What are the diamond jewellery trends that are shaping up the North American Millennial market in 2017?
The Gem and Jewellery Export Promotional Council of India (GJEPC) recently invited me to speak and share my observations on this specific question at their design and trend forecasting annual seminar, Design Inspirations. This year’s topic focused on the challenges and opportunities around designing for the Millennials.
A great deal has already been written about the Millennials, their buying power and behaviour. Rightly so, Millennials now make the largest consumer market for diamond jewellery. According to a report by the De Beers Group, Millennials in the US alone account for over 60 per cent of this generation’s diamond jewellery purchases in the top four markets, namely – the US, China, India and Japan.
I’ll summarise what I said at the GJEPC seminar. Since the diamond jewellery market is too wide a spectrum, I decided to focus on a specific area — the non-bridal diamond trends, a rising star segment for Millennials in the US. The premise of my talk was to question why things trend, what influences and shapes them to become market forces. Truly understanding the why will help answer the what that is needed to appeal to the Millennials and the generation beyond.
One thing we have learnt in the diamond and jewellery business is that each generation brings it’s own challenges and opportunities. Collectively as an industry we must have the vision to not only seek to understand the Millennials, but also the generation that will exert their market power after them.
Here are my top five diamond jewellery trends shaping the North American Millennial market — Enamel, Geometric, Minimal, Meaningful and Open.
Why do these five specific segments constitute trends? I believe these trends are a reflection of what the US Millennials hold close to their heart — self expression and individuality, their digital identity, shedding excess in the world full of information overload, making deep emotional connections, making an impact through their actions, decisions and pocket.
Favouring smaller diamond pieces compared to previous generations, the Millennials are more focused on individual celebrations, personal achievements and milestones than love or relationship celebrations. Self purchasing power, along with gifting from loved ones serves the non-bridal segment growth in the US.
They also have their problems to deal with. Although better educated, employment and financial challenges like paying off loans, debts are real issues for the North American Millennial. This is also one of the reasons why traditional life events, such as marriage and children are being delayed.
Although a technique that is ancient, enamel is seeing a rise in consumer interest once again. For non-bridal diamond jewellery, it’s great at providing the colour, attitude and the expressions that Millennials are seeking.
WHY: Self expression and individuality. Millennials in advanced economies such as the US are driven by the idea of self-expression, projecting an authentic vibe, with originality. They want to define their jewellery, and not the other way around. Colour is multi-layered, steeped in personal meaning, and it’s use is very individual.
Decidedly angular and interconnected forms are making an appearance. Look out for forms such as hexagons, rhombuses, triangles, trapezoids, octagons, and squares. Diamond pieces are dainty, airy and light.
WHY: Digital identity. Millennials have a strong digital presence and interconnectivity. Digital media and technology are the cornerstones of communication for the US Millennials. Between 30 and 40 percent of them write reviews, rate products and services, and participate in discussions online. These Millennials are aware of trends happening in real time, as their online news feed is their trend feed.
Forms are basic, comforting and easy on eyes. Diamonds are like accents, giving the diamond pieces a soft shimmer.
WHY: Movement. For the Millennials there is an overload of information. News and imagery of world turmoil can reach them in mere seconds through social media. Financial pressure and personal debt etc. is part of their existence. In this overload, the Millennials are seeking to shred excess, many of them are attracted to a minimalistic lifestyle and adopting minimalist principles.
Here the trend is illustrated through a diamond safety pin design. The safety pin is meaningful, became a symbol of support and solidarity. For Millennials and beyond it serves as a political statement, aligning to ideals and to say they are a "safe persons" to be around.
WHY: Purpose. Millennials are concerned with sustainability and ethical practices, are value conscious, placing importance on meaningful unique ideas and products as against standardised ones. Diamond jewellery that has a deep emotional connection speaks to the Millennials, letting them wear their story and message on themselves, literally.
Previously, I wrote about the need for diamond storytelling that connects to people and their aspirations, makes diamonds an experience, creates and nurtures an ecosystem for the stories to thrive and spread. I believe diamonds get their real story, romance and symbolism when people attach their personal meaning to them. Something all of us in the diamond industry need to internalise, as it is more than advertisements, words and posters. The story should be palpable, connect and feel real.
We saw open diamond jewellery forms in 2016 and will see the trend continue. Jewellery such as open diamond rings, bands, collars and more.
WHY: Stating personal values. Millennials as a generation are exposed to viewpoints from around the world. This has shaped them into open-minded individuals when it comes to expressing their values to embrace diversity, sexuality, social, political and personal views.
We all agree, Millennials are an important generation for the diamond market. But what about the next generation that is ready to exert their market influence? Here’s an interesting article on Generation Z by Sam Willoughby. That's not far off. That's why we need to be perceptive, understand why trends happen, and we will be able to figure out the what that will appeal to the generations we hope to reach.
Finally, let’s keep making diamond stories to keep the diamond dream going. Trends may come and go, but stories are truly cross-generational. Stories never go out of fashion. Stories, live on.