It was De Beers’ compelling slogan, “A diamond is forever,” that effectively marketed diamond jewellery as the ultimate symbol of love. In a world that is constantly changing, do diamonds still hold the same relevance for couples to celebrate their commitment?
Mita Vohra of fine jewellery brand Ortaea
Ring by Ortaea
Diamond ring by Picchiotti
Emerald ring by Picchiotti
Yellow diamond ring by Picchiotti
Ruby ring by Picchiotti
In its Diamond Insight Report 2019, the De Beers Group revealed that love continues to be the driving force behind diamond jewellery purchases all over the world, but with changing times, relationship dynamics and expressions of love have also evolved.
For instance, the report said diamond jewellery is seen as a universal symbol of love, not only among married men and women, but also among cohabiting and same-sex couples who want to commemorate important moments in their relationships.
Commitment diamond jewellery, which are meant to celebrate an engagement or wedding, is also helping shape today's diamond sector.
The report also found that same-sex couples see diamonds as centrally important to honour their relationships. They also look for a more personalised approach to diamond purchases and favour modern, customised designs that are less gender-specific.
Interestingly, De Beers likewise revealed that the number of US women who buy their own engagement ring has doubled from 7 percent to 14 percent within a five-year period. They also spend more on rings – on average 33 percent more than men or US$4,400 compared with US$3,300 – reflecting an ever-stronger female purchasing power.
Are diamonds still cool?
Jannie Iwema, owner of Netherlands-based Bonebakker, said diamonds still have a following among her clients. "We still sell a great deal of diamonds but we are focusing more on coloured gemstones since most of these stones are rarer and more unique than diamonds," she noted.
Alon Ben Josef of Ace Jewelers, based in Amsterdam, said despite many changes in society, diamond jewellery is still a strong symbol of love. Some diamond businesses such as Royal Asscher may have invested in lab-grown diamonds but this doesn't mean that people's desire for natural diamonds have waned, noted Mike Asscher in a separate interview.
Diamonds carry a unique authenticity that resonates with humans, noted Lisa Bridge, CEO of US-based Ben Bridge Jeweler but for Lee Senderov of online custom jewellery company Gemvara, to say that diamonds are still trendy is an overstatement. Diamonds however will always have a standard appeal. More than 25 percent of Gemvara's sales come from diamond jewellery, even though the company also focuses on alternative stones and lab-grown diamonds.
Millennials and Gen Z are influencing how consumers buy jewellery today, but how? Frank La Roux, senior vice president for sales and marketing at Cirari, said younger buyers are breaking with tradition more than ever and are purchasing what they feel best suits their individuality and lifestyle. Jewellery, as a reflection of one's love, is still very much in vogue, he added.
There is also rising excitement about and interest in coloured gemstone bridal jewellery, which appeals more to a younger generation of buyers, according to Eddie LeVian, CEO of bridal jewellery brand Le Vian.
Maria Carola Picchiotti of Italian jeweller Picchiotti, agreed, noting that bridal jewellery has become even more significant for her company, along with the rise of coloured gemstones as "love jewellery."
"Traditionally, young people never could afford fine jewellery in the past," disclosed Le Vian. Today's female consumers however are so-called "self-purchasers" who see themselves as unique individuals trapped in a world of mass production and sameness, he remarked, adding that "jewellery is the most personal symbol of individuality."
Mita Vohra, CEO and creative director of London-based fine jewellery brand Ortaea, has a similar observation, noting that 75 percent to 80 percent of her customers are self-purchasing women. Millennials meanwhile continue to drive the market's appetite for stories behind jewellery pieces.
"Conscious luxury is a subject close to the hearts of millennial buyers. For ‘love buys,’ it's all about the mutual story, intertwining with the pieces that are chosen, and how gems are filled with the meaning of love and uniqueness," stated Vohra. "I mostly find that younger generations still embrace diamonds, but they are very open to alternatives. Sustainability, unique gems and bespoke pieces are the trends."
Hina Israr, co-founder of American fine jeweller Zaabel, agrees that the mine-to-market journey and fair trade are becoming evermore critical to the younger consumer, but this does not diminish the universal appeal of diamonds. Younger buyers look for the story behind the design and the gemstone, she continued.
Gemvara's Senderov pointed out that the most significant trend when buying jewellery to celebrate love is personalisation. The high price of engagement jewellery is also a factor. Citing a study by independent investment research firm Ameritrade, she said two-thirds of young Americans believe that an engagement ring should cost less than US$2,500.