The Future of the Jewellery Industry: Trends & Insights

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The global jewellery market has seen continuous growth in the past few years and is projected to reach $480.5 billion by 2025, according to a new report by Grand View Research, Inc, expanding by 8.1% over the forecast period. Jewellery has become one of the fastest-growing divisions in the luxury sector, prompting LVMH’s largest purchase yet: the $16.2bn (£12.4bn) acquisition of Tiffany in 2019.

Consumers are increasingly comfortable shopping online for jewellery, and are much more likely to make high-ticket purchases online than five years ago. According to Gartner L2, the share of online sales across US and Western European jewellery sales doubled over 2019 –– to the detriment of brick-and-mortar brands. More than 1 in 20 US jewellers stopped trading in 2018, according to the Jewellers’ Board of Trade (JBT), as companies were forced to either consolidate or close their doors. The UK industry, despite suffering tough trading conditions on the UK high street, still looks to be thriving –– largely due to the ever-continuing demand for luxury goods. 

But mid-market jewellery brands and retailers are too suffering from declining footfall and consumer uncertainty; and the competition from niche independent brands is rising. 

Specialist retailers and brands must, therefore, work much harder to stand out from the crowd, avoiding the fate of retailers like Links of London, who succumbed to the threats in 2019.  

But despite the decline of the high street, purchasing of jewellery has gone up: two-thirds of people in the UK have bought jewellery or watches for themselves or someone else within the past five years, which is an increase of 5% in comparison to 2018. 

Factors cited as contributors to the global growth of the market include a growing number of digital buyers, an increasing female population, increasing middle-class population and growing tourism. That said, there are challenges in the form of declining rough-diamond mine supplies, e-Commerce fraud and even delayed marriages. 

So what trends can we expect to see in the jewellery industry in 2020 and beyond? How can brands understand the drivers and behaviours from different demographics in order to form effective growth strategies? 

Top Category Trends

A Fashion Goldmine

As one of the fastest-growing divisions of luxury, it’s no surprise that fashion houses are rushing to enter the market. And what high-end fashion houses lack in high jewellery experience, they make up for in brand power. Asian consumers in particular seek products that are “instantly recognisable across a bar or a restaurant” — something that these groups can provide.

Giorgio Armani Privé, Prada, Dolce & Gabbana and Hermès all debuted their first high jewellery collections last year. Gucci, owned by Kering, also entered the high jewellery market, debuting a garden-themed haute joaillerie collection during the twice-yearly couture shows in Paris with a dedicated space in the Place Vendôme. The Hortus Deliciarum collection, Latin for “Garden of Delights,” consists of more than 200 pieces, the majority of which are one-of-a-kind.

A piece from Gucci’s Hortus Deliciarum, or ‘Garden of Delights’. 

 Louis Vuitton entered the fine jewellery market in 2012, where it competes with the LVMH-owned Bulgari and Richemont’s Cartier.  Michael Burke, chairman and chief executive of Louis Vuitton told the Financial Times, “It’s the biggest potential we have right now,” noting that jewellery is presently “one of the highest-growth categories we have, if not the highest”. 

And Louis Vuitton is certainly putting its money where its mouth is.  Following the $16.2 billion purchase of Tiffany by LVMH, the French behemoth signalled that it is set to dominate the high-end jewellery market by purchasing the ultimate status symbol: the largest rough diamond discovered since 1905, the 1,758-carat Sewelo diamond. Estimated at being worth between $6.5 million and $19.5 million, it was displayed at the Louis Vuitton Place Vendôme store in Paris and was presented to clients and press during a preview and 80-person dinner at the couture shows in Paris, before embarking on a “world tour” (First stop: Taiwan). 

Crystal Clear Production

This shows a shift towards more transparency in the previously mysterious world of diamonds: a fascination with the stone, coupled with the increasing demand for sustainable production processes and traceable, ethical supply chains, means new procedures are coming into play. 

Transparency is critical especially among millennials, who favour products and businesses that have a conscience. The 4 Cs will no longer cut it –– millennials want to be assured that what they are buying has not had a negative impact on humans or the environment. The provenance of the stone is key.

Large diamonds remain the subject of public fascination. 

Regenerated Manufacturing

Mintel’s report demonstrates that sustainability and ethics are top of mind for 55% of UK jewellery buyers, who say it’s important for them that the jewellery and watches they purchase are made ethically.

With an increased awareness of sustainability comes a desire for recycled materials: many contemporary jewellers have been using mainly recycled gold for years, while others –– such as Lilian Von Trapp and Vieri –– work exclusively with it. 

British brand Lylie’s uses precious metal salvaged from technology waste, dental waste and clients’ unwanted scrap: a process known as ‘e-mining’. 

We can expect to see more jewellers shaking off the drab connotations of ‘recycling’ and elevating it to a luxury practice in 2020 and beyond. 

