4 Predictions on Retail and Diamond Desire in 2019

EditorsFeb 14, 2019

4 Predictions on Retail and Diamond Desire in 2019

It will be a watershed year for man-made diamonds, Editor-in-Chief Michelle Graff writes.

A man-made diamond engagement ring in the packaging for “Grown With Love,” the lab-grown diamond line sold at Macy’s and J.C. Penney. With so many lab-grown diamonds hitting the market, our editor-in-chief says 2019 will be a watershed moment for the industry.

Last month, I had the pleasure of traveling to sunny Scottsdale, Arizona for the annual Centurion show and of catching up with retailers after the holiday season.

What I mostly heard was this: 2018 was a good year and jewelers were expecting a strong December, but the month took a dive alongside the stock market. And the events of late 2018/early 2019, including the 35-day government shutdown, have left retailers feeling unsure what to expect in the year ahead.

What is certain, however, is that this year is going to be very telling in terms of lab-grown diamonds. How will consumers take to the lines that are out there? Will they buy them for fashion jewelry or engagement rings? Will one brand or company begin to emerge as the dominant player in the space?

Read on for four thoughts on what lies ahead for the jewelry industry in 2019.

1. Retailers are feeling ________ about 2019.
Cautiously optimistic. Concerned. Unsure. These are all words I heard circulating at Centurion after a disappointing December capped off an otherwise strong year in 2018.

What will happen with the trade war? Will there be another shutdown (this was talked about at Centurion, although the answer now seems to be no)? How much did the first one shake up consumers?

Are we headed for a recession? Recessions are especially problematic for jewelry because it’s a discretionary purchase; you don’t need to replace a ring the same way you need to replace a car or a refrigerator. As one retailer put it: “We’re the first thing to go.”

Another word that came up: nervous, and it’s not just retailers who are nervous.

“I think everybody is just nervous about everything,” one retailer from the south shared.

She said she feels like she has the right merchandise and marketing in place at her store, but whether people will buy is the big unknown at this point. She also noted that looming ahead of 2019 is a presidential election year and an election always “screws things up.”

Feel free to fill in the blank with your own adjectives in the comments section below.

2. The year will tell us a lot about how consumers view diamonds, and Valentine’s Day will be the first big test.
A head-spinning number of headlines about lab-grown diamonds hit the internet every day, but I think they all can be boiled down to this:

Lab-grown diamonds are here to stay; the genie is not going back in the bottle.

Consumers are going to buy them, though in what quantities and for what purposes remains to be seen.

My guess: They will take a big bite out of the middle market, particularly for lower-priced fashion jewelry.

Yes, some will buy lab-grown diamond engagement rings, but I think the bulk of man-made diamond sales will be to those consumers who say, “Hey, I can get a nice version of this diamond earring/necklace/bracelet for less. Who cares about the romance of it coming from the Earth? I’m saving money, and it’s a nice gift for myself/my daughter/my best friend.”

As I noted above, however, this is just a guess, and time will ultimately tell what consumers want—lab-grown or mined—and what they want it for, with 2019 being a watershed moment in that story.

How will, for example, J.C. Penney and Macy’s do with “Grown With Love,” the line featuring diamonds grown mainly by WD Lab Grown Diamonds and set in jewelry manufactured, distributed and marketed by Richline? Will they sell enough to continue those lines?

How will Lightbox fare, and will De Beers continue to push the envelope, introducing bigger and better stones and more styles, including rings?

This Atelier Swarovski x Stephen Webster bracelet features 14-karat yellow gold cages housing Swarovski-created rose quartz and set with lab-grown diamonds, also from Swarovski. At $11,000, it’s the highest-priced piece in the line.

What about fashion lines like Atelier Swarovski x Stephen Webster? How well will those sell, and will the designers who made them keep going? Will we see one designer come up with that have-to-have design using man-made diamonds and emerge as the dominant player?

And what about the diamond growers themselves, companies like Diamond Foundry, the California-based company that experimented with, but ultimately didn’t make it in, brick-and-mortar retail? What will their role in the future of the industry look like?

3. Smart companies will stop and think.
In addition to acting as a gauge on consumers’ appetite for man-made diamonds, 2019 is going to be a good year for those selling diamonds today—man-made or natural—to evaluate the market for diamond jewelry going forward.

Some questions that spring to mind include:
--How are changing societal attitudes toward marriage in the U.S. going to impact demand for diamonds, given that engagement rings represent a big chunk of the market?

