written by Paul Holewa
Labor Day. Back to School. Halloween. Retail jewelers know what’s next: The Christmas holiday shopping season. To help make the busiest time of the year a more profitable one, industry experts weigh in on breaking trends in diamonds, jewelry and colored stones.
Christmas is a time for holiday marriage proposals. Brides-to-be like their fancy shapes with ovals still trending since 2018. “Our best seller has been ovals by far,” says Roy Ben-Aharon, president of Trustar Diamonds. “I’m still surprised at how popular they are and how fast they are selling – like hotcakes.”
Today’s brides are also gravitating toward longer diamonds, according to Ben-Aharon. Emeralds, radiants and elongated cushions are performing well for Trustar. “Also, older cuts like Euros, Old Mine and cushion cuts have been great sellers for us. Millennials want something authentic with history, something that’s not mass produced.”
Size always matters with diamonds. Couples-to-be are holding to the traditional one-carat weight but Ben-Aharon has been surprised that many young couples are inching up toward 1.5-carat center diamonds and larger options.
With COVID-19 shutting down a lot of businesses, Ben-Aharon cautions that although young couples are buying bigger they will be price-point driven. In store meetings leading up to the holidays, jewelry store owners should remind their sales staff to always lead with value propositions when meeting resistance on prices.
One consistency about a crisis, be it a pandemic, the economy or in the case of 202 both, as normalization returns the diamond classics lead the way to recovery. “Diamond studs have been a very good sellers for us,” says Ben-Aharon. “Maybe with people wearing masks a lot now you really get to focus on the studs since most of the face is covered. Plus they’re always a good everyday item for women.”
Classics have also bumped halo rings from their mantle. “Three stone rings are coming back,” says Ben-Aharon. “Again, the classics.”
Lastly, diamond-set silver jewelry will have its place this holiday season. Think affordable styles with a long fashion shelf life starting at around $350 to $500 and topping out at around $700.
Quick tips for retailers this season include leveraging appointment-only custom work, the best lighting options that accentuate diamonds and getting customers to try on jewelry. “We have to make so many decisions in life,” says Ben-Aharon. “Sometimes it’s nice to have someone that gives you their opinion on which piece looks best [on the customer].”
The economy has been recovering well since late summer and early autumn. People will still be feeling the pinch of state-sanctioned shutdowns, however, throughout the holiday season and carrying into 2021. That said, “We have seen an uptick in bridal and every category is selling well,” says Linda Spil, president of Samuel Spil Company.
Since its inception in 1961, the East Coast-based jewelry company has positioned itself in the industry to provide retail jewelers with their fast moving best sellers. Part of fulfilling that niche is staying on top of breaking trends.
“For our customers, items we’ve seen trending in the lead up to the holiday season include paper clips, bars, baguette diamond pieces, diamond studs, price-point bridal, diamond-set sterling silver, crosses, sterling silver hoops and Cuban link chains,” says Linda. “These are going to be the hot sellers during the Christmas season and will continue into 2021.”
The theme for jewelry purchases this holiday season, and the first half of next year, is price-points. “Our customers have been looking for $100 retail and under,” says Linda.
Retail jewelers love those “big win” sales that make a good day great. But jewelry store owners should brace themselves for a season of many small dollar purchases instead of fewer big sales to help their meet or beat last year’s holiday sales. Again, COVID-19 has had a huge impact on everything including customers’ perception of purchasing jewelry this holiday season.
“[In 2020] Customers remain interested in jewelry purchases for this time of year,” says Linda. “But it seems like that with the virus people are looking for jewelry as being a lasting item that is meaningful.”
Price-point driven jewelry purchases will translate generally into CZ-set sterling silver and gold plated lines. Samuel Spil Company’s Forever Gold gold-plated collections have been performing well for the company.
Gold color is another trend to watch. “Yellow is hot,” says Linda. “And people are picking up on rose gold.”
It will be a “back to the basics” kind of holiday season. Linda encourages retailers to stay stocked up on their tried and true holiday sellers starting with diamond studs. A store’s inventory should cover sizes on the lower total carat weights to satisfy more modest diamond purchases.
Sapphires of all colors have been performing well, according to Oke Millett, president of Discovery Gems & Jewellery. “Particularly the blue/green ‘teal’ or ‘peacock’ varieties.” Surprisingly to Oke are customers requesting unusual fancy shapes including hexagons, pentagons, octagons and freeform shapes.
Consumers are also showing strong interest in moonstones, especially better quality goods that are very clean. “Moonstones exhibiting a blue flash and even facetted moonstones are doing well,” says Oke. “We went several years with no request for moonstone. Now it’s quite common.”
Gray as a gemstone color is trending well with gray spinel leading the pack. Similar to the “teal” sapphires, individual interpretation of a desirable gray colored spinel is very subjective.
“Some people like them more silvery and pale, others like them closer to charcoal,” says Oke. “While others like them having a secondary color, and others seek the most ‘pure’ gray color. Additionally, we are seeing designers looking for other gray stones. Tourmalines and sapphires specifically, can be found in ranges of gray tones, and these move quickly for us.”
Spinels in general have been garnering greater attention with consumers, especially with this colored stone now a new birthstone option for August babies. “While top pinks, reds and blues have been increasing in price quite dramatically, the ‘secondary’ colors of spinels remain quite accessible and represent good value,” says Oke.
In the lead up to fall, consumers have been warming up to orange gemstones, with keen interest in spessartine, hessonite garnet and Imperial Topaz. Oke sees this as perhaps a seasonal interest with Halloween and Thanksgiving Day.
For Christmas: “I would expect ruby and sapphires, with continued focus on atypical goods be it distinctive colors or distinctive faceted stones,” says Oke. “My personal belief is that there will be major rebound in the economy once the US election is laid to rest and how we deal with COVID becomes more normalized and less sensationalized. As such, we are hoping for a strong Christmas season.
Looking ahead at 2021: “Bright and cheerful colors,” says Oke. “Assuming 2021 is all about ‘new’ – a ‘new’ four-year presidency, even if the same person. A ‘new’ normal as regards post-pandemic – I expect there will be a big push towards bright and beautiful ‘celebratory’ jewelry. And, big bold colors as well as big bold designs.”