10 things the jewellery industry learned in 2015

Runners take a selfie during the Color Run, in Caracas, on November 22, 2015.  AFP PHOTO/FEDERICO PARRA        (Photo credit should read FEDERICO PARRA/AFP/Getty Images)

With the year officially done and dusted, Professional Jeweller looks back on the most important trends and stories of 2015 and the lessons that can be taken from them.

  1. Coloured gemstones are still hot property

On one day in early December, Bonhams set not one but two world records for coloured gemstone sales. A ring by Andrew Grima set a new price per carat record for a fancy greyish-blue diamond when it sold for nearly £1.5 million, and a 10.28ct Madagascan ruby ring also achieved a price-per-carat record when it sold for £236,500. This followed the September sale of the 50ct Hope Spinel brooch, which achieved a record near £20,000 per carat when it sold for more than £962,000.

  1. The debate on ethical jewellery is getting louder

This year marked a real turning point for the ethical jewellery community with the launch of Fairtrade gold from Africa increasing the availability of the precious metal. Plus major manufacturers and brands, including Hockley Mint and Chopard, pledged to increase their use of ethically sourced gold. Successful ethical jewellery brand launches throughout the year from Liz Earle and Arctic Circle have added further positive commercial momentum to the growing movement.

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  1. The Millennials are coming

If there has been a consumer buzzword of the year, it has been Millennials; the term used to group shoppers under the age of 35. There has been much discussion as to how best attract these ethically minded, socially engaged, tech savvy shoppers who will make up 75% of the global workforce within the next decade. It has been a particular focus for the diamond industry, with the world’s major miners clubbing together to create a marketing body called the Diamond Producers Association designed to tackle this exact conundrum.

  1. Diamond heists don’t just exist in films

The Hatton Garden heist was not just the biggest jewellery story of the year, it was one of the biggest news stories in 2015. While the industry is used to a steady stream of smash and grabs, there was something more Hollywood blockbuster about tunnelling through a wall to steal £14 million-worth of jewels, even if the culprits didn’t exactly turn out to be the sort of masterminds seen in the movies. The story was so big, in fact, that the building’s new owner, Tottenham Hotspur vice president David Pearl, is considering turning it into a museum in memory the crime of the year.

  1. Department stores are taking it up a notch

With Harrods, Harvey Nichols, Fenwicks, John Lewis, Debenhams, House of Fraser and Selfridges all making moves to improve their jewellery departments in the past year, it is clear to see that the department stores are starting to take jewellery a lot more seriously. Trendy department store Dover Street Market also got in on the action when it teamed up with Tiffany & Co in November – the jewellery brand’s first retail partnership with another business. It host a pop-up exhibition-style sale of a specially created Out of Retirement collection of heritage designs, such as this cuff.

  1. The big rocks just keep on coming

This has been the year of major diamond finds, with the spectacularly sized 1,111ct rough diamond uncovered at Lucara Diamond’s mine in Botswana, a 187.7ct rough diamond found at Rio Tinto’s Diavik mine in the northwest territories of Canada and a 23.16ct rough pink diamond unearthed by Petra Diamonds at its Williamson mine in Tanzania. And at auction, the 12.03ct cushion-cut Blue Moon fancy vivid blue diamond fetched a record-breaking £32 million at Sotheby’s, while Christies hosted the sale of the largest pink diamond ever to be auctioned, a 16.08ct rock that sold for £19 million. Both of these record gems were bought by Hong Kong businessman Joseph Lau for his seven-year-old daughter Josephine.

  1. Self-purchasing women drive sales

A report from retail analyst Mintel that pegged the UK jewellery industry as up 1.2% year on year, with estimated annual sales of £4.15 billion in 2015, pointed to self-purchasing, young women as the main drivers of the growth. Its research suggests that 55% of women aged 16 to 24 bought precious jewellery for themselves, while 45% bought costume jewellery for themselves. The report added that the self-purchasing was being driven by trends for stacking and layering, charms and personalised jewellery, such as this hematite ring by Christina Debs that is decorated with an initial of your choosing.

  1. Ears can be interesting too

While retailers up and down the country have been selling endless numbers of charm bracelets, stacking rings and even collectible coin necklaces, earrings have been somewhat sidelined. This all changed in 2015, however, with the arrival of fashion-forward ear jackets, climbers and cuffs. They may not have the collectability factor of other jewellery pieces, but they’ve certainly had shoppers spending on jewellery.

  1. Mediation beats a media blow out

Gem-A was engulfed in controversy this year with the charity’s trustees at war with each other and its chief executive, who was suspended pending an investigation into a questionable expenses claim. It later came to light he had used the Gem-A credit card to pay for services in a Melbourne massage parlour. What might have been dealt with privately behind closed doors burst into the open as Gem-A’s senior executives and its trustees took sides. Massive bills for lawyers and private investigators were racked up as people amassed ammunition that could be fired at the opposing camp. The charity even tried to gag the media and its members from reporting what was going on. By the autumn of 2015, a new board of trustees had been voted in, although several of its former members did not have to stand for re-election. The damage this fiasco has done to Gem-A’s reputation may only reveal itself in the coming months and years, but we sincerely hope that the organisation can get back to its core job of educating and informing its members on all things gemmological.

  1. Pearls are getting pricier

According to a report from the Knight Frank Luxury Investment Index, the value of pearls has risen 369% in the past decade, driven by strong demand; a trend the sale of a four-strand necklace of natural pearls at Christies in April confirmed when it sold for a record £3.35 million. As natural pearls continue to become scarcer on the market and the price of cultured pearls continues to rise globally, we don’t see this trend doing anything but continuing its trajectory.

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