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Diamond Jewellery: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow

12 february 2018

In Europe, the use of polished diamonds as studs in the jewellery started between the 13th and 14th centuries. The diamonds were first brought to Rome via the Great Silk Route. Then they were delivered to Venice that quickly won the fame of the first diamond capital of Europe.

At the end of the 14th century, diamond traders paved the way to Paris and Brugge, and later on, to Antwerp that subsequently became the world diamond capital.

Market Giants

Today, the US are the world’s largest jewellery market with its 45% share of the global demand. The second largest market is China absorbing 16% of the world demand and is destined to rise in this country due to the steadily growing consumer appetite of the middle class with its increasing number and improving welfare. The experts expect that India, in its turn, making 8% of the market, will keep on increasing the jewellery trade volumes from one year to another that has already started growing due to the gradual adaptation of the population to the new financial situation after the demonetization of the Indian rupee.

Female factor

Nowadays, women are at the forefront of the jewellery trade. The experts explain this trend due to the wider social rights and greater economic influence of the representatives of the fairer sex, which has a positive effect on their welfare and also increase their purchasing power.

Today, women are able to make their own choice and buy the jewellery they like. The jewellery industry has already recognized this trend and changed the design and its conceptual approach to the jewellery production.

The experts say that women are often prompted to buy their own jewellery by their impulsiveness due to sudden desire to have a jewellery they unexpectedly saw in the shop window, on the pages of specialized magazines or in an ad popped up on any website.

According to De Beers ‘Diamond Insight Report: 2017’, in the USA impulse buying accounts for 40% of the purchases made by women for themselves. In China, this figure is one half as high as that.

According to Stephen Lussier, executive vice president of marketing at De Beers, today the ‘self-purchases make one third of all the diamond jewellery sold. That said, making a gift remains the basis of the sales.

The growth prospects

According to the estimates of the authors of the Global Diamond Jewelry Market Report, in 2017-2022, it expects an inevitable growth. The analysts attributed this to the fact that the customers more often make self-purchases of diamond jewellery for themselves and not for gifting.

The experts connect the short- and mid-term potential trade risks with the macroeconomic factors on the major markets.

In this respect, the US remain the leader with their 50 percent share in the global polished diamonds trade. The US buyers facilitated the growth of the world diamond jewellery market up to $80 bn in 2016. China as well as India that embraces 90% of the diamond cutting and polishing market will increase their demand due to the improving domestic economic environment after its downturn in 2015.

The experts estimate that the global diamond jewellery market has the prospects for its growth up to $150 bn, which will be fueled by new appearing brand jewellery store chains and the expansion of the existing ones.

According to the British banking giant Barclays, while 47% of the individual responders told in 2012 that they were the owners of the diamond jewellery, today already 57% have them. They think it’s important that the diamond jewellery - as against cars and real estate – do not need maintenance and do not deteriorate with time and their size allow their easy transportation.

Millennials Pose No Problem

The demand problem is not caused by the millennials, the Diamond Producers Association thinks. Its budget for the ‘Real is rare’ advertising campaign in 2017 to promote polished diamonds is $57 mn out of which $50 mn are allocated for their marketing in the USA.

According to the DPA data, the young customers aged of 17 to 35 account for the major part of the bridal jewellery market. In the USA, millennials make 40% of the total number of the diamond jewellery buyers while making just 30% of the country’s population.

Brian Nagel, a market expert, agrees that millennials as a generation pose no problem: they just do everything later. “They buy a house later if and when they live together. But I saw no changes in their attitude to the diamond engagement rings,” – said Nagel as cited by thestreet.com.

Rachelle Bergstein, the author of the book ‘Brilliance and Fire: A Biography of Diamonds’ believes that the opinion about the millennials rejecting the polished diamonds comes from the media.

Today, DPA even used the resource of the social media platform Instagram to fuel the youth’s interest to the polished diamonds, and the number of the Instagram visitors jumped by 54% from January this year, and the number of ‘likes’ and comments increased by 87%.

Demand in the USA

According to jckonline.com, the US accounts for almost half of the global jewellery market, which has never happened since the Great Recession. The most desired segment is still the wedding diamond jewellery but the share of purchases made by the married women and millennials increased.

