2014 has been quite a year for the jewellery industry. Despite the controversies and chaos; jewellery, according to MasterCard SpendingPulse, was a clear winner for the holidays. But 2015 will be crazy. The industry is going through transformations in product, concepts, business models and ethics. Almost everything about the jewellery and gem business is in question.
A better economy and increased demand is good news for retail jewellers. But there is a catch. To get a decent market share you’ll have to invent new ways of engaging, selling and transacting. Retail stores will become “bricks and clicks.” You need to integrate your online and physical presence. It works both ways. Physical and digital can’t exist without each other. Even strictly online retailers, including Blue Nile, are opening physical stores or boutiques in existing stores.
Gold is making a comeback. Rose gold is still strong. Look for other alternative colours to gain popularity. Silver has become entrenched in the marketplace as designers work with this lower price-point metal to create refreshing new lines. Silver with gold accents or components are a designer’s dream.
Consumers are once again expressing interest in diamonds. Diamond jewellery