.” But she also expects to see more creativity in designs emerge in 2022, as we feel freer to explore than we have the past two years.
Ostbye has added more classic designs that can accommodate larger center stones. Inserts and wraps for engagement rings will continue to be popular, Namie says as they give the individual an easy way to create their own custom design. In fact, she cites the manufacturer’s latest chevron-style birthstone bands popular stacked as a wedding band.
Traditionally, engagement ring centers have been composed of round diamonds, but Manilal of Indigo Jewelry has seen lately the fancy shape diamond steadily capture a bigger piece of the diamond pie. “Retailers have found a more affordable alternative to round brilliant diamonds in fancy shape diamonds.” A great way to re-imagine a classic style, he cites oval, pear and marquise the most sought-after shapes today. The use of fancy-shaped diamonds is popular in trending two-stone diamond engagement rings.
Alternative Stones & Metals in 2022
While about 83% of brides prefer a natural diamond center engagement ring (a number that continues to decline), finds The Knot, lab-grown diamonds are attracting more couples with bigger sizes, better quality, lower prices, and sustainable message.
Luxury market analyst and author Pam Danziger recently writes in Forbes that she expects a bump in lab-grown diamond engagement ring sales as more jewelers are now carrying the category — from independents and regional chains to Signet stores and digital-first brands moving to brick-and-mortar, like Brilliant Earth and Diamond Foundry’s jewelry brand VRAI.
Women’s Wear Daily (WWD) recently reported that popular bridal wear designer Badgley Mischka teamed up with diamond jewelry manufacturer Unique Designs to create a finished lab-grown diamond wedding jewelry collection. Debuting now at Macy’s for the first season, with further distribution with other retailers planned, the line includes engagement rings and classic stud earrings and pendants, with plans to add wedding bands, body jewelry, necklaces, and bracelets in the future.
The styles are classic, but each setting has a twist, be it the surrounding stones or the way the prongs are set, James Mischka told WWD. A vintage feel can be seen in the pavé work to enhance the large stones.
Mark Badgley told WWD that he believes lab-grown diamonds have a huge future. “The fact you can work with perfect stones at a fraction of the price of a mine diamond is amazing.” Adds Mischka: “When we were talking to people about diamonds, it was always going to be one to 1 carat to 2-carat stones. Now we’re working with stones as big as 5 carats, which is really fun for us to do.”
Vendors selling lab-grown diamonds say the conversation is no longer what are lab-grown diamonds, but how to buy the best one. Lab-grown diamond engagement rings and bands are rising as an important product category, second to loose lab-grown diamond sales.
“In the last three years, lab-grown diamonds have been a game changer, especially since the FTC said in 2018 a diamond is a diamond,” says Cora Lee Colaizzi, director of marketing and catalogs and senior merchandiser for Quality Gold. ” That’s when the big companies jumped in the market, from De Beers to Signet and Helzberg.”
Colaizzi notes that the industry has had other categories co-exist like natural and cultured pearls, natural color stones and lab-grown gems, and now there are lab-grown diamonds. “That’s what it comes down to, choice and access to a variety of materials to best satisfy your customers.”
Other alternatives to diamonds in engagement and wedding rings that continue to grow sales have been color stones. A study conducted last fall by MVI Marketing finds precious stones capturing more attention with younger consumers for engagement and wedding rings. Over 93% of the more than 1,100 U.S. jewelry consumers surveyed love sapphire, ruby and emerald, and bridal jewelry saw the biggest increase.
Consumer interest in and demand for gem engagement and wedding rings have risen from single digits a decade ago to over 30 percent. Jewelers have responded by boosting their offerings, especially online. Millennial consumers don’t feel the pressure of the diamond-buying tradition for their wedding rings.
Among the favorite gems wedding planning media like Brides and The Knot cite are blue and fancy color sapphire, ruby, emerald, alexandrite, morganite, tanzanite, Paraiba tourmaline, opal, and other birthstones, even pearl.
Wedding band sales will exceed expectations, as many 2020 and 2021 postponed weddings will finally be fulfilled, cheers Sean McCormick, sales and marketing for Novell Global.
Men’s jewelry has become an increasingly important category. Men are looking for more unique and diverse options in wedding and engagement rings, says Fletcher. In fact, she says men’s jewelry in general has become an increasingly important category. “Men are looking for more unique and diverse options in wedding, engagement and fashion jewelry.”
Men’s diamond solitaire rings have enormous potential to grow. Tiffany debuted this June its first men’s engagement ring ad. Men’s ring manufacturers like IBGoodman report that larger total carat weight diamond rings up to 3 carats are selling well to men. It launched a new trade campaign promoting men’s diamond solitaire rings.
John Skaret, vice president of sales independent division for Frederick Goldman, believes contemporary metal bands to be a significant growth opportunity for jewelers in 2022. “Considering the incredible amount of innovation in metals and materials over the years, consumers have grown an appreciation and desire for something different.” Frederick Goldman is a pioneer in promoting contemporary metal bands with the launch of its tungsten carbide brand Triton in 1989.
More than 50% of grooms today, says The Knot, are choosing contemporary metal wedding bands. Grooms want new, cool and unique wedding band design styles and many are opting for something other than precious metals. “With a surge of new materials being introduced to the market, and more designers comfortable working in these materials, Skaret expects the contemporary metal portion of the wedding band business to continue to grow.