In 2016, the demand for polished diamonds in the United States grew by 4.4% up to $40 bn, which equals to the half of the global sales. This is the highest figure since 1990s. The experts explain this by the millennials’ interest who purchased one third of the diamond jewellery in the US last year that costed from $1,000 to $5,000.

The diamond jewellery is regarded by the millennials as an accessory of fashion. They prefer mainly the designers’ pieces. That is why a ‘melee’ diamond jewellery of not traditional colours appeared in the jewellery houses – from the champagne to the сhocolate, coffee and cognaс hues. In the USA, these account for 60% of the total sales.

Classical jewelers have to change their practices to adapt to the new tastes of their clients for fear of losing them even if they marry later at the age of 27-29.

Moreover, according to the US Pew Research Center, there is a trend among millennials to turn to synthetic diamonds due to their lower price.

Vintage is in Fashion

The demand for jewellery is mainly based on the rings. Both the vintage diamond rings and the vintage diamond bracelets and earrings are in fashion that are regarded by the customers as potential investment assets.

A jewellery expert Noam Flint advises to invest in the natural coloured polished diamonds. He says that only one diamond out of a thousand is a coloured one and the demand for these stones is still growing.

According to Rahul Kadakia, an international expert of the Christie’s auction house in New-York, the prices at the auctions today are determined by the coloured polished diamonds, mainly blue and pink stones, that give the highest revenue to the sellers. The experts explain this trend by the fact that the white diamonds are offered more often.

Nowadays, the jewellery pieces made by the famous jewellery houses are both more sophisticated and light-weighted due to the high prices for precious metals and stones.

According to the experts’ information, the customers prefer the renowned jewellery brands - Bulgari, Boucheron, Cartier, Tiffany и Van Cleef & Arpels. Also, the place of manufacture is of importance. Thus,   the Cartier diamond jewellery piece made in New-York has lower value than the one made in France. And, of course, the piece manufactured by the jeweler himself is of value. The diamond jewellery pieces are the more expensive, the more they reflect his personal style and have a limited run.

However, a US journalist Judy Price who founded the National Jewelry Institute in 2002, does not agree with the above point of view. She noted that if to compare the USA and Europe in terms of jewellery, she would say that the jewellery pieces designed and manufactured overseas, were more impressive and original. The most part of the European collections remained rather traditional, Price said.

E-commerce

The French Xerfi consulting company estimates thаt over 40% of the famous jewellers do not use their websites for selling their jewellery. But even if they do sell online, the e-trading by the major jewellery houses makes just about 4% of their total sales.

Julie El Ghouzzi, Director of the French Centre du luxe et de la creation, explains this by the fact that the ‘not mass-produced commodity’ features the quality and that is why its manufacturers have no right to make mistakes. Besides, the expert says, the diamond jewellery still associates with an engagement or wedding that are connected with going to the jewellery store where they choose the ring thoroughly.

Probably, that is why the renowned jewellery houses today still are restrained by the opinion that so far their products are not for selling via the e-trading network.

However, the experience of Cartier that was one the first to create the online trade platform in Japan in 2008 and then in the USA in 2010, is evidence to the contrary.

Gilles Bennejean, President of the Cleor jewellery brand, on his turn, states that while just 2.5% of the company’s turnover accounts for their online trade, its volume grew more than by 60% for the year to date.

Pauline Laigneau, the founder of the Gemmyo.com trading platform, in her turn, says that she has just 1% of returned jewellery, and the e-trade channel itself ‘democratizes’ the jewellery business: in contrast to jewellery boutiques that show items in the window shops without price tags, the e-channel does not push the customers away.

Polished diamonds’ Competitors

In recent years, the experts have noted a faster growth of prices for rubies and sapphires than for polished diamonds that are more expensive.

According to the data of 47carat.com, the demand for coloured jewellery has increased as much as three times since 2010. Here, also women fuel the market according to Diamond Manufacturers that decreased the diamond jewellery sales.  

A famous London jeweler from the Hatton Garden jewelry quater attributes this to the fact, that it is the women that make choice and buy the jewellery today. When the gifts are made by men to their beloved they often prefer to buy diamond jewellery.

Alex Shishlo, Editor of the Rough&Polished European Bureau in Brussels