10-Year Rewind: The Biggest Developments of the Decade

EditorsDec 20, 2019

10-Year Rewind: The Biggest Developments of the Decade

Editor-in-Chief Michelle Graff recounts the stories and trends of 2010-2019 that had the greatest impact on the fine jewelry industry.

A marketing image used around the launch of Lightbox, the lab-grown diamond brand De Beers brought to market in 2018.

I didn’t think about the fact that we are ending a decade until I saw the lists start popping up online—the best albums of the 2010s, the best movies, the worst fashion trends, the most unexpected celebrity breakups.

So, I decided to play along. Instead of doing my usual end-of-year article on the biggest stories of the past year, I expanded my scope.

With the help of a handful of retailers and others, I compiled a list of the developments that had the biggest impact on the fine jewelry industry between 2010 and 2019.

Here they are, presented in chronological order.

1. Instagram Launched
It’s strange to think about now but, back in 2010, Facebook (the open-to-everyone version) and Twitter were only 4 years old, the iPad was brand-new and there was no Snapchat, Uber, Alexa or Apple Watch.

And, until October of that year, there was no Instagram.

It did not take the photo-sharing app long to state its case as a social media platform with potential, and people took notice.

Less than two years after its launch, Facebook Inc. forked over $1 billion to own Instagram.

Today the photo-sharing app is, arguably, the most important social media platform for jewelry designers and retailers.

Because they know what I do for a living, my friends constantly ask for my opinion on different pieces of jewelry or jewelry designers (yes, they like and wear jewelry, but they won’t find you if you’re not in the right places.)

When I ask where they saw a certain piece or became familiar with a designer, the answer is always Instagram.

Instagram is easy and fun, and has avoided becoming the cesspool of negativity, partisan political discourse and fake news that have turned people off sister site Facebook.

Its importance to brands and retailers will only continue to increase as it creeps closer to letting users shop directly on the platform.

Being able to shop on one’s smartphone from Instagram or other apps, known as mobile commerce or m-commerce, will play an even bigger role in the coming decade.

2. De Beers Shut Down the Diamond Promotion Service
It’s hard to believe this happened in the past decade, as the Diamond Promotion Service, or DPS, seems like a stone that’s been buried for a billion years.

I couldn’t find National Jeweler’s story on the closure, but I did find this mention of my story
shared on PriceScope in December 2010 and confirmed with De Beers that it was indeed in 2010 that it pulled the plug on the DPS.

The shuttering of De Beers’ U.S.-based marketing arm, which stoked diamond jewelry demand for generations with ad campaigns like “Shadows” and beacon programs like “Journey,” heralded the start of a dilemma that plagued the jewelry industry throughout the 2010s.

There wasn’t enough advertising for diamond jewelry, or any jewelry really. This, coupled with changing consumer style and desires, caused the industry to lose ground to electronics, handbags, cosmetics and experiences.

In 2015, the world’s biggest diamond miners finally got it together and formed the Diamond Producers Association, which has been developing marketing campaigns for natural diamonds.

And Jewelers of America is spearheading a consumer-facing marketing campaign designed to get consumers, particularly women who buy jewelry for themselves (more on that below), engaged with all types of jewelry.

It will be interesting to see what impact these campaigns have in 2020 and beyond.

3. Signet Bought Zale, LVMH Bought Tiffany
I started working on this blog post in early November and had a clear, single-story entry for No. 3—Signet Jeweler’s Ltd. 2014 purchase of Zale Corp.

Then a few weeks pass and, suddenly, Signet is forced to share.

Luxury Paris-based behemoth LVMH announced Nov. 25 it was acquiring iconic New York retailer Tiffany & Co. in a deal valued at $16.5 billion, for various reasons.

These two billion-dollar deals are the standout headlines in a decade during which consolidation and shrinkage were continual storylines for the U.S. jewelry industry.

Consider this: At the end of 2010, the Jewelers Board of Trade had the size of the North American jewelry industry pegged at 31,623—23,680 retailers, 4,543 wholesalers and 3,400 manufacturers.

Fast-forward to the third quarter 2019, and the JBT’s count has shrunk nearly 18 percent to 26,092—19,738 retailers, 3,777 wholesalers and 2,577 manufacturers.

