By Michelle Graff
Moderator Ben Smithee questions, from left, Elizabeth, Kia and Holly about their jewelry buying habits at the WJA In the Know conference held Thursday at Convene in New York.
New York--A trio of consumers took center stage Thursday afternoon in New York, answering questions about lab-grown diamonds as well as where, when, why and how they shop for jewelry.

The panel discussion, “What Do Consumers Want?”, took place at the Women Jewelry Association’s In the Know conference. Ben Smithee, of the Smithee Group, was the moderator and the panelists, Elizabeth, Kia and Holly, were all New York City residents.

Clad in a sharp cobalt blue suit, Smithee guided the discussion with wit and warmth, taking the three women through a variety of topics, including where they shop for jewelry, what their favorite brands are and how brands and retailers can reach them.

The discussion also veered into the territory of lab-grown diamonds, which none of the three panelists seemed completely sold on despite two of them, Holly and Kia, reiterating numerous times how much they “loved” diamonds.

Kia, a Los Angeles native who is 30, single and works on Wall Street, said while she definitely doesn’t want to buy “blood” diamonds, she doesn’t feel that lab-grown diamonds have the same value as mined diamonds.

Holly, who also works on Wall Street and lives in Manhattan’s Tribeca neighborhood with her husband and child, concurred, noting that “When I hear the word lab-created, it sounds (like) less quality.”

The third panelist, Elizabeth, who is married with no children and lives in Brooklyn, brought up the emotion factor. “Scientifically it’s the same but I don’t know if it has that same sentimental feeling,” she said.

During the Q&A portion of the discussion, one audience member asked the panelists if calling the stones something else--cultured--would change their opinion of man-made diamonds.

They did not seem swayed by a simple change in nomenclature.

The trade has argued against the use of the word “cultured” in connection with lab-grown diamonds, contending that that word should be used in connection with organic processes only, such as the one for pearls.

In its proposed revisions to its jewelry guides, however, the Federal Trade Commission has proposed incorporating the word cultured into the guides for lab-grown diamonds, but only if it is immediately accompanied by the terms lab-grown or lab-created. Those revisions remain a work in progress and are open for comment until June 3

Kia said she would still have to “do her homework” on a lab-grown diamond’s value, even if it was called cultured.   When it comes to where they shop for jewelry and what they buy, the panelists, not surprisingly, didn’t seem to have much awareness about jewelry brands beyond those with big advertising budgets: Cartier, Van Cleef & Arpels, David Yurman and Tiffany & Co.

Holly also mentioned Mimi So, Temple St. Clair and Ivanka Trump.

Holly and Kia seemed to stick to department stores such as Saks Fifth Avenue and Bloomingdale’s when it came to shopping for fine jewelry. Elizabeth mentioned she would frequent smaller neighborhood shops where she lives in Brooklyn, though she noted, “I really don’t have one specific place I go to.”

In a bright spot for brick-and-mortar retailers, the panelists did express a bit of reservation about buying fine jewelry online. Elizabeth said she would not buy fine jewelry if she could not see it first, and Kia said she would only purchase from the websites of brick-and-mortar retailers because she likes to have a place to visit in person if there’s a problem.

Also not surprisingly, the two younger panelists, Kia and Holly, said social media was the best way to reach them, Pinterest in particular.

In an interview following the panel, the two also shared some of the hashtags they used to find jewelry on social media, and they were pretty simple: #diamonds, #jewelry, #gemstones and, from Kia, #bling.

“Every company and brand needs to leverage that (social media) because that’s the best way to communicate with a lot of people,” Kia said on stage.

Get the Daily News >
National Jeweler

Fine Jewelry Industry News

Since 1906, National Jeweler has been the must-read news source for smart jewelry professionals--jewelry retailers, designers, buyers, manufacturers, and suppliers. From market analysis to emerging jewelry trends, we cover the important industry topics vital to the everyday success of jewelry professionals worldwide. National Jeweler delivers the most urgent jewelry news necessary for running your day-to-day jewelry business here, and via our daily e-newsletter, website and other specialty publications, such as "The State of the Majors." National Jeweler is published by Jewelers of America, the leading nonprofit jewelry association in the United States.