As brides demand unique rings jewellers are bolstering bespoke offers.
The demands pf individualist brides are driving bespoke sales through the roof. Whether a trivial trophy tweak or a complete commission, Rachael Taylor finds that manufacturers and retailers are falling over themselves to offer a tailored service for weddings.
At the very heart of making a wedding day special, and at the core of making a bride feel good, is that it and she should feel different, and this desire to be extraordinary is shaping the market as more brides request bespoke rings in an attempt to own something that is unique to them.
The bespoke requests can range from small alterations to existing designs, such as adding an extra subtle diamond detail or slimming the band width by a millimetre or two, through to working with jewellers to create a brand new creation from scratch. The sheer variety of engagement and wedding rings on the market means that a bridal shopper can usually find what they are looking for in existing ranges, so the desire for a bespoke creation is perhaps psychological rather than a means to an end.
At bridal jewellery specialist Brown & Newirth demands from retailers for its bespoke services have gone “through the roof”, according to sales director John Ball. He says that jewellers are continuing to play it safe by buying in plain stock but are using the company’s bespoke service to offer shoppers more adventurous designs without having to take the risk of tying up cash in less commercial designs.
Demand has been so strong that the company is now planning to push deeper into the bespoke market. “We are now looking at what else we can do to improve that service as bespoke is an area that we feel we can get more turnover from,” says Ball. “We are talking to matrix design companies about the latest technology and we feel that methods such as lost wax casting will become more important. Once design is signed off we usually take three to four weeks to get jewellery manufactured, but we can do it in as little as a week.”
Manufacturer Stubbs & Co has also been investing in ways to “enrich” the bespoke service it offers its retailer partners. Its ConfigureRing programme is an app that can be used on devices like iPads or desktop computers that gives shoppers access to its entire range of rings and allows them to choose from 20,000 different personalisation options. The app has been designed for use in independent retailers and can be branded up with the name and logo of the shop.
“Our plain rings are the canvas for people to select patterns or diamond settings,” explains Stubbs & Co managing director David Shem-Tov. “The whole experience of buying wedding rings this way means that the consumers are responsible for something; they are participating, rather than just selecting from a display. Investing in ways to enrich this experience has been valuable.”
20,000 options might seem like an enormous amount to choose from but Shem-Tov insists that Stubbs & Co does not “offer endless choices”, but rather lots of small twists on tried and tested wedding band styles. “It is important that the choices that people make are feasible from a technical perspective and will be pleasing to them,” says Shem-Tov. “It is a classic purchase at the end of the day.”
For independent jeweller Jonathan David Jewellers in Cardiff, bespoke is thriving but demands are still very classic. “Our customers are cautious,” says Jonathan David partner David Hughes-Lewis. “They tend to look at ring designs online and then come into the shop but it does tend to be very classic – white metals and diamonds.”
Vicky Inchley from Winchester jeweller Jeremy France paints a similar picture of its bespoke commissions and says that she works with customers to offer classic designs that have been personalised through small touches. “The wedding bands are often quite classic but we can make them quirky and unique with engravings, nicknames or textures,” she says.
While the majority of the bridal market stays within the realms of timeless designs, there are a few brides to be who want to push the boundaries. Brazen in Glasgow specialises in the retail of design-led bespoke jewellery and says that while demand for simple solitaires is still strong it has been approached by some more adventurous customers of late.
“We get customers to email us with pictures of designs that they like or things like architecture,” says Brazen founder Sarah Raffle. “Recently we had a woman who came to us with pictures of a gothic cathedral and we created a ring that reflected this in the design.”
The fervour for a unique piece of bridal jewellery has even worked its way through to high street stores such as H Samuel that have traditionally specialised in off-the-shelf products. Signet-owned H Samuel and Ernest Jones both offer bespoke services – Atelier at Ernest Jones and Design Service at H Samuel – that use local artisans to offer shoppers the opportunity to tweak existing designs. Faye Lovenbury of Signet says that the service does “extremely well” at both of the chains.
That the demand for bespoke services is being felt from the high street chains right through to independent jewellers is proof that it is an all-encompassing trend. While bespoke bridal jewellery might have always been popular at designer-makers who specialise in just such services, the demand that has led H Samuel to invest in a local bespoke service and that is pushing large manufacturers such as Brown & Newirth to chase this avenue as a growth strategy is a sure sign that the desire for brides to stand out is a vital selling tactic at all levels.