Leslie Page designed this 14-karat yellow gold ring set with a garnet from Mozambique ($4,000) for the “Lift Collection.” The collection features responsibly sourced gemstones from Anza Gems and is being sold at Greenwich St. Jewelers to benefit mining communities in East Africa.

4. There Was a Pitch to Ditch ‘Semi-Precious’
There have been a couple columns that have caused me to change how I approach my job at National Jeweler, and Monica Stephenson’s February 2015 InStore article advocating for elimination of the term semi-precious is one of them.

In it, the Anza Gems owner wrote there are many beautiful gemstones that could be considered both precious and rare that aren’t one of the “big four”—diamond, sapphire, ruby and emerald.

After I read her column, I instructed National Jeweler’s editors to stop using the term (which is not to say one or two mentions didn’t slip through the cracks over the years).

Monica is right, and her ahead-of-the-times column was the forerunner to a couple trends that will continue to impact the industry in the next decade—the rising popularity of color and the evolving conversation about the value of gemstones, both diamonds and colored.

5. The Casual Revolution Continued
There’s no specific date for this development, but I’ve decided to place it between Monica’s column (2015) and the industry’s marketing revelation because of the year in which the term “athleisure” was officially added to the dictionary—2016.

Athleisure refers specifically to clothing that, years ago, you would you have worn only to the gym.

It’s rise in popularity in recent years is the culmination of a larger, long-term cultural shift in the United States—people don’t “dress up” as much as they used to, whether they’re in the office, at the theater or out to dinner.

Retired Ohio jeweler Jim Alperin, who now resides in Florida, listed the casual revolution as one of the three main factors that’s going to impact the industry going forward.

“I get a television station that shows old shows, ‘Charlie’s Angels,’ ‘The Andy Griffith Show,’ ‘Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C.’ etc. It’s amazing to see how styles have changed. Men were wearing three-piece suits to go to a ball game!” he wrote.

“The trend seems to be continuing and once the styles of old are lost, they will never return. I think that holds true for classic fine jewelry as well. Very few people go to a grand ball today or have reason to wear a diamond collar … it sits in the drawer or the bank.”

It’s an evolution that has jewelry companies and designers rethinking what kind of jewelry they make and considering what people are going to be doing when they wear it.

These 14-karat yellow gold opal and diamond earrings from Wwake were one of the pieces featured in a 2017 National Jeweler story on jewelry to stock for women looking to buy something for themselves.

6. The Industry Had a Marketing Revelation
Former JCK Editor-in-Chief Hedda Schupak was writing about the importance of marketing fashion pieces to women buying jewelry for themselves in the early aughts, so it was no surprise the current editor of the Centurion newsletter listed the following among her top five most important developments of the decade.

At No. 4, she put: “The industry finally, FINALLY starting to acknowledge how important it is to sell jewelry as fashion to a female self-purchase audience.”

Like the casual-dressing revolution, it’s tough to pin an exact date on this one, though it’s worth noting De Beers made women buying their own jewelry the focus of its Forevermark marketing blitz in 2018.

Women also were the stars of the Diamond Producers Association’s “For Me, From Me” campaign that launched in early 2019, and they are the focal point of “Another Piece of Your Story,” the industry-led marketing campaign that just concluded its trial run.

7. ‘Where Was This Made’ Became a Big Conversation
At some point in the past decade, I was at a trade show somewhere (it all blends together after a while, no?) and I heard a De Beers executive say how at one point in time, the company never would have considered talking about its mines in marketing diamond jewelry.

The imagery surrounding mines—piles of dirt and clunky metal machinery—was not what De Beers wanted consumers calling to mind when they thought of luxurious, beautiful diamonds.

Fast-forward to the 2010s, and origin is all anyone wants to talk about it seems.

Consumers want to know where the gold, diamonds and colored gemstones in their jewelry come from, and the industry—including big players like De Beers, Tiffany and even the Gemological Institute of America—is telling them and utilizing new technologies, like blockchain, to help do so.

The issue of ethical sourcing and social responsibility are so big, in fact, they spawned a couple new events in an industry already over-scheduled with trade shows and conferences.

The Jewelry Industry Summit, an interactive forum on responsible sourcing, held its first event in New York City in March 2016 and has had several iterations since then, with its next planned for L.A. in March.

