Stacey Hailes talks to the industry about the meanings behind gemstones and how, with the demand for personalised jewellery ever increasing, this concept can be used to drive sales.
The belief that gemstones have mystical powers and properties dates far back in human history.
By 3000 BCE ‘magical’ amulets were being cut from the likes of agate, carnelian and turquoise in Egypt and Mesopotamia where, among many of the beliefs, people thought a seal made of green serpentine would draw blessings and a seal made of lapis lazuli contained a god.
Using stones in medicine also began in Ancient Egypt as communities considered them to have healing powers through the association of a gem’s colour with the colours produced by diseases in the body.
Although predominantly a creation of the Victorian era, birthstones also echo these ancient ideas. In the 21st century jewellery industry, it seemed, for a while at least, that the meanings behind gemstones had faded away with only the birthstones remaining strong. However, with the growing emphasis on personalisation and marking memorable milestones in the trade as it stands today, it seems gemstone meanings and healing properties are surfacing once again — a concept retailers can embrace and capitalise on.
At the root of this popular phenomenon is Pandora, a brand that has drilled into consumers the need to celebrate ‘Unforgettable Moments’ with jewellery. Its emphasis on personalisation and understanding that customers want something that is specifically theirs has created a knock on effect, paving the way for other brands to exploit this sought-after trend too.
Jewellery designer Kirsten Goss is also in agreement that the mood has shifted in the industry. She comments: “From a commercial perspective the consumer trend for stones with meaning and power has definitely risen over the last decade and seems to be at an all-time high now with the craze for all things wellness.”
Brands currently using the meanings behind gemstones to great effect include Daisy London, ChloBo and Chrysalis.
Daisy London director Ruth Bewsey comments: “At Daisy, gemstones are something that we’ve slowly introduced over the past 18 months. From semi precious stones to healing gemstones, they all bring a different element to the brand’s jewellery.
“We added an elegant touch of colour to the Chakra collection by adding semi-precious stones, carefully selecting the colour to represent the chakra symbol. The healing gemstones were handpicked down to the properties held within each stone that sit alongside the chakra symbol. The bracelets are designed for these healing gemstones to directly touch the skin, making them personal to the wearer.”
Buddhist chakra symbols are based on the seven energy centres of the body. It is thought that keeping energy flowing smoothly is the key to finding balance and wellbeing. Healing stones are therefore perfect for adding a splash of colour to compliment contemporary pieces that represent these ancient traditions.
Andy Maine, co-founder of charm bangle concept brand Chrysalis, explains: “We wanted to create a collection that embraced spirituality and wellbeing but with a modern twist. Taking inspiration from the ancient Chakra symbols, we added playful colours with semi-precious gemstone beads, known throughout the ages as talismans for spiritual protection and healing.”
Each of the seven bangles in Chrysalis’ Chakra collection represent a certain energy centre. Using the same symbols as the original Chakra range, the new Gemstone Chakra collection adds spiritual qualities of semi-precious gemstones such as lemon jade agate, amethyst and turquoise to the mix.
The emphasis on gemstones can also be seen at ChloBo, which recently announced a collaboration with the Claire House Children’s Hospice. The resulting collection of limited edition bracelets will be available to buy online, with all proceeds going to the charity. Interestingly, the bracelets have been made using semi-precious stones specifically chosen for their healing and spiritual assets. These include labradorite, which is said to have natural energising properties, coral, which is known to bring inner peace and jade, also known as the ‘dream stone’, that is said to bless every- it touches.
ChloBo founder Chloe Moss says: “The meaning behind stones chosen becomes embedded to the very story of a collection. It brings the collection to life and ensures a story runs true.”
Talking about the brand’s SS15 Sun Dance range, Moss adds: “Sun Dance was inspired by the dramatic landscapes of the Nevada desert, host to the annual music festival Burning Man. Carefully chosen symbols signify strength, adventure and freedom whilst the colours reflect the tribal setting. Turquoise represents the canopy above, shimmering pyrite the desert landscape and bright red coral the fiery light skies.”
Whether choosing a stone with healing powers, a colour with symbolic associations or even, in Moss’ case, gemstones that portray the very essence of a collection, these design features are aspects retailers can get behind and use as an effective selling tool.
Biiju jewellery designer Joanna Boyen has certainly found that romancing a stone in a sale can often seal the deal. Boyen explains: “Perhaps because Biiju provides different stone choices for each design, we’ve seen that showing a potential customer a design in a stone to which they have an emotional attachment can provoke a very strong , ‘I love that!’ reaction to a piece they had perhaps been fairly ambivalent about a few moments before. The stone can completely change their perception of the design and their affinity to it.
“We find that most people have developed an attachment to a particular stone, but the strength of attachment differs, and the reasons are varied. Sometimes it’s rooted in sentimentality, sometimes it’s a connection to a birthstone, and quite often a perceived healing or calming power. Almost without exception, it’s the stone in a piece which incites conversation.”
British jewellery brand Lola Rose thrives on the meaning of stones, with semi-precious gems at the very heart of its pieces. The brand’s website has a section called ‘shop by stone’ and a tab called ‘discover nature’s gems’, allowing visitors to be inspired by the meanings of stones during the online shopping experience.