During the annual ChangeNow summit in January, Kering announced it had achieved 88% traceability for key raw materials, an important metric for brands to use to verify their environmental impacts and sustainability claims.  Kering is investing in technology and innovation to support its sustainability initiatives, and has established a materials innovation lab for sustainable innovation in jewellery and watches.  

Experiential

More and more jewellers are opening piercing salons, as demand skyrockets, largely due to the trend of multiple ear piercings. Maria Tash at Liberty and Harrods, Lark & Berry in Marylebone and Sacred Gold in Coal Drops Yard are a far cry from the grungy tattoo and piercing studios of Camden High Street –– arguably a rite of passage for many a 15-year-old. 

The Fifth ‘C’: Customisation

Rising demand for bespoke commissions reflects the luxury-wide demand for personalisation, but it’s also linked directly to upcycling. 

“Year on year, our bespoke department is growing as customers like to have their own choices incorporated into the design of the ring. Upcycling is also showing no signs of abating with the redesign and use of old stones key, whether it’s a family piece remodelled for the next generation or instead of having lots of jewellery pieces, one large piece of jewellery is made and the stones are reused.” –– Carol Sinfield, Hockley Mint

Lylie’s storied approach to the history of their recycled raw materials gives each piece a unique backstory, which is desirable to customers who are seeking a piece with meaning. 

Louis Vuitton traditionally bought cut gems but has started buying rough stones after seeing a surge in demand for unique creations, working with clients directly to determine their final forms.

The brand’s recent hire of Francesca Amfitheatrof, the former design director of Tiffany, as artistic director of watches and jewellery, signals their intention to stand out. A trained metalsmith, Amfitheatrof creates bold, daring designs for customers keen to assert their strength and independence. Her debut haute joaillerie collection took inspiration from medieval heroines such as Joan of Arc and Eleanor of Aquitaine.

“We’re not specialising in rings with a centre stone, surrounded by pavé diamonds — others do that very well”. If we are going to exist in this métier, we have to have a different creative approach.” –– Francesca Amfitheatrof

In addition to unique designs, brands also want to offer unique takes on the diamonds themselves.

LVMH patented two proprietary diamond cuts in the form of its monogram, a flower and a star. A brilliant-cut diamond has 57 facets –– Louis Vuitton’s have between 61 and 77. Of course.  

All-Gender Pieces

As gender fluidity becomes more commonplace (35% of Gen Z know someone identifying as non-binary, a 2018 Pew study found), boundaries are being broken in jewellery trends, from watches to wedding rings and beyond.

While male jewellery has always existed, more unisex pieces are coming to the fore –– for example, Gucci’s first jewellery collection is targeted at no specific gender. 

Harry Styles at the Met Gala in 2019

Instead of buying for special occasions, people of all genders are buying for themselves. Generation Z are particularly resistant to classifications or labels. This presents an opportunity for brands to target products at all types of individual as well as relationships or occasions. 

The Rise of Demi-Fine Jewellery

‘Demi-fine’ is an emerging jewellery category that nestles neatly between fine and costume. Incorporating precious and semi-precious stones, and made from precious metals, it has intrinsic value without the price tag of high or fine jewellery.  It is expected to grow at a prolific rate due to the contemporary, trend-led designs and accessible prices. The growing e-commerce industry, increasing presence of brands online, and rising usage of social media and apps has resulted in a lucrative opportunity for the market to expand its customer base.

We are seeing established houses from Cartier to Boucheron doubling down on entry-level, affordable ranges to boost their top lines.

New Sales Models 

Retailers are relying less on ‘special occasion’ purchases.  According to Gartner L2, the share of online sales across US and Western European jewellery doubled over 2019.

Subscription services, like Switch, MintGoose and Pura Vida jewellery club allow customers to loan high jewellery, for a fraction of the cost of purchasing. 

Disruption

Jewellery has been disrupted by the big marketing budgets and social media capability of fashion brands. But there is further scope for eCommerce advancement, particularly across social media channels. 

For businesses looking to optimise social commerce, focus on great product imagery, shoppable features on visually-led social networks, and an optimised eCommerce site that is ready for social media users being funnelled through. As customers are often taken from social media to the checkout page, particular attention should be paid to this area — especially considering that overly-long and complicated checkout processes are a common cause of shopping cart abandonment.

Consumers need to also see reflections of themselves in jewellery marketing. We are in the midst of a second revolution in gender, LGBTQ+, racial and age equality. This needs to be visible across the industry, with transparency over price and ethics. 

A regeneration is underway as new players take to the fore, and distinctive category trends take shape. Enduring though it may be, the category is undergoing change.  Customers will, and do, purchase jewellery online: the key is creating a seamless customer journey that conveys the storied history of each piece. 


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