Meanwhile, the first Chicago Responsible Jewelry Conference took place in 2017 and, according to the organization’s website, plans for its fourth edition in 2020 are already underway.

A stack of 10-karat yellow gold rings set with lab-grown blue, pink and white diamonds from De Beers’ brand, Lightbox. The rings retail for $600.

8. De Beers Started Selling Lab-Grown Diamond Jewelry
Almost every single individual I reached out to for this story listed lab-grown diamonds—specifically, the ability to produce colorless or near-colorless diamonds in commercially viable quantities—as one of, if not the, biggest development of the past 10 years.

The decade’s tipping point with man-made diamonds came in May 2018, when De Beers announced it would begin selling inexpensive fashion jewelry set with blue, white and pink diamonds grown in its factory in the U.K.

The brand name for the line is Lightbox.

Originally, it was only sold online, but De Beers was clear from the outset that it wanted to take the line into brick-and-mortar retail as well.

This fall, Bloomingdale’s and Reeds Jewelers became the first physical retailers to carry Lightbox.

Following De Beers’ announcement, more and more retailers picked up lab-grown diamond lines—most significantly Signet—which now sells them at all its major U.S. jewelry banners, JCK’s Rob Bates reported.

Lab-grown diamonds aren’t going away, and they will be an integral part of the coming decade too as their place in the industry solidifies.

What will be their market share?

What will consumers buy them for, exactly? (Hedda wrote lab-grown diamonds “will probably replace the ‘frozen-spit’ category of mined diamonds in lower-end or discount jewelry.”)

How are they going to impact the value of natural diamonds?

And, how are they going to affect consumer perception of natural diamonds?

As my retired retailer friend Jim put it: “You may not like man-made diamonds … but they are a part of today and tomorrow’s jewelry industry.”

Normally, I would end a blog post like this with something along the lines of, “I’m sorry if I’ve missed something.” But I won’t because eliminating unnecessary apologizing is one of my resolutions for 2020.

Happy holidays to all! See you next year.
Michelle Graffis the editor-in-chief at National Jeweler, directing the publication’s coverage both online and in print.

The Latest

Bulgari high jewelry campaign
FinancialsJul 24, 2024
LVMH’s First-Half Jewelry, Watch Sales Dip 5%

Tiffany & Co. is focusing on its “iconic” collections while the company has made changes at the top at TAG Heuer and Hublot.

Chaumet Paris 2024 Olympics medals
MajorsJul 24, 2024
See Chaumet’s Paris Olympic Medals Inspired by its High Jewelry

The Parisian brand is the first jewelry company in the history of the Olympic and Paralympic Games to design the medals.

Jewelers Mutual and Union Life and Casualty logos
MajorsJul 24, 2024
Jewelers Mutual Acquires Pawnbroker Insurance Provider

Union Life & Casualty will join JM Insurance Agency Partners, expanding the provider’s pawnbroker coverage.

Untitled design.jpg
Brought to you by
The End of an Era? Lab-Grown Diamonds' Journey Towards Price Stability

As the demand for lab-grown diamond jewelry may still be increasing, the most notable change we are likely to see is price stabilization.

Bradlei Smith
MajorsJul 24, 2024
Ben Bridge Announces 2024 Lonia Tate Scholarship Winner

Los Angeles-based Bradlei Smith was selected for this year’s award.

Weekly QuizJul 18, 2024
This Week’s Quiz
Test your jewelry news knowledge by answering these questions.
Take the Quiz
National Jeweler columnist Peter Smith
ColumnistsJul 23, 2024
Peter Smith: The Case for Optimism in Sales

In his latest column, Smith shares multiple reasons why people who look at the glass as being hall full often make better salespeople.

De Beers rough diamond display
SourcingJul 23, 2024
De Beers’ Production Drops 15% in Q2

The company also reported the $150 million sale of an iron ore royalty right, part of its ongoing effort to divest “non-core” assets.

1872 x 1052 Gemolite.jpg
Brought to you by
Meet Gemology’s Next Generation Microscope: GIA® Gemolite® NXT Professional Edition

GIA®’s most advanced microscope has new features to optimize greater precision and comfort.

Long’s Jewelers giveaway promo
IndependentsJul 23, 2024
Long’s Jewelers Is Giving Away a Luxury Cape Cod Vacation

The giveaway is part of the New England jeweler’s summer bridal event.

