Surveys

10 Retailers on Why They Expect the Diamond Boom to Continue

SurveysOct 21, 2021

10 Retailers on Why They Expect the Diamond Boom to Continue

However, their optimistic outlook comes with a hint of caution due to a number of factors out of their collective control.

New York—As you might have read, diamond jewelry sales have been surging as of late.

Will this trend continue through the holiday season? All signs point to yes, so far. 

But that doesn’t mean the 10 retailers recently interviewed by National Jeweler aren’t tempering their rosy outlooks with a bit of caution given economic factors such as inflation and supply chain constraints, continued uncertainty about in-store foot traffic, and just general unease.   

Read on to learn more about what retailers from around the country have been selling so far this year and what they expect to move more of this holiday season.

Northeast: Diamonds Do Well 
For Bellman Jewelers in Manchester, New Hampshire, 2021 has proved to be a strong year, with the jeweler recording some “really excellent months,” David Bellman told National Jeweler.

He added customers have been comfortable visiting the store in person, a trend he expects to continue.

Diamond jewelry has been particularly strong for the retailer this year, led mostly by engagement ring purchases.

The store promotes the category heavily on social media, both to highlight the products it carries and to educate buyers, an added aspect that resonates with shoppers.

This is an approach the store will continue to take as it moves into the holiday season, Bellman said.

Additionally, Bellman Jewelers has been selling a lot of classics, like diamond bracelets and diamond stud earrings.

As the holiday season approaches, Bellman said he expects engagement rings, bands, and diamond staples to continue to do well.

December has always been the biggest month of the year for the store, and he said he doesn’t expect this year to be any different, barring any major events that negatively affect the economy or consumer confidence.

“There are a few economic variables I will keep my eye on that might influence consumer buying habits, depending on their severity,” he said, “but I think it will all turn out well in the end.”

“As we begin to start socializing again, [our clients] want to have a cool, updated look but still want it to be understated and elegant.”— Dawn Hendricks, Peridot Fine Jewelry 

Dawn Hendricks of Peridot Fine Jewelry in Larchmont, New York, said she expects diamonds to do well for the store this holiday season since it’s a category that always does.

Diamonds “represent quality and luxury and value, and they are neutral and match any wardrobe,” she observed. 

Hendricks said her customers are flocking to easy, mask-friendly studs, as well as mismatched studs for those with multiple ear piercings and small hoops with diamond accents.

In particular, the store does a lot of business with TAP by Todd Pownell because clients love his unique approach to designing diamond jewels, Hendricks said.

“I think our client has always been minimalist, but now as we begin to start socializing again, they want to have a cool, updated look but still want it to be understated and elegant.”

Going into the holiday season, she said her biggest concern is making sure the store has enough jewelry stocked; many of their designer partners work 10-12 weeks out rather than the usual 4-6 weeks, making it “nearly impossible” to fill in at the last minute and requiring them to carefully judge quantities needed for each category and price point.

Hendricks is “hopeful” clients will be healthy and happy to shop in store more, continuing a trend that started this fall. She added that many likely will continue to research and buy online as well.

“As our clients attend more events and travel, hopefully they will be excited about buying some new accessories for their winter and spring wardrobe,” she said.

Southeast: Cautiously Optimistic
“Diamonds are really king when it comes to fashion jewelry these days,” said Matthew Rosenheim, CEO at Tiny Jewel Box in Washington, D.C. “It’s a dominant category.”

For the holidays, Tiny Jewel Box will stock up on diamond jewelry above other categories, including gold jewelry and colored gemstones.

Classic pieces, like studs and tennis bracelets, have always been holiday favorites but are even more important now when people aren’t out and about as much as in years past.

“When it comes to more high-end diamond jewelry we are being very cautious,” Rosenheim explained. “There’s diminished action for jewelry for black-tie events.”

But that doesn’t mean the store isn’t making big sales.

“There are plenty of affluent customers out there but wearability is key and relation to lifestyle is very important. We need casual expensive things—things that can be worn not just for our fanciest occasions, which most of us are doing a lot of less of.”

What’s been interesting for the D.C. store is the uptick in carat weight for engagement rings.

“The average stone size has really increased relatively dramatically,” Rosenheim noted, not just for more “mature buyers” with greater spending power, but for first-time bridal customers too.

The 1.5-carat to 5-carat stones are selling well, with a huge increase in sales of 3-carat and 4-carat diamonds. After round brilliant cuts, ovals are big, followed by emerald and radiant cuts.   

All of this is cause for a positive holiday outlook but Rosenheim is still concerned about the lack of foot traffic in the area compared to years past.

“We are located in a central business district where people haven’t returned to the office,” he explained.