Varney Polydor and Joanna Salmond, directors of London-based retailer Kohatu + Petros, use gemstone meanings as a powerful selling tool, especially when it comes to serving an indecisive customer.
Polydor explains: “At Kohatu + Petros we have a vast library of semi-precious stones which we use to design necklaces, earrings and bracelets. Usually necklaces are chosen for their design and colour, occasionally, for the properties or meanings of the stones used. In contrast our gemstone bracelets starting at £29, are bought for many different reasons.”
She continues: “Some customers find it difficult to make a decision on which colour combinations to buy or indeed how many. This is where we use the meaning of gemstones to help them make the decision. We have found this useful as they usually relate the meaning to the person’s personality or life experience at the time. The other ‘go to’ is birthstone meanings, especially when buying gifts. It’s a great selling tool as it takes away any indecision.
“Our staff can refer to guides which we conveniently have in a drawer which include, birthstones by sign of zodiac, birthstones by months and the meanings of gemstones. Customers enjoy the shopping experience and we are also able to help close the sale in a pleasant way. It’s a ‘win, win’ situation.”
Birthstones and anniversary stones continue to be popular in retail environments, with many finding customers asking ‘what’s the stone of the month?’ or ‘what is the stone for this anniversary?’
They have also become a great starting point for people who have no idea what to buy for that special someone’s birthday or anniversary.
Gaynor Haylett, store manager of Piggotts the Jewellers in St. Ives, comments: “Anniversaries are an extremely popular choice for applying a gemstone theme in a sale. It may be that the purchaser feels they can relax, as they are being guided by a predetermined route, or possibly it is just the show of consideration that has been put into their choice; that they have tailored their purchase exactly for the recipient. Emeralds, which represent a 20th anniversary, are often in demand. However I find the most popular by far is the 40th anniversary; represented by ruby. Guiding a customer towards purchasing a ruby for this special anniversary is often assisted by the fact that there is a usually more money readily available by this time in their life.”
Touching on healing stones Haylett adds: “We still all ‘touch wood’, and avoid ladders ‘just in case’, and I think in most instances the use of gemstones as having healing properties or being ‘lucky’ birthstones is simply following in these superstitious traditions. After all, these stones have been around a lot longer than we have, so maybe they do know something that we don’t.”
The popularity of birthstones has led The Genuine Gemstone Company’s brand Gemporia to design an exclusive birthstone collection for its House of Fraser concessions. Chief executive officer Steve Bennett explains: “The meaning and popularity of gemstones has a huge influence on Gemporia sales. The most popular stones that we sell are the ones that represent good health, luck and love. Our customers like to invest in gemstones that they can relate to, especially their birthstones.
“The meaning of gemstones is important because customers like to choose pieces that resonate with them. People use their jewellery to express them selves so it is logical that they look for specific gemstones that reflect their character, individuality and emotions. These can be very personal choices so understanding the meaning of the stones is incredibly important.”
Sheffield-based retailer Green + Benz has also exploited the popularity of birthstones with its ‘family rings’, where any combination of loved ones’ birthstones can be incorporated into stacking rings to provide a unique story for each customer. Managing director Helen Dimmick explains: “At Green + Benz we always try to make every purchase for our customers as significant as possible and the meaning of gemstones is a perfect tool. Wherever possible the birthstone of a loved should be celebrated.”
The retailer also uses myths, legends and properties of gemstones as a fun and interactive tool to engage with potential customers on social media.
Contemporary jewellery designer Alexis Dove has also noticed a rise in the number of brands using the month/ gemstone connection as a tool for disseminating information and offers. Discussing the personalisation of jewellery in general, Dove comments: “Women are buying more of their own jewellery and attaching meaning to it. People still use their jewellery to tell stories.”
It’s not uncommon to hear people talk about what country they bought their jewellery from, or the occasion it marks. To generate this kind of attachment without setting-up shop abroad, UK brands and retailers can tap into birthstones as a good place to start.
Charlotte Evans, social media and marketing executive at Holts London says: “Ancient stories and books about gemstones can affect the perception of a gemstone. The novel, Anne of Geierstein published in 1829, involved a story about how the opal brings bad luck and was an evil stone. This story saw a huge decline in the opal market for nearly 50 years. Additionally, the ruby has always been known to be the favourite gemstone of kings giving it a very royal and highly valued air.”
Italian fine jewellery brand Roberto Coin believes so much in the power of rubies that every piece in its vast collections includes a signature ruby, designed to kiss the skin of the wearer. This is said to be founder and designer Roberto Coin’s personal message of good wishes to his clients. He developed the idea after reading a historical book which mentioned that Egyptian Pharaohs considered the ruby as the only positive stone in existence — offering happiness and health to those who touch it.
Ruby was treasured by early cultures as people believed the red stone held the power of life. As a symbol of love and passion, ruby makes an ideal romantic gift and makes for a great stone to romance in a sale. Rubies also represent both the July birthstone and 40th wedding anniversaries.
Tresor Paris, for example, has capitalised on this concept with the launch of its new ruby red earrings; highlighting that the stone represents love, health and wisdom in its product description.
Other popular stones to romance and drive sales include the May birthstone emerald which connotes new spring growth and the September birthstone sapphire which represents nobility, truth and sincerity.
This article originally appeared in the June issue of Professional Jeweller. Read it online here.