Sophia Moreno-Bunge of Isa Isa modeling Guzema’s Hidden Beauty collection
CollectionsJul 23, 2024
Guzema Debuts ‘Flower Power’ Campaign

The ad features three celebrity florists creating floral sculptures while wearing jewelry by Guzema.

Tresia Shituula, Monkgogi Moshaga, Mohamed Samu
Policies & IssuesJul 23, 2024
Diamonds Do Good Announces Its 2024 Entrepreneurship Grant Winners

The grant provided a total of $100,000 to support 13 entrepreneurs from diamond communities in Africa and India.

Ghazi “Gus” Michel Osta
CrimeJul 22, 2024
Florida Jeweler Shot, Killed Following Argument With Customer

Ghazi Michel Osta, or “Gus,” was killed Friday by an 83-year-old man said to be a frequent customer at his store, Volusia Gold & Diamond.

Elyssa Jenkins-Perez and Effie Marinos
Policies & IssuesJul 22, 2024
JVC’s Elyssa Jenkins-Pérez Joins RJC

The organization also announced Effie Marinos as its new specialist advisor for technical standards, as well as four other appointments.

Karen Rentmeesters
SourcingJul 22, 2024
AWDC Names Karen Rentmeesters as CEO

Rentmeesters has served as interim CEO since April following former CEO Ari Epstein’s resignation.

Brian and Jessie Mann
IndependentsJul 19, 2024
Longtime D.C. Jeweler Brian Mann Dies at 70

Mann, whose family’s jewelry store was located inside the Pentagon, is remembered for being a thoughtful champion of the industry.

Tudor store in Denver
IndependentsJul 19, 2024
The 1916 Company Opens New Tudor Boutique

The 500-square-foot boutique is located in Denver’s Cherry Creek Shopping Center.

Messika’s So Move Max Necklace
CollectionsJul 19, 2024
Piece of the Week: Messika’s ‘So Move Max’ Necklace

Dance all night long with the “So Move Max” set’s necklace.

Julien Tornare and Antoine Pin
WatchesJul 18, 2024
TAG Heuer, Hublot Will Have New CEOs

Luxury giant LVMH is reshuffling the leadership in its watches division.

Etsy billboard rendering in NYC
MajorsJul 18, 2024
New Etsy Campaign Prioritizes Creators Amid Backlash

Sellers and shoppers have spoken out against a rise in mass-produced merchandise on the platform meant to highlight handmade goods.

Ariana Grande Modeling in Swarovski Jewelry
MajorsJul 18, 2024
Swarovski Names Ariana Grande as Its New Brand Ambassador

The celebrity will star in Swarovski’s holiday campaign.

Grizzly emerald
SourcingJul 18, 2024
Grizzly Emerald Auction Garners $32.5 million

The miner said an 835-carat emerald saw “stiff competition” in its July sale.

Tahnee Barbee, Gigi Sui, and Daniela Villacorta
Events & AwardsJul 18, 2024
MJSA Education Foundation Announces 3 Scholarship Winners

The winners were awarded $3,000 each to pursue a professional career in jewelry making and design.

Smiling Rocks Haute Couture Dream Necklace
Lab-GrownJul 17, 2024
Lab-Grown Diamond ‘Dream’ Necklace Sells for $122K at Charity Auction

The piece, created by Smiling Rocks, was the top lot at the recent Ormeley Dinner.

Diavik Diamond Mine solar power plant
SourcingJul 17, 2024
Rio Tinto’s Diamond Production Down 28% in Q2

The company’s sole remaining diamond operation, Diavik, produced 702,000 carats of diamonds, down from 970,000 a year ago.

Buccellati high jewelry earrings
FinancialsJul 17, 2024
Richemont’s Q1 Jewelry Sales Up 2%

In contrast, the luxury giant’s watch sales fell 14 percent.

This year marks the 40th anniversary of the jewelry design contest.
Events & AwardsJul 16, 2024
2024 AGTA Spectrum Awards Open for Entries

This year marks the 40th anniversary of the jewelry design contest and the deadline for entries has just been extended.

Macy’s Herald Square store
MajorsJul 16, 2024
Macy’s Ends Buyout Talks

The retailer will not be making a deal with Arkhouse Management and Brigade Capital Management, opting to focus on its turnaround plan.


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