Tiny Jewel Box is a destination and benefitting from the health of the market, but it is unprecedented for so many federal government employees, as well as the related lobbyists, attorneys, etc., in the D.C. ecosystem to be working remotely.

“Related industries really take cues off of the governments,” he explained. “That’s a concern out of my control. We’re still having success and growth despite that fact.”

Allen’s Jewelers in Albany, Georgia can attest to the surging jewelry sales much of the industry has experienced since the pandemic started.

Steve Allen said that 2021 sales have been “way ahead” of where the store would typically be going into the holiday season. 

“We’ve sold more engagement rings this year than we ever have,” he noted.

One-carat diamonds are a good seller for them, but they try to have a couple of 1.5-carat, 2-carat, and 3-carats in stock too. 

“We’re still selling a lot more rounds than anything else,” said Allen, “but there’s an uptick in people asking for ovals and cushions.”

The store sells engagement rings mainly from June through the end of the year, so it should be a significant part of holiday sales per usual.

“We’re just hoping for the best, but preparing for everything.”— Steve Allen, Allen’s Jewelers

Outside of bridal, Allen’s Jewelers customers are buying lots of diamond flex bangles, halo pendants in assorted shapes, and lots of diamond earrings. 

Despite how great business is, Allen tempers any holiday season predictions with a bit of caution.

“We’re just hoping for the best, but preparing for everything,” Allen said. “We’re always concerned because of the way the economy is going but people are spending money because they’re not traveling as much.” 

 Related stories will be right here … 

Midwest: A Merry and Bright Holiday, Heavy on the Custom Designs
At Josephs Jewelers in West Des Moines, Iowa, Vice President Trisha Josephs is preparing for a happy holiday.

The store has stocked up on diamond fashion jewelry and trendy yellow gold pieces. Estate jewelry and colored stones were also on its inventory wish list.

“We mostly purchase our color loose and design around the stones,” said Josephs.

The jeweler recently added Roberto Coin to its selection and has high hopes for its performance this season.

Founded in 1871 by Solomon Joseph, its first store opened in downtown Des Moines followed by a second in West Des Moines.

The 150-year-old jeweler has fared well through many holiday seasons but is concerned about running out of inventory this year as supply chain constraints plague retailers across industries.

In McCook, Nebraska, Bill Longnecker of Longnecker Jewelry also forecasted a merry and bright selling season.

He stocked up on diamond studs this year, a category that’s been in a slump for the past 10 years in his store, though new diamond advertising campaigns may have given it the boost it needed, said Longnecker.

The Natural Diamond Council introduced a new campaign in August highlighting the good mined diamonds do around the world and launched the second iteration of “For Moments Like No Other” in September.

Also, De Beers is set to unveil a new marketing campaign built around the iconic tagline “A Diamond is Forever” later this month.

“People are getting very worried about the future; they frequently discuss this with us on the sales floor. When people start openly voicing their opinions in public, it is a bad sign.”— Bill Longnecker, Longnecker Jewelry 

Diamond jewelry sales account for about 60 percent of Longnecker Jewelry’s overall sales, so that trend is expected to continue through the holidays.

Pearl jewelry sales have also been on the rise, but the bestsellers may be the store’s one-of-a-kind designs.

“This is new for us but we have committed to stocking more of our own creations this holiday,” he said.

While his overall outlook for the season is positive, Longnecker has noticed a lot of negative talk from his customers as the cost of living rises alongside inflation.

“People are getting very worried about the future; they frequently discuss this with us on the sales floor. When people start openly voicing their opinions in public, it is a bad sign,” he said.

But with a well-trained staff, the right mix of inventory, and a new flyer, Longnecker is hopeful for a strong holiday season.
South Central: Meeting Demand
In Fort Smith, Arkansas, Kelly Newton of Newton’s Jewelers said the store has been experiencing diamond fever since about April 2020. 

“Very little hasn’t been hot in the last year and a half,” he said. “It doesn’t matter if it’s radiants, rounds cushions, or ovals, we can’t keep anything in stock.” 

Newton said the store is buying diamonds daily to replace what they sell, and larger stones on average than in years past, with the 2- to 6-carat range particularly in demand.

“Larger stones are the real strange thing,” he said. “It’s consistent. That’s the really unbelievable part.”

In addition to bridal jewelry, diamond stud earrings are a major seller.  

Ahead of the holidays Newton Jewelers is doing its best to stock up as much as possible on “anything we can find.” 

The store just brought in a bridal jewelry line new to it, Christopher Designs. Typically, they don’t introduce new brands in the fourth quarter but it’s indicative of the demand they’re seeing. (In total, Newton’s Jewelers carries about nine bridal lines.) 

Still, Newton doesn’t take this kind of business for granted. There are so many unknowns in the pandemic era that he’d be foolish not to be a little cautious.

