Bridal Q&A: John Ball, Brown & Newirth

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Director on rose gold, staying flexible and why bespoke is booming.

The February 2013 issue of Professional Jeweller is dedicated to the wedding jewellery market and the emerging trends and market evolutions that will shape it in 2013. Here John Ball, sales director at wedding and engagement ring manufacturer Brown & Newirth, tells us that rose gold and channel set bands are in, why being flexible is more important than ever and comments on the increase in bespoke commissions at its workshops.

Professional Jeweller: What have been the main changes to the wedding market over the past year?
John Ball: There has actually been little change to the bridal market. We have experienced a slight shift in metal choices and design, yet predominantly the consumer is still looking for the timeless classic.

PJ: Retailers have reported price sensitivity in the market. How is Brown & Newirth catering for such customers?
JB: Every penny we all spend in life is far more considered than it was perhaps four, five and six years ago; we look closer at the cost of whatever we buy. The wedding shopper is no different. As a manufacturer we are very flexible and have been able to produce in lower fineness metals, but more importantly we design for market needs and requirements, which includes price points.

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PJ: Brown & Newirth has recently increased its focus on the engagement ring market. What style is most popular with your retailers?
JB: Single stone diamond rings are the predominant force.

PJ: What is the most popular metal at the moment for wedding and engagement rings?
JB: Both platinum and palladium fared well in 2012. As a company we’ve experienced a like-for-like increase of about 6% so therefore enjoyed an increase across most metal groups and finenesses. Brown & Newirth continued to see strong sales in palladium. This is, however, largely the gents’ metal of choice if they decide on white metal. The expectation for 2013 is much the same especially given that Johnson Matthey have produced some up-to-date educational point-of-sale material for retailers’ window displays.

PJ: Are diamond-set wedding bands going up or down in popularity?
JB: There has been a definite increase in ladies’ diamond-set bands and a definite decrease in men’s. Channel-set diamond bands are very strong. Of course, plain rings account for a high percentage of sales, yet bespoke is becoming an ever important option with today’s modern consumer looking for that point of difference.

PJ: Many ring manufacturers are investing in offering ranges of flush fit rings. Is this something you believe is important?
JB: Not terribly, although most modern day engagement rings are designed in such a way as to achieve a close fit, if not flush, with the wedding ring.

PJ: What new products is Brown & Newirth releasing to the market this year?
JB: As pink gold accounts for up to 20% of bespoke designs, especially within the London region, Brown & Newirth launched an exclusively alloyed pink gold collection. Diamond engagement, wedding and eternity bands set with either champagne or white diamonds, called Pink Champagne, launched on February 3 at The Jewellery Show. We are also very excited about the new men’s collection of textured finished wedding bands, also launched at The Jewellery Show.

PJ: Are you using any new technology to create your designs?
JB: All of our new designs have been created with the use of technology. Whether that be CAD to design, lasers to cut metal – patterns on rings as well as spacing for diamond setting – and CNC machines for profiling as well as new finishing designs.

PJ: We have noted an increase in demand for bespoke wedding jewellery – do you see that as a trend that still has growth?
JB: Our bespoke department has never been so busy. As a manufacturer we are able to work with our customers to achieve any required deign that the consumer is looking for. With a growing team of designers who are able to draw, carve and CAD, we expect to become more important than ever to our retail partners moving forward.

PJ: Describe 2013’s wedding ring market in one line.
JB: Understated statements of craftsmanship rather than flash are the order of the day in 2013.

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