People are getting married later, often living together and/or having children first.

Or they’re not getting married at all. The U.S. Census Bureau released a “Families and Living Arrangements” table in 2018 that showed that single-person households comprised 28 percent of all households in the U.S. last year. In 1960, that number was 13 percent. The table also showed that 32 percent of all adults age 15 and over have never been married.

Are these long-term trends (I would say yes, for a variety of reasons) and, if so, is diamond marketing prepared to evolve to reflect that?

--How will diamonds stand up in the face of increased competition and, for some groups, declining discretionary income?

There are so many things to spend money on today, aren’t there? As The Wedding Report founder Shane McMurray noted in my story on engagement ring spending, there’s lattes and dinners out and gadgets and clothes, not to mention to the rise in the amount people are spending on what is generally referred to as “wellness”—special vitamins, yoga classes, boutique gym memberships, juice cleanses, etc.

Add to this the fact that many people’s wages aren’t keeping pace with the cost of living, and it equals less money for everything that’s not necessary.

--For those with plenty of discretionary income, what is the No. 1 luxury item that’s taking money away from diamond jewelry?

I would guess it’s not a tangible item, like a handbag or a pair of shoes, but rather experiences, particularly travel. Is there a way to compete with that?

The jewelry department inside a J.C. Penney store. The retailer is one of a handful that is on multiple retail bankruptcy watch lists for 2019.

4. Well-known retailers will continue to file for bankruptcy.
This last one is a bit of a cheat, as we’re less than 50 days into the year and, already, we’ve seen seven retailers go Chapter 11, according to Retail Dive’s running list of bankruptcy victims for the year. Among them were long-time mall staples Things Remembered, Gymboree and Charlotte Russe.

So which stores that carry fine jewelry are in danger in 2019?

I predicted in early 2018 that Sears would cease to exist and while it has risen from the ashes, it’s hard to imagine what it can do to make itself relevant again and stay in business.

J.C. Penney is another retailer we’ve been watching for a while, and Neiman Marcus is also a name that keeps popping up on various bankruptcy watch lists, with some predicting that 2019 could be on par with 2017 in terms of the number of retailers going Chapter 11.
Michelle Graffis the editor-in-chief at National Jeweler, directing the publication’s coverage both online and in print.

The Latest

Buccellati jewelry
FinancialsMay 17, 2024
Richemont Appoints Van Cleef & Arpels’ Nicolas Bos as New CEO

The announcement coincided with its full-year results, with growth driven by its jewelry brands.

Watches of Switzerland Mall of America store
FinancialsMay 17, 2024
Watches of Switzerland’s Fiscal-Year Sales Flat

Looking ahead, the retailer said it sees “enormous potential” in Roberto Coin’s ability to boost its branded jewelry business.

My Next Question webinar series graphic
Recorded WebinarsMay 17, 2024
Watch: Preparing for Trade Show Success

Jewelry trade show veterans share strategies for engaging buyers, managing your time effectively, and packing the right shoes.

Royal Chain gold chains
Brought to you by
Record Gold Prices Have Consumers Undeterred. Here’s Why.

Despite the rising prices, consumers continue to seek out the precious metal.

Cartier ring-tailed lemur brooch circa 1991
AuctionsMay 17, 2024
Piece of the Week: Cartier’s Ring-Tailed Lemur

This little guy’s name is Ricky and he just sold for more than $200,000 at Sotheby’s Geneva jewelry auction.

Weekly QuizMay 16, 2024
This Week’s Quiz
Test your jewelry news knowledge by answering these seven questions.
Take the Quiz
202.18 carat fancy intense yellow diamond The Yellow Rose
AuctionsMay 16, 2024
Christie’s Holds 2 Sales Despite Cyberattack

Though its website has been down for a week, Christie’s proceeded with its jewelry and watch auctions on May 13-14, bringing in nearly $80 million.

The Allnatt yellow diamond
AuctionsMay 16, 2024
Sotheby’s Withdraws 101-Carat Yellow Diamond from Auction

Despite the absence of “The Allnatt,” Sotheby’s Geneva jewelry auction totaled $34 million, with 90 percent of lots sold.

Header image w logo.jpg
Brought to you by
From Registration to Return: 10 Tips to Protect You Before, During and After a Tradeshow

Tradeshow risks are real. Get tips to protect yourself before, during and after and gain safety and security awareness for your business.

