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

AuctionsSep 30, 2022
Red Diamond Earns $1.8M at Auction

The final hammer price blew the pre-sale estimate out of the water.

Policies & IssuesSep 30, 2022
Voting Is Open for the Fairmined 100 Challenge’s Best Collection

The winners, picked by a group of judges and voted as the public’s favorite, will be announced in a webinar on Oct. 11.

CollectionsSep 30, 2022
Piece of the Week: Fewer Finer’s ‘Family Bracelet’

The engravable piece is a perfect family heirloom.

Brought to you by
6 Steps to Start a Dynamic Company Culture

Learn how to better serve your employees, customers and community by having a dynamic and supportive company culture.

GradingSep 30, 2022
GSI India Names Ramit Kapur Managing Director

Kapur has spent nearly two decades working in the gemological labs sector of the jewelry industry.

Weekly QuizSep 29, 2022
This Week’s Quiz
Test your knowledge of the latest jewelry news with this quick test.
Take the Quiz
Supplier BulletinSep 29, 2022
How to Create an Engaging Experience and a Sparkling Reputation

Sponsored by Synchrony

SourcingSep 29, 2022
Q&A: Constantin Wild Celebrates 175 Years in the Colored Stone Business

The family business’ fourth-generation eponymous owner reflects on the milestone and the market today.

Brought to you by
Committing to an Ethical Diamond Business

While ethical mining is essential to a diamond business, they represent only a fraction of the responsibility bestowed on jewelers.

AuctionsSep 29, 2022
See the Top Lots in Christie’s Upcoming Rare Watch Sale

According to Christie’s, the auction is its most important single-owner watch collection ever.

CollectionsSep 29, 2022
Trove Has a New Proposal: Ring Boxes

The jewelry box brand is expanding with both single and double ring boxes in red, mint green, and white.

SourcingSep 29, 2022
AGTA Names Jennifer Heebner Editor-in-Chief of its Publications

The association has also hired a new marketing manager and announced two staff transitions.

Policies & IssuesSep 29, 2022
JA Members Return to Capitol Hill to Voice Jewelers’ Concerns

The topics up for discussion with lawmakers included inflation, rising interest rates, hiring challenges, and crime.

AuctionsSep 28, 2022
The 18-Carat ‘Fortune Pink’ Diamond Could Sell for $35M

The pear-shaped fancy vivid pink diamond will lead the Christie’s Geneva Magnificent Jewels auction on Nov. 8.

SurveysSep 28, 2022
Consumer Confidence Rises in September

U.S. consumer confidence rose for the second consecutive month as gas prices fell.

MajorsSep 28, 2022
Artistry’s 2023 Catalog Is Out Now

The jewelry catalog features an updated layout and 160 pages of product.

MajorsSep 28, 2022
JFC’s 2022 ‘Hope for the Holidays’ Program Is an Adorable Menagerie

There are three designs to choose from this year, all featuring animals drawn by kids who have had wishes granted through Make-A-Wish.

AuctionsSep 27, 2022
In Betty White’s Blockbuster Estate Sale, Jewelry Held Its Own

Fine jewelry comprised three of the auction’s top 10 lots, though it could not top her director’s chair or scripts from “The Golden Girls.”

CrimeSep 27, 2022
3 Suspects in Beverly Hills Smash-and-Grab Robbery Arrested

A total of four suspects are now in custody with police still on the lookout for the remaining two.

ColumnistsSep 27, 2022
Creative Connecting: Fun Ideas for Holiday 2022 In-Store Events

From a “whodunnit” murder mystery to a permanent jewelry party, Duvall O’Steen and Jen Cullen Williams share a wealth of suggestions.

MajorsSep 27, 2022
Stuller Releases 2 Updated Catalogs Ahead of the Holiday Season

“Mountings 2023-2024” and “Diamonds & Gemstones 2023-2024” offer a vast selection of options to create custom pieces.

Events & AwardsSep 27, 2022
ICA’s 2023 Congress Will Be Held in Dubai

The event will be hosted by the Dubai Multi Commodities Centre from Feb. 15-17.

IndependentsSep 26, 2022
Roberson’s Fine Jewelry to Close After 42 Years

The store’s liquidation sale will showcase the mix of classic and unique jewels it’s known for stocking.

CollectionsSep 26, 2022
Go ‘Inside the Dream’ of Bulgari Via a New Documentary on Amazon Prime

It follows Creative Director Lucia Silvestri as she crafts the brand’s high jewelry collections.

Recorded WebinarsSep 26, 2022
Watch: What Jewelers Should Know About Insurance

From safeguarding showcases to appraisal liability, insurance experts Mark Devereaux and Andrew Chipman share insurance tips for jewelers.

TrendsSep 26, 2022
Vahan Collabs With Wolf on a Jewelry Box

It’s the first time in 50 years the brand has made something other than jewelry.

Events & AwardsSep 26, 2022
Texas Jewelers Association Rolls Out New Format for Design Competition

The competition takes place in tandem with TJA’s annual convention, known as the Texas Jewelers Roundup.

CollectionsSep 23, 2022
Pandora Reimagines Keith Haring’s Art in New Collection

The limited-run collection features figures from Haring’s iconic street art on charms, bracelets, rings, and more.


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