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De Beers sees strong demand for diamond jewellery despite COVID-19 pandemic

30 november 2020

Image credit: De Beers

Diamond giant, De Beers has made efforts to understand the consumer perspective, particularly in the United States, following the COVID-19 pandemic.

The group is conducting additional consumer, retailer and supply chain touch-bases to understand the pain points and the opportunities for partners large and small across the pipeline.

It noted in its latest Diamond Insight Flash Report that although consumer optimism on personal finance and the financial position of the United States is slightly lower than at the beginning of the pandemic, expectations continue to be strong that in the longer term (next three years), the country and the economy will recover.

De Beers said fine jewellery retailers are reporting that their diamond sales are strong this holiday season, with bridal being the primary driver for consumer demand.

“Strong anecdotal evidence shows that engagements are up over the period since COVID-19 hit in Spring 2020, and jewellers say more couples than ever are choosing diamond engagement rings – eschewing industry concerns that the difficult economy would impact the bridal market,” it said.

The group found out from independent jewellers around the United States that consumers are spending more, notably often upgrading in colour, cut and clarity rather than caratage.

“Our informal survey also shows they are often choosing more classic designs,” it said.

“Jewellers note that round diamonds and round edged fancy shapes of better qualities are dominating their bestsellers, and that designs have become simpler, with customers less interested in extra pavé and melee embellishments.

“While halos are still selling well, generally jewellers are seeing engagement ring customers opt for more conservative looks.

“While rounds remain the most popular choice, multiple jewellers reported difficulty keeping ovals and cushions in stock and said that they would be stocking inventory most heavily in these shapes as well as rounds for the holidays, because they feel confident that they will sell.”

The group further noted that jewellers reported seeing more requests for classic solitaires or solitaires with simple baguette accents.

Many speculated that customers are continuing to spend on diamond engagement rings despite the economic environment because they are spending less on elaborate weddings, honeymoons and there is a new level of emotion around the idea of making a commitment to the relationship in a time of heightened uncertainty and fear.

Re-shaping of priorities

De Beers noted that it collaborated with engagement, wedding planning and registry resource The Knot to create The Knot x De Beers Engagement Expectations Study in an effort to deeply explore attitudes to commitment and engagement in a COVID-19 world.

The Knot checked in with 360 female consumers who follow How They Ask on Instagram and are in serious relationships and planning to get engaged.

It asked how COVID-19 had affected them and just over half of respondents said that the pandemic has had a moderate to significant impact on near-term life plans, such as where they will live, buying a house, finding or changing jobs for them and their partner.

At least 21% of the respondents said that COVID-19 has had no impact on near-term plans.

Regarding engagement, about one-third said they believe their engagement will happen later than planned due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but 11% believed the pandemic would result in spending less on a ring.

De Beers said those who think the pandemic fast-tracked their engagement plans, gave the following reasons:

  • “The pandemic has forced our relationship to progress at a much faster rate than ‘normal’ life would. It has made both of us prioritize marriage sooner rather than later.”

  • “It made us feel more sure that we could be together long term because we experienced living together earlier than expected!”

  • “It caused us to really evaluate what is important in our life and what our priorities are, and while we had always been priorities in each other’s lives it made us realize how much more of a priority we are to each other than just about anything else.”

It was found that women are more likely to have thought a lot about their engagement ring (54%) than other aspects of the future like the wedding (32%) or honeymoon (15%), supporting jewellers’ hypothesis that engagement ring sales are strong because wedding/travel budget is being diverted to the ring.

Women are also more likely to say they have thought “a lot” about their engagement ring (54%) than the proposal (44%) or wedding (32%).

Choosing the ring and proposing

De Beers said the features most important in a ring to consumers are the shape of stone (56%) and the style or setting of the ring (41%).

The top five important features chosen are the shape of stone, style or setting of the ring, size of stone, type of metal and quality of stone.

“Additionally, those who dropped hints to their partner about the ring were most likely to share hints about their preferences regarding style and stone shape,” it said.

“Notable is diminished interest in carat weight, a trend that seems to pre-date the pandemic but may be being accelerated by it.”

It was also revealed that half of respondents expect to be somewhat involved (51%) in selecting engagement rings by hinting at preferences, while about four in 10 expect to be involved in the selection of engagement rings (42%).

They want to shop with their partner or tell them the style of ring they want and very few say they will be either very involved (4%) or not at all involved (4%).

De Beers also noted that in keeping with the movement away from public spaces and towards intimacy and the safety of a small circle, a solid majority of respondents say their ideal proposal would be one person proposing to the other (98%), planned ahead of time (69%) and in a private place (70%).

“Just over half would like just the two of them present (54%), though 21% would like family/friends present and 25% have no preference,” it said.

“Only 6% would like the proposal to occur in a public place. Interestingly, in The Knot’s 2019 Jewellery and Engagement Study, 40% of recently engaged said the proposal happened in a public place.”

Mathew Nyaungwa, Editor in Chief of the African Bureau, Rough&Polished