By Brecken Branstrator
Today’s bridal customers are looking for more unique rings that speak to their personal style, like this 18-karat “Double Flow” ring from Anne Sportun ($2,410 for band, not including center stone).
New York--It’s no secret that today’s bridal consumer is very different from those of generations past.

Changes like the legalization of same-sex marriage in states across the country has brought new customers to the bridal segment, and consumers’ desire to find a piece that speaks to personal style continues to grow.

Since bridal continues to be such an important part of many retailers’ sales, it’s increasingly important that they take the time to understand and cater to this crowd.

“The New Bridal Landscape” panel discussion held at the JA New York Show on Monday covered just that. Led by Amanda Gizzi, director of public relations and special events at Jewelers of America, panelists were Hal Rubenstein, global style director at Gabriel & Co.; Shane Clark, senior fashion and accessories editor at Brides magazine; and Yanni Kyriazis, designer at David Lee Holland Fine Jewelry.

Across the various perspectives provided in the seminar--wholesale, design, retail and editorial--the sentiment remained the same: It’s important that jewelers not jump to conclusions about the type of jewelry they think a customer wants.

Bridal jewelry represents an extremely sentimental part of someone’s life, and a jeweler should be there to listen and understand what the client is looking for exactly.

Providing many options also is crucial for today’s consumer, beyond just the traditional solitaire stone. 

Because customers are looking for unique stones and settings, “just to have a rock with a band, that doesn’t cut it,” Rubenstein said.

Trends the experts said they see coming in 2015 and beyond include mixed metals, especially with rose gold, and traditional cuts coming back into style, such as oval and marquise diamonds, but set with modern, updated looks.

Kyriazis also noted that in the U.S. market, he’s noticing that bridal customers seem to be looking for smaller stones of higher quality, and that provenance of the stone is of increasing importance. 

He added that today’s bridal consumer will continue looking for unique or alternative rings that not only match their styles but also are “portfolio additions”--investment pieces that will stay in their collections for life.

Rubenstein added, “It’s so key now to understand the personality of the person coming in to buy that ring.”

These days, the four Cs don’t matter as much to consumers, especially since many of them have already done much of their research online. The role of the jeweler now is less about presenting that information and more about finding the ring that will express the special aspects of each relationship.

Kyriazis also noted the importance of a fifth “C” these days: confidence. It’s important to establish a relationship with clients so that they trust you enough to not only come to you at such a special time in their lives, but also keep coming back to you.

Bringing forward a new consumer base to jewelers is the increasing number of states that are starting to legally recognize same-sex marriages.

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Since no traditions have been established for weddings in the LGBT market, many of the couples are trying to find their own unique ways to celebrate their matrimony. 

There are now more options for men’s bands, though that market still remains underserved, Clark said. More unique styles are available for males, including mixed metals and stones. But one of the most important aspects for retailers is that they make sure the customer listens and lets them know they are there to help.

In addition, more American adults than ever before also are getting remarried, adding more new customers and opportunities for jewelers.

Though the experts had varying opinions on how the second-time bride shops, all three seemed to agree that this bride is looking for something different, which could mean a new setting for an old stone or adding color.

In the end, it’s up to jewelers to stay open-minded when it comes to their offerings, as this could present an opportunity to get creative or sell the piece that might be less popular for most brides but speaks perfectly to the second- or even third-time bride.

“The second wedding is more about everything looking different and being different,” Rubenstein said. 

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