With hospitality finally opening back up and social distancing measures coming to a very welcome end, the world of fashion jewellery could be about to experience a seismic shift.

As consumers ditch their daily Zoom calls and eagerly return to pubs, restaurants and offices, jewellers should expect to see a shift in the kinds of jewellery customers are looking for.

In an effort to work out which trends will rise to the surface and bag retailers the most sales through the rest of the year, we asked some of the industry’s top suppliers to explain where buying habits in fashion jewellery are heading in 2021.

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But first, what did 2020 and ‘the pandemic year’ look like for fashion jewellery?

Hitting on perhaps the year’s most talked about trend (aside from Connell’s chain in Normal People), straight out the gates Gecko Jewellery general manager, Ruth Johnson, mentions the effect the use of Zoom and other video call services had on buyers: “Above-the-desk dressing has definitely been key, so we’ve seen an increase in statement earrings and the evolution of layering into the ‘neck-mess’.”

Andrea Maine, Ania Haie co-founder and director, concurs, saying: “Earrings and necklaces have been the strongest categories due to Zoom meetings focusing on the top half of everyone dressing up.”

Meanwhile, Ellie Air Jewellery’s Lauren Davidson has also noticed the popularity of jewellery that will be visible in video calls, saying that “necklaces and bracelets have generally been more popular, especially charms and pieces that can be layered”, while Sif Jakobs adds: “I think many women have decided to invest in these types of pieces, so they can be very visual on the screen.”

Moving on to another of the year’s top trends, though, Gecko’s Ruth Johnson notes: “We’ve seen a lot more playful designs – brightly coloured beaded profiles with mismatched details. Customers are searching for the little joys in life.”

I think consumers just want to spoil themselves after being stuck in for so long”

Colourful designs are something that began to dominate the latter days of lockdown as the country emerged from winter and looked towards freedom and a brighter future.

Ti Sento – Milano UK distributor Mesmeric Distribution’s founder and director, Judith Lockwood, theorises that, as well as altering consumer habits, jewellery designers have been equally inspired by the pandemic in their work.

“Difficult periods can be the most creative times for some people and the design team at Ti Sento – Milano have responded on tone, with thought, voice and care during the pandemic,” she says.

This creative energy has resulted in “sun-shaped pieces that help to radiate love and energy, new heart pendants, tactile pepper-shaped jewels for luck and symbols of peace”.

In a similar vein, motifs denoting freedom, health and happiness have also been popular.

This has manifested itself not only in imagery but also in the use of positive words themselves in jewellery pieces.

UNOde50 UK and Ireland sales director, Emma-Louise Gregory, explains: “We noticed an increase in sales for some of our stretchy bracelets with positive words, such as ‘luck’ ‘health’ and ‘love’.”

Elsewhere, other brands have reported a shift in consumer behaviour as people look for jewellery that will last – in regards to its sentimental value as well as its style and durability.

This trend has gone hand in hand with two other shifts noted by Hot Diamonds head of commerce, Adryan Cresswell.

Describing the first change, he says: “Hot Diamonds has seen a shift towards higher price items, and its average order value increased significantly throughout the pandemic, particularly since November 2020.

“We view this as evidence of consumers choosing to invest in jewellery of substance and quality that they can wear for years, rather than something more disposable.”

Consumers are buying a complete collection rather than just one piece”

In concurrence is UNOde50’s Emma-Louise Gregory who adds: “Stores have also reported that the average spend is higher on UNOde50.

“Consumers are buying a complete collection rather than just one piece at a time. I think consumers just want to spoil themselves after being stuck in for so long and with bars and restaurants now reopening, I believe this will continue.”

Cresswell goes on, however, to describe a second change linked to the consumer desire for jewellery with meaning: “On the high street, it seems as though our Storyteller concept was selling through very well just prior to lockdown three.

“This targets the personalisation trend, which I know other brands also cite as being strong for them at the moment.”

Future trends
As the UK economy opens back up and the population steps out from under the dark cloud of lockdown restrictions that have kept us fettered for the past 14 months, it seems reasonable to assume that jewellery trends will take a turn almost as dramatic as will consumers’ everyday lives. But what will that turn look like exactly?

Exuberance is what some suppliers are anticipating. In much the same way that video calls have influenced people to buy “above-the-desk” jewellery, consumers’ newfound freedom could mean that they are looking to buy jewellery they will be wearing out – to pubs, clubs and events.

Sif Jakobs says: “I think women will still be investing in classic staple pieces, however as more countries re-open and people start venturing out once again I’m convinced that more extravagant jewellery will once again take the lead.

“I think it will be a while before people start stacking up statement pieces into many layers, but I do believe it will happen.”

Gecko’s Ruth Johnson says we will look to “celebrate the day-to-day and wear items previously saved for special occasions”, while Ania Haie’s Andrea Maine believes, following the trend for colourful jewellery symbolising happiness, customers will “want bright enamel in pieces and all-new trends as they want to go out and be fashionable and feel good”.

Adryan Cresswell of Hot Diamonds also sees “glamorous designs prevailing” as people look to “dress up and enjoy nights out”.

Consensus also seems to indicate that sustainability will play a big part in consumer buying habits.

Cresswell adds: “We anticipate the ethical attributes of the jewellery to become increasingly important as consumers question the sustainability of the way they used to buy pre-pandemic.”

I think it will be a while before people start stacking up statement pieces into many layers, but … it will happen”

The trend for buying from environmentally friendly companies seems here to stay, irrespective of product, and jewellery is no different.

Gecko’s Ruth Johnson chimes in, saying: “Recycled materials are being used more and more across the high street, which we will see become a growing trend.”

Expanding on the idea of ”ethically and responsibly sourced materials”, Lauren Davidson of Ellie Air Jewellery believes that “pieces that have been handmade” or are “part of the slow fashion movement” are set to grow in popularity as consumers shy away from fast fashion.

All of this – whether it be customers’ preference for pieces that scream optimism or brands’ adoption of green business practices – indicates an overwhelming desire to move on from the pandemic in a positive and caring way, in jewellery and in life.

Yaa Yaa London founder, Yvonne Asar, who says she expects “natural textures, rustic pieces and bold colours” to sell well for jewellers, sums up the situation, saying of her brand’s SS21 collection: “After the year and a half that we have experienced globally, each piece will focus on the qualities needed to move forward despite the challenges that life may throw at us.”

Unique & Co

PJ catches up with Daniel Ozel, founder of Unique & Co, titan of the fashion jewellery world.

How has business been since March 2020?

Business was good until lockdown started in March 2020. Then it suddenly was very quiet and uncertain. We stayed positive and tried to offer the best possible service to our clients during lockdown.

This meant sending goods to home addresses or directly to end consumers, providing images and information to customers to set up e-commerce platforms.

We focused our resources and tried to minimise cost where possible. Luckily some of our online customers did very well and compensated most of the loss during lockdowns.

What fashion jewellery trends have been most successful for you during the pandemic?

For us men’s jewellery performed very well, in particular curb chains and bracelets, and layering remains important. We feel consumers want something special and different, something which lasts.

David and Jak Ozel, founders and directors, Unique & Co

How do you foresee business being over the coming 12 months?

We are very positive about the coming year, since lockdown is over. The initial weeks were very positive and retailers had a good start.

We will concentrate to offer best possible service to our retailers and good stock levels and quick deliveries.

We will launch exciting new collections for men and woman. We feel also that people want to get out and enjoy and treat them self. In regards trends we think sustainability is a big trend. And products with a story or a point of difference.

What sort of offering do you have for retailers now that stores are open again?

We will launch exciting new collections and are also planning to refresh our marketing materials with new product and lifestyle images.

Further, we are planning to have a special Father’s Day promotion and launch more regularly new, smaller capsule collections to keep things fresh and interesting.