National Jeweler columnist Lilian Raji
ColumnistsMay 16, 2024
The PR Adviser: What the Designer Should’ve Done

Lilian Raji gives advice to designers on how to make the most of great publicity opportunities.

Mothae Diamond Mine Lesotho
SourcingMay 16, 2024
Lucapa to Shed Stake in Lesotho Diamond Mine

The mining company wants to divest its 70 percent holding in the Mothae Diamond Mine in an effort to streamline its portfolio.

National Jeweler columnist Peter Smith
ColumnistsMay 15, 2024
Squirrel Spotting: Why Retailers Struggle to Fire Brands

Why do so many jewelers keep lines that are not selling? Peter Smith thinks the answer lies in these two behavioral principles.

The Argyle Phoenix red diamond
AuctionsMay 15, 2024
Red Diamond Breaks Records at Phillips Geneva

The “Argyle Phoenix” sold for more than $4 million at the auction house’s second jewels sale.

Jewelers of America 20 Under 40 2024 recipients
Events & AwardsMay 15, 2024
See Who’s in JA’s 2024 ‘20 Under 40’ Class

The annual list recognizes young professionals making an impact in jewelry retail.

David Mann jewelry store
IndependentsMay 15, 2024
David Mann Jewelers in Upstate NY to Close After 35 Years

Owner David Mann is heading into retirement.

Brilliant Earth Logan Hollowell jewelry collection
FinancialsMay 15, 2024
Brilliant Earth’s Sales Fall Flat in Q1

While overall sales were sluggish, the retailer said its non-bridal fine jewelry was a popular choice for Valentine’s Day.

Rough diamonds from De Beers
SourcingMay 14, 2024
Anglo American Confirms It Is Looking to Sell De Beers

The mining giant also wants to offload its platinum business as part of an overhaul designed to “unlock significant value.”

The Yellow Rose and the Allnatt yellow diamonds
AuctionsMay 14, 2024
2 Huge Yellow Diamonds Are Heading to Auction

Christie's is selling one of the diamonds, moving forward with its Geneva jewelry auction despite the cyberattack that took down its website.

Born Leaders Platinum Born campaign
MajorsMay 14, 2024
Platinum Born Taps ‘Born Leaders’ for New Campaign

The ad aims to position platinum jewelry as ideal for everyday wear.

Instappraise Trifold Brochure
GradingMay 14, 2024
Instappraise Adds Trifold Brochure to Appraisal Offerings

Retailers can customize and print the appraisal brochures from their store.

White, pink, and blue lab-grown diamonds from Lightbox
Lab-GrownMay 13, 2024
Lab-Grown Diamond Brand Lightbox Cuts Prices by 25 to 40%

The move follows a price-drop test run in Q4 and comes with the addition of a “quality assurance card” from GIA for some loose diamonds.

Christie’s New York
TechnologyMay 13, 2024
Christie’s Website Brought Down by Hackers, Watch Auction Postponed

The site has been down since Thursday evening, just ahead of its spring auctions.

Madeleine K. Albright’s Patriotic Leopard Brooch
AuctionsMay 13, 2024
Madeleine Albright’s Jewelry, Pins a White-Glove Sale at Freeman’s | Hindman

The late former U.S. Secretary’s collection went for quadruple the sale’s pre-sale estimate.

Zachary’s Jewelers Mother’s Day Jewelry Contest winners
IndependentsMay 13, 2024
Zachary’s Jewelers Names Mother’s Day Jewelry Contest Winners

Three fifth graders’ winning designs were turned into custom jewelry pieces in time for Mother’s Day.

Kimberly Adams Russell
IndependentsMay 10, 2024
Frank Adams Jewelers Names New CEO

Kimberly Adams Russell is taking over the role from her father, David Adams, marking the third generation to hold the title.

Birth of Venus necklace
CollectionsMay 10, 2024
Piece of the Week: Carina Hardy’s ‘Birth of Venus’ Necklace

As a token of womanhood, this necklace depicts when Venus was born from the sea.

Roberto Coin Fleur de Lis jewelry
MajorsMay 09, 2024
Watches of Switzerland Pays $130M for Roberto Coin Inc.

The deal gives the retailer control over the distribution of Roberto Coin jewelry in the U.S., Canada, Caribbean, and Central America.

Lauren K Mosaic necklace
TrendsMay 09, 2024
Amanda’s Style File: Shine Bright, Moms  

Show your mother some love with a piece of fine jewelry.


This site uses cookies to give you the best online experience. By continuing to use & browse this site, we assume you agree to our Privacy Policy