While the demise of the wedding market in 2020 dealt a painful blow to a jewellery industry that has witnessed this category flourish in recent years, there is growing optimism that things could bounce back quickly if the UK vaccination roll-out leads to restrictions being lifted in the spring.
Jewellers that rely on valuable bridal jewellery revenues are holding on dearly to two factors: firstly, that a reported boom in engagement sales during last year’s lockdowns will eventually translate into marriages; and secondly, that pent-up demand from couples forced to postpone wedding plans will need to be fulfilled.
Bloch & Co, a business that has a greater focus on engagement bands than wedding bands, confirms the increased demand for engagement rings – and has even noticed a rise in average spend as well.
“The limiting factors on travel have, in many cases, meant that there has been more disposable income,” says Matt McCawley, Bloch & Co’s representative in the UK. “Also, the fact that the wedding day itself has been delayed may well have assisted with this desire to make the engagement ring extra special.”
By offering handmade pieces of the finest quality and using the best natural stones, Bloch & Co has found itself well-placed to benefit from demand.
“The feedback from our retailers is that by offering such fine pieces, it has assisted with the online and ‘by appointment’ sales prevalent last year. With regards to wedding bands, we have seen a bit of a dip due to the lack of weddings, however we are confident this will come back to us.”
Weddings and ceremonies have always been a way for humankind to celebrate life. This will never cease, no matter what the adversities may be”
Domino Jewellery is another company that registered an upwards sales trend in engagement rings last year, leading it to work on a new product and service offering throughout the lockdown to support retailers selling diamond rings to consumers.
Sales and marketing director, Andrew Sollitt, says the first quarter of 2021 will see developments to the wedding ring section of Domino’s website, with a strong focus on the customer journey.
“Alongside that will be the launch of a stunning range of shaped and decorative bands designed to tap into the trend for individuality and personalisation,” he reveals. “With lots of 2020 weddings postponed until 2021 and an increase in engagement ring sales, we are hopeful for a boom in bridal jewellery later in 2021.”
Gary Wroe, managing director at Hockley Mint, says there is no doubt that the pandemic has impacted bridal jewellery sales, including engagement rings, wedding rings and wedding day jewellery.
“Those with an online service that allows customers to ‘build their own’ bespoke engagement ring may have fared better with those still wishing to get engaged, but it is hard to say. I am confident, however, that once weddings are allowed to resume in their normal fashion, we will see a steady return to bridal jewellery sales.”
Like much of the industry, Wroe feels couples and families are ready to embrace a sense of normality once again – and the summer wedding season is intrinsic to that.
“What this will mean in reality for engagement ring sales, emerging trends, sales value or other retail metrics is impossible to guess,” he cautions.
Alex Stuller, senior director of bridal at Stuller, is adamant that a bridal jewellery bounceback is imminent though – branding 2021 “the year of the wedding”.
“We expect all categories of bridal to see a higher demand; engagement rings, wedding bands, and even wedding-related gifts – bridesmaids’ jewellery, mothe-of-the-bride gifts.”
Many brides and grooms are shifting dollars from big receptions and venues to their rings.”
Maria Carola Picchiotti at Picchiotti also believes the bridal jewellery market will quickly get back to where it was before the pandemic once restrictions are lifted.
“Weddings and ceremonies have always been a way for humankind to celebrate life,” she says. “This will never cease, no matter what the adversities may be.
“And to mark the momentum a piece of jewellery will always be the perfect gift. So, wedding jewellery will resume its normal course, as soon as the pandemic is over and we are able to be back together again.”
Domino’s Sollitt cites choice, individual expression and quality as the key factors that will shape the bridal market when it becomes a hive of activity again.
“Domino diamond detailing, patterning and creative silhouettes are also key trends to watch, a trend that we incorporated into our new diamond ring designs (launched in July) and are incorporating in our new shaped and decorative wedding rings (launching February 2021),” he says.
Alex Stuller, meanwhile, predicts that men will continue to become more and more involved in their band selection – with an increased interest in bolder bands with stones.
“I also expect to see more money spent by couples on centre stones and/or customisation, as many brides and grooms are shifting dollars from big receptions and venues to their rings – which last forever.”