By Michelle Graff

In the four years I’ve worked here, much has been said about the generation labeled as “Generation Y” or the “Millennials” and its importance to the jewelry industry. As just one example, I penned this article in August 2010 on how the size of the Millennial generation is poised to have a big impact on the bridal market.

When I wrote that article, we were in the midst of an upswing, and the pervading sentiment was that a 100 percent recovery was just around the corner.

More than a year later, we can see that this is not the case. Unemployment remains high and many young adults, some just fresh out of college, are struggling just to find a full-time job and scrape together the necessary funds for a security deposit on their own apartment.

Forget spending $4,000 or more on an engagement ring to pop the question and then putting a down payment on a house.

A recent article in New York magazine titled “The Kids Are Actually Sort Of Alright” and written by a 27-year-old New York staff writer presented some eye-opening statistics in this vein, showing just how deeply members of the Millennial generation have been impacted by the downturn.

To wit: 14 percent of those who were members of the undergraduate classes of 2006 to 2010 can’t find full-time work, and only about half (55 percent) of those aged 16 to 29 have jobs. Many young people (ages 25 to 34) have moved back in with their parents since the start of the recession, and the majority of Americans think this current crop of 20-somethings won’t be better off than their parents.

After reading the New York magazine article, I checked in with industry analyst Ken Gassman, a contributor to my Millennial brides story, to see if he’s revising his outlook on this generation.

What he told me is this: 2009 jewelry sales data by age of shopper shows that Millennials continued to spend their money on jewelry. The acquisition rate for diamond engagement rings held steady at 75 percent of all brides, though the average ticket for said rings fell by about 10 percent.

The 2010 data won’t be available until sometime in late November but Gassman is betting that those current trends won’t hold.

Interestingly enough, he also noted that he recently revised his wedding forecast downward in the past month or so. This is in line with statistics presented in the New York article, which stated that the median age of first marriages increased by a solid year since 2006, and that the overall marriage rate is at an all-time low.

It makes sense. After all, it seems like not being able to find a full-time job and move out of your parents’ place--the normal, and up until now, unconditionally accepted touchstones of transitioning into adulthood--puts a real crimp in your social life.

The New York article also raised, in my mind, the question of how this generation will view material possessions, including jewelry, when, and if, the economy begins to pick up again. One author interviewed for the story said that the recession has brought about a pronounced decrease in materialism in this particular generation. It’s a group that can experience books, movies and music without having to actually own them and that is perfectly alright with them.

Millennials, as the story’s author puts it, are “onboard” with having “less stuff,” perhaps making it less of a gold mine (no pun intended) of jewelry buyers than originally thought.

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