Why you should cater for same-sex couples
March 2nd, 2012
Civil partnerships exploded in 2006 when 16,000 gay and lesbian couples tied the knot. The figures have since dimmed but are steadily rising and with bigger budgets, and a leaning towards platinum and diamonds, same-sex unions have created a bull market, writes Rachael Taylor.
They're affluent, want platinum and with no kids on the horizon their budgets are bigger. This may be a stereotypical view of gay couples shopping for civil partnerships but it’s one jewellers are happy to play up to when chasing the pink pound.
Unlike traditional marriages, civil partnerships are on the rise. When unions between same sex couples were first recognised by the law in December 2005 it led to a huge spike the next year when more than 16,000 couples tied the knot.
The figures for civil partnerships have become more modest in the aftermath of the initial rush, but the latest figures from the Office of National Statistics have shown that there has been an upward trajectory since 2009. In 2010, 6,385 couples entered into civil partnerships with an near-even split between male and female ceremonies.
While the number of civil partnerships per annum pales into insignificance when placed side by side with traditional marriage statistics, the quality of the market for jewellers is significantly higher.
Nicholas Wylde jewellers in Bath actively chases after the same-sex civil partnership market, because, as its eponymous founder says, “they are the big spenders”. “We advertise that we make rings for civil partnerships because for us, they are big spenders and they always want something made bespoke, often matching,” says Wylde.
He adds that the majority of gay and lesbian shoppers buy diamond-set platinum bands – although he does note that the number of same-sex couples buying palladium bands has risen in the past three years – and they often commission heavier, bigger rings, which again pushed up the total price of the purchase.
Sue Hurst of jeweller Prestons of Bolton echoes Wylde, confirming that the demand in the north of England for civil partnerships is resolutely for platinum bands set with diamonds. “We do get a lot of civil partnership sales, always for matching rings,” she says. “Recently we sold a pair of flat bands with princess-cut diamonds on top. Same sex couples always want diamond-set platinum bands.”
As well as the higher-value sale, Wylde says that part of the fun of working with same-sex couples is that the commissions often tend to be more creative. This sentiment is echoed by Sarah Raffel at Glasgow jeweller Brazen who has noted a rise in gay couples asking for bands for civil partnerships.
While individual design briefs might be more creative, the brief is often carried across the two rings with the majority of same sex partners asking for matching rings for civil ceremonies.
Dennis & Lavery is a platinum jewellery brand based in Brighton, which has the highest gay population in the UK, and owner Cindy Dennis Mangan receives a steady flow of commissions for rings for civil partnerships. She says that the design brief is almost always matching for the two rings, with the exception of size. “Occasionally they will ask for a different finish on the rings, one shiny, one matt,” she adds.
The brand’s Milano collection, which can be set with black diamonds to offer a point of difference, is popular with the gay community due to its androgynous appeal, says Dennis Mangan.
The civil partnership market might be smaller than the traditional bridal market, but with a demographic that appreciates luxury and design and has more disposable income than couples saving for the expense of having children, it is a key market to cater for.
This article was taken from the January issue of Professional Jeweller magazine. To read a digital version of this issue click here.