“It’s too much stuff going on in this world; it’s very distracting. At any one time we don’t know what could happen. I’m concerned about a lot of the politics and things related to that that could certainly put some fear in people,” said Newton.

In general, “Commerce is having some problems and that has affected us. Demand is so intense that some of our suppliers are having a real problem supplying any of us.”

“I’m taking more design risks this year.” — Susan Eisen, Susan Eisen Fine Jewelry and Watches  

Susan Eisen of Susan Eisen Fine Jewelry & Watches in El Paso, Texas forecasts a terrific holiday season this year.

“I’m very hopeful. I think it’s going to be a great year,” she said.

She is seeing an increased interest in fancy shapes in the diamond jewelry category, with her clientele gravitating toward cushions, pears, marquises, and ovals. 

With the conversation about lab-grown diamonds ever increasing she predicts greater demand for natural diamonds from the brands she stocks, like De Beers-owned Forevermark. 

While one sector of the market might have interest in lab-growns, Eisen thinks it helps to highlight the specialness of diamonds the Earth has created, making them even more sought after.

Eisen is known for her custom work and has a lot planned heading into the holidays. 

“I’m taking more design risks this year,” she said. 

Rather than tennis bracelets and other classics, she’s focusing on interesting pieces with multiple stones in various shapes.

“I’m venturing out this year and using a lot of my inventory,” said Eisen. “We’re using a mixture of stone sizes in one piece, whereas before I was a little more conservative.” 

Now she’s “becoming more open to trying new things.”

For these one-of-a-kind designs it’s all about finding more clientele who cannot only afford big pieces, but also appreciate design and uniqueness. “It’s a limited market,” she said.

Her biggest concern, however, is just being able to handle the custom requests over the holidays, which has been an issue for several years.

Decades ago, Eisen explained, people would start planning Christmas shopping as early as October. 

Today, she’ll get custom requests in the week leading up to Christmas, and sometimes she needs four to six weeks to complete them.

West: A Story of Lab-Grown Growth
Bill Sakkab of Desert Diamond Jewelers in Henderson, Nevada (just outside Las Vegas) said he’s been having his best year on record.

The store sells high-end secondhand goods and has recently been doing particularly well in pre-owned Rolexes, Sakkab said, and is gearing up for the big engagement season.

He said the millennial consumer group is looking for custom engagement rings, largely doing their research online and bringing in pictures of what they like to get started. He also noted they aren’t shying away from bridal priced anywhere from $4,000 up to even $8,000.

Sakkab added that they’ve seen a slight uptick in requests for lab-grown diamonds, which the store is happy to accommodate.

Ultimately, with bridal, rounds are still king, followed by emerald cuts, but they’ve also had a few requests for marquise cuts in the past few weeks, he said.

As a store that is constantly buying from the public, they have plenty of goods in their inventory and so haven’t been stocking up on anything in particular ahead of the holidays.

The store also doesn’t rely on an uptick in sales during the holidays. When it was located in a mall, that might have been true, Sakkab told National Jeweler, but since they moved into a plaza, spending is spread more evenly throughout the year.

Still, he expects the season to be a good one as the store continues to be “unbelievably busy.”

Business at Fox Fine Jewelry in Ventura, California has “been on a tear” since COVID-19, Debbie Fox told National Jeweler, but added that the “realistic possibility that this will slow or reverse” is a part of the store’s long-term planning.

“There’s a direct correlation between the stock market and our revenues.”— Debbie Fox, Fox Fine Jewelry 

She noted there is a “clear, prominent upward trend” in lab-grown diamond sales. As the store heads into the holiday season, they’re stocking a larger inventory of diamond fashion jewelry and lab-grown diamond basics.

And since new trends usually come from shoppers buying for themselves, she expects to see more trends pop up during the holiday season, even though the proportion of trendy item sales will be lower than they are throughout the year since more holiday gifts are purchased by men.

“That said, we’ve increased our inventory of diamond ear cuffs, station necklaces with diamond dangles, and significantly increased the proportion of yellow gold [we carry].”

Fox said she expects higher price points to win out this season—unless, that is, there’s a major economic change.

“There’s a direct correlation between the stock market and our revenues,” she said, noting specific concerns about repercussions from China’s real estate market and the U.S. debt ceiling.

And yet, she’s optimistic. If everything continues as it has this year, “it’s a good thing we hired three additional salespeople.”

Ashley Davisis the senior editor, fashion at National Jeweler, covering all things related to design, style and trends.
Lenore Fedowis the associate editor, news at National Jeweler, covering the retail beat and the business side of jewelry.
Brecken Branstratoris the senior editor, gemstones at National Jeweler, covering sourcing, pricing and other developments in the colored stone sector.

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