By Lenore Fedow
A “Unity” ring in 18-karat yellow gold featuring an oval center stone from De Beers-owned brand Forevermark. A recent De Beers survey found some higher-income consumers who feel life is returning to normal after the COVID-19 lockdowns are interested in diamond jewelry brands.
New York—Consumer sentiment may be on shaky ground but demand for diamond jewelry is steady, one of the world’s largest diamond miners said in reporting results from a new survey.

De Beers Group CEO Bruce Cleaver shared findings from its Diamond Insight Global Sentiment Report during a keynote address at a Luxury by JCK virtual forum earlier this week.

The report takes a look at what the holiday season may have in store for the diamond trade amid COIVD-19, compiling consumer research from the United States, China and India.

The researchers surveyed 2,800 men and women ages 20 to 65 with household incomes of at least $75,000 in the U.S. and a similar demographic in China and India.

The report considered a range of consumer indicators, including how they felt in the current environment, what they planned to gift this holiday season, and how they prefer to engage with brands and retailers over the coming months.

Here are five takeaways.

1) Diamond jewelry is on shopper’s minds this holiday season.

Consumers across all markets are planning to buy diamond jewelry this holiday season, said the De Beers report.

In the U.S., 60 percent of men surveyed said they plan to purchase diamond jewelry for a significant other.

Nearly one-third of women surveyed plan to purchase for themselves.

In China and India, more than 80 percent of men and women said they were likely to buy diamond jewelry for a significant other or for themselves.

Professionals under 35, who tend to be consumers of “middle affluence” who work full-time, showed especially high levels of intent and expectation to buy diamond jewelry, the report found.

More than 80 percent of shoppers in this group have children at home.

“For this group, the engine of life continues; amongst Indian and U.S. respondents particularly, positivity, not stability, is ranked as their No. 1 need,” said the report.

As for where customers will be shopping, the report found shoppers plan to browse and shop both online and offline “regardless of retail channel, from large chains to local independents, with a slight preference for offline purchases in most channels.”

2) Connecting with past customers is key.

More than 80 percent of shoppers planning to buy diamond jewelry this holiday season have bought some, either for themselves or others, in the past two years.

“This is an important reminder that in an industry based on personal connections and relationships, we should give time and attention to our past customers,” said the report.

Cleaver said this year has been a reminder not to take anything or anyone for granted.

“While the external environment remains uncertain, in this unprecedented moment in time, we have the unusual opportunity to build even more lasting and meaningful connections with consumers at the culmination of a year when we’ve all been reminded that we cannot take our precious relationships, or even human connections, for granted,” he said.

3) Consumers are drawn to classic jewelry pieces.

De Beers’ report found that in every market, consumers were interested in classic pieces of jewelry, particularly simple solitaires.

“With so much uncertainty and change around us, timeless classics such as diamond solitaire earrings, necklaces and rings have strong appeal as proven designs,” said the report.

A subset of consumers with higher incomes who feel life was returning to normal were looking past the classics and leaning toward diamond jewelry brands.

De Beers said this finding highlighted “the critical role that brands play in de-risking design innovation by adding a critical level of trust and reassurance to the shopping experience.”

4) Consumer sentiment in China is ahead of other key markets.

Consumers in all markets are still feeling unsettled amid the COVID-19 pandemic in terms of their financial, health, educational and social situations.

However, the report found that more consumers are adjusting to a new way of life.

In China, 85 percent of those surveyed said they are either settled into a new routine that now seems familiar, or feel their life is returning--or even has returned fully--to normal.

In the U.S., 65 percent of those surveyed said the same. In India, 63 percent said they were on the path to or had reached normalcy.

Though consumer sentiment in the U.S. and India is behind China, it is on the mend. A majority of those surveyed said they were moving toward feeling settled in a new routine.

5) Consumers are open to hearing about diamonds, even now.

Purchasing diamond jewelry may understandably not be top of mind for every consumer amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

However, the report found a majority of respondents still wanted and expected to hear about diamonds via marketing initiatives.

Those most open to hearing about diamonds were the consumers who felt most comfortable with their new routines.

The report stressed the need to invest in health and safety measures, like social distancing and wearing masks, to make customers feel safe and comfortable in a retail environment.

The respondents who felt the most uncertain about their situation still didn’t reject the idea of hearing more about diamond jewelry.

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