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The Year In Review, Part 3: Diamonds And Fashion |  December 28, 2021 (0 comments)


Merrick, NY—As consumers continue to reset their priorities and their spending in 2021, diamond jewelry became a key purchase as a De Beers study showed consumers making “investment” purchases that have meaning and long-term value. Diamonds became less about bling and more about emotion, in line with a general shift away from conspicuous luxury—the primary driving factor for purchase in the past 50 years—and toward “conscientious luxury,” which incorporates both meaning and sustainability concerns. And women continue to be a primary focus of the market.

In that vein, Forevermark launched a major new collection called Avanti, focusing on socially-relevant themes of inspirational women, pursuing challenges, and how one small act can inspire change. The brand also came under the leadership of Céline Assimon, currently CEO of De Beers Jewellers who expanded her role to lead both organizations. She continues to report to Stephen Lussier.

Meanwhile, Alrosa sparked consumer interest in fluorescent diamonds. Its Luminous Diamonds brand launched in late 2020, and by 2021 it had won a Clio for its ads and named several prestigious retail partners. Top image: a still from the Clio-winning Luminous Diamonds campaign.

The Natural Diamond Council named its first official partner retailers; eight prestigious stores including Long Island, NY-based London Jewelers, Connecticut-based Lux, Bond & Green, Maine-based Days Jewelers, Boulder, CO-based Walters & Hogsett JewelersHyde Park Jewelers with stores in Denver, CO, Scottsdale, AZ, and Newport Beach, CA; San Ramon, CA-based Heller Jewelers, Jacksonville, FL-based Underwood's Jewelers, and Marquirette's Exquisite Jewelry in Montgomery, AL.

Rio Tinto’s 2021 Argyle Pink Diamonds Tender collection of 70 rare pink and red diamonds delivered the most significant set of record breaking results in its 38-year history. The 2021 collection, titled “The Journey Beyond,” comprises the pinnacle of the Argyle production, mined in its final year of operations before closing in November 2020. 

Danish jewelry brand Pandora, in addition to working to expand beyond its bead niche, set off another firestorm of outrage in the industry with the announcement that it would only use lab-grown diamonds henceforth. Industry ire was less about the brand using LGDs and more about how it positions them as the moral choice. Not cool, said analysts.

Meanwhile, Kansas City-based Helzberg Diamonds announced the launch of a new effort to promote lab-grown diamonds, with Travis Kelce, the all-pro tight end for the Kansas City Chiefs, as lead spokesman for the category. Positioning the stones as “the fifth C, choice,” a press release from the retailer positions the lab-grown stones as an affordable choice: “Lab grown diamonds are real and unique diamonds that provide consumers with more choices and more sparkle for their spend. The Helzberg diamond experts are ready to help guide diamond ring shoppers through all five Cs to find the right ring for their recipient,” says the statement.

If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em: Lightbox, the De Beers-owned lab-grown diamond brand that attempted to put the category firmly in a fashion-not-fine place with linear pricing of $800 per carat, introduced bigger sizes and better qualities and selling loose LGDs to consumers. Pricing is still linear, but if LGDs are going to be big, it’s going to be sure it can compete. 

The lab-grown picture grows murkier, however: a Plumb Club study shows 84% of consumers still prefer natural over lab-grown diamonds, but research from industry analyst Edahn Golan finds rapidly rising acceptance of LGDs even for bridal rings. And in a sure sign they’re here to stay, the Responsible Jewellery Council is developing a global standard for LGDs.

Fashion. Pearls on men exploded into “a thing,” following the Atlanta Braves’ Joc Pederson appearance in a pearl necklace he wore throughout the baseball championships. But we saw a hint of what was to come earlier in the year when men in jewelry made headlines at the Oscars.

Pearls also flexed their political muscle, being the favorite for both Vice President Kamala Harris and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

While diamond engagement rings are still the number-one choice, luxury watches are a surprising alternative for engagements, along with pearl rings, sported by such influential celebrities as Emma Stone, Ariana Grande, and Michelle Williams.

Speaking of luxury watches, they have a new fan in the White House: observers in the watch industry have determined President Joe Biden is officially a “watch guy.” Spotted in enough different timepieces to cement his status as an aficionado, if not a hard-core collector, watch journalists estimate his watch wardrobe probably includes about 10-12 pieces. Those range from an Apple Watch to several Omega models and at least one Rolex, as well as a Vulcain Cricket, owned by every U.S. president since Harry Truman. But his collection is modest by watch world standards: the Rolex he wore for Inauguration Day (below), for example, as well as his Omegas, are typically priced under $10,000.

Finally, earrings continue to be a top selling category as the Zoom world isn’t going away. Consumers flocked to diamond studs, hoops, and the universally flattering petite drops favored by Kate Middleton, Duchess of Cambridge.

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