Surveys

Here’s How Consumers Feel About Cultured Pearl Jewelry

SurveysSep 01, 2021

Here’s How Consumers Feel About Cultured Pearl Jewelry

The category is getting a boost from two interesting groups: younger consumers and men.

Melanie Georgacopoulos’ nacre necklace with mother-of-pearl and sanded and graduated-in-size white South Sea pearls with an 18-karat white gold clasp (£21,500, or about $29,556 per current exchange rates)
New York—The Cultured Pearl Association of American and MVI Marketing have teamed up to ask consumers what they think of cultured pearls and pearl jewelry. 
 
The two fielded the “Benchmark Study of Consumer Preferences for Pearls.” It was conducted from July 19-24 to 1,012 U.S. jewelry consumers who purchased at least $200 of fine jewelry in the past three years. 
 
Aged 25-55, 73 percent of survey takers were female and 27 percent male, with household incomes greater than $50,000. 27 percent were single, 63 percent married, and 19 percent engaged or getting engaged. 
 
Survey takers were 73 percent white, 9 percent Black/African American, 9 percent Asian, and 6 percent Latino. 
 
According to survey highlights, pearls are already a consumer favorite, MVI said, with most consumers (66 percent) indicating they own at least one pearl jewel. 
 
Of those survey-takers, 69 percent own a strand and 62 percent own pearl earrings. 
 
Pearls are also standing the test of time, with 65 percent of pearl jewelry owners saying they have at least one family heirloom within their collection of pearl pieces. 
 
Additionally, 46 percent of survey-takers said pearls are a popular purchase, whether that be someone buying for themselves or a gift for another. 
 
When it comes to gifting occasions, 52 percent of consumers who have bought or received pearl jewelry in the past three years said it was for a birthday, while 46 percent said it was for an anniversary. 
 
Interestingly, according to the survey results, consumers between ages 25 and 35 think pearls are a top gem to give, receive, or buy for themselves. 
 
Additionally, these younger consumers are also sparking two trends that are widening pearl appeal: men donning pearls and pearl engagement rings. 
 
 Related stories will be right here … 
 
Men ages 25-45 in particular are embracing pearls to wear—42 percent for those 25 to 35 and 47 percent for those 36-45, compared with 16 percent of men aged 46-55. 
 
Twenty-eight percent of jewelry buyers indicated they would consider and another 43 indicated they would “maybe” consider a pearl as a center gem for an engagement ring. 
 
The youngest demographic (25-35) is most into the idea, with 36 percent saying they would consider it, and 40 percent saying “maybe.” 
 
And when it comes to education, while 81 percent of consumers have heard the term “cultured pearl,” only 34 percent know what that means, and 60 percent said they didn’t know about the connection between them and sustainability. 
 
Ultimately, though, it appears pearls are already among the top gems desired by consumers and purchased for others. 
 
This means the takeaway, according to MVI, is this: “The pearl trade does not have to sell consumers on cultured pearls because they already like, have, and desire them. Invest in the product, carry a wider selection, and take time to talk and post about what makes pearls the perfect gift to give, receive, and buy for oneself.” 
 
But, because 23 percent still thought pearls were of their grandmother’s era or 8 percent saw them as out of date, “more work needs to be done to show how pearls have come a long way from the small, white pearl strands Grandma used to wear to a world of shapes, sizes, colors, and prices to satisfy every taste and budget,” MVI said.
 
Other Jewelry Highlights
The survey uncovered other insights about jewelry buying habits in general.  
 
Today’s consumers, regardless of age, gender, marital status, or any other characteristic, consider design and style their No. 1 driver of all fine jewelry purchases. 
 
Only consumers with household incomes above $200,000 consider the metals (34 percent) and gems (25 percent) used to be more of an influence than price (19 percent) when making their decision. 
 
And, although it’s expected to grow more, social, environmental, and sustainability claims influence the purchases of only 5 percent of consumers overall—5 percent for ages 25-35 and 6 percent for 36-45, while only 2 percent of 46-55. 
 
Also, about a third of men and a third of women said they identify as a “self-purchaser” of fine jewelry, showing how the traditional roles within jewelry purchasing are evolving. 
 
When it comes to where they shop for jewelry, the audience that goes to jewelry chains stores skews younger, according to the survey, with 50 percent of 25- to 45- year-olds shopping there for fine jewelry, compared with 40 percent of 46- to 55-year-olds. 
 
The oldest demographic surveyed is more likely to shop at a local independent retailer (53 percent), compared with 42 percent of 36- to 45-year-olds and 33 percent of 25- to 35-year-olds.
 
All age groups shop fine jewelry on the internet, with the percentage growing as the shoppers get younger—16 percent of those between 46 and 55, 18 percent of those between 36 and 45, and 19 percent of those ages 25-35. 
 
Amazon was the top choice for all age groups, though it’s more popular with the older crowd, while the younger also turns to Blue Nile and Etsy. 
 
The full survey can be obtained here.
Brecken Branstratoris the senior editor, gemstones at National Jeweler, covering sourcing, pricing and other developments in the colored stone sector.

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