Due to a complete lack of weddings between 23 March and 3 July in England, sales of wedding-related jewellery hit an all-time low during lockdown. Even now, interest has not returned completely due to ongoing restrictions that limit the number of people allowed at marriage ceremonies across the UK.
Fortunately, what jewellers lost in revenue from wedding rings, they made up for with an unusual boom in engagement ring sales. “Yes, we have definitely seen a lot love bloom in lockdown,” confirms Emma Burgin-Fox, creative director for Alex Monroe Jewellery.
She is not alone in noticing this trend. Domino Jewellery sales director, Andrew Sollitt, adds: “Engagement rings is the category that has performed the strongest for Domino, during lockdown and post-lockdown, with a number of styles outperforming sales from 2019.”
Pip Beale, head of product development for Charles Green, is another who has noticed that engagement ring sales remain strong: “Our Lux range is extremely popular, both for re-orders and stock orders along with our bespoke engagement ring design service.”
Acknowledging the hit that wedding jewellery sales took, Zee Robinson, northern area sales manager for Hockley Mint, says that before the supplier knew what had happened, both engagement and wedding jewellery retailers were back on their feet: “There was a short, sharp shock in terms of negative impact on sales when the first full lockdown hit. But it became clear almost immediately that many businesses were still seeing demand, despite restrictions.”
Retailers are making the most of Whatsapp and Zoom, taking measures to make sure their client feels special”
Elsewhere, Picchiotti’s Maria Carola Picchiotti reveals that the brand has seen “quite a demand” for engagement and wedding rings post-lockdown, in spite of current wedding restrictions.
Alex Monroe Jewellery’s Emma Burgin-Fox says the company has had many emergency orders, presumably as wedding plans get changed, adding: “Most excitingly, our bespoke service is actually the busiest it’s ever been.”
Some suppliers have even noted that jewellery sales have gone up across the board, regardless of the product. Referring to engagement rings, Andre Michael director, Himanshu Shah, explains: “We have seen a rise in the category, but more importantly we have seen an increase in the average spend.”
Theorising as to the reason for an uptick in consumer spending during a pandemic, he says: “The end customer has more money to spend. Customers cannot fly easily, so those who would travel abroad are not always able to.”
Hockley Mint’s Zee Robinson similarly suggests: “Perhaps money not spent on holidays or celebrations is being channelled into jewellery purchases instead. We are still at full capacity in our wedding ring department, regardless of the thousands of cancelled or postponed weddings. The signs are that people are looking for security. In times of uncertainty people pull together and want to look towards a positive future.”
Engagement ring trends
When asked about current trends, the two words that suppliers mention the most are ‘classic’ and ‘choice’. It seems consumers are taking comfort in the timelessness of pieces that will never go out of fashion, but also want the option to personalise their purchase, making it their own unique item.
Charles Green’s Pip Beale has been keeping a close eye on consumer trends, reflected in the brand’s 2020 output. “We have noticed that customers love a personal touch. This may mean a secret birth stone, personal engraving, or a significant design touch.
“Halos remain popular and we have recently introduced a castle-set version and a bright-cut version to our range. Solitaire diamonds in emerald-cuts and radiant-cuts also seem popular, along with the ongoing trend for trilogies.”
Meanwhile, “choice, individual expression and quality” were key buzzwords for Andrew Sollitt of Domino Jewellery. “Whether that’s personalisation through stacking and layering,” he says, “or through customisation of metal, stone, pattern or design. Consumers seek out jewellery that is a reflection of their individual story.”
The C word came up again, this time for Maria Carola Picchiotti of brand Picchiotti, who reveals that “classic rings such as halo or three-stone rings are always the most popular – mainly diamonds, but some people are also keen on coloured stones”.
Meanwhile, Judith Lockwood, director for Ti Sento – Milano distributor Mesmeric Distribution, describes how she has seen “lots of special orders for our classic solitaires, three-stones and hand-set pave rings”. She adds: “It does remain very traditional.”
Poppy Elder, creative manager for Hockley Mint, mentions all the same keywords: “The trend for single stones is still going down the classic, timeless route, with round the most popular shape, as ever.”
She also mentions a rise in interest in Art Deco pieces and says that the company’s Embrace collection continues to prove popular as a “slight twist on a classic style”.
Will engagement rings sell online post-pandemic?
Across the board, suppliers and their retailers report no problems moving engagement jewellery – and record amounts of it – online. However, can this trend continue once bricks-and-mortar retail returns as a safe option?
Gemex is a Hatton Garden-based diamond jewellery specialist. Managing director and owner, Lee Ruben, reveals that its retailers’ client base has not been afraid to buy engagement rings online thanks to an innovative website experience.
Ruben says: “All our engagement rings come with 3D, 360-degree online videos so the ring can be inspected from every angle. Our customers can then select a suitable diamond from our extensive stock list and marry the two together.”
Yet, even with these features, can the online experience rival an in-store purchase when physical retail returns?
Wedds & Co’s sales and marketing director, Chloe Smith, believes so. “Definitely,” she says. “Retailers are making the most of Whatsapp and Zoom, taking measures to make sure their client feels special.
“Live chat services help, and even remote-working salespeople are getting to know their customer and tailoring the experience. Shoppers use various mediums to build trust now, and social media platforms play host to transactions. Shoppers find it reassuring to see this presence and virtually meet the face behind the brand.”
Gemex’s Lee Ruben is less convinced: “I believe that a lot of research is done online, but ultimately most people prefer to buy in-store.
Modern consumers seek out jewellery that is a reflection of their personality and individual story”
“Most retailers would be prepared to cut a deal in order to compete with online-only sellers. In my opinion, nothing beats stepping into a store and trying on the pieces. Two diamonds with the same credentials can look so different.” He adds: “A free glass of bubbly also helps greatly!”
Mesmeric Distribution’s Judith Lockwood agrees: “It depends on the client. An online buy can equal an instant surprise and a quick proposal, but also gives you time to research the purchase.
“However, in my mind,” she concludes, “a visit to your local jeweller – that excitement of being shown beautiful pieces, the welcome, advice, guidance and the start of a long relationship together – can never be replaced. Perhaps I am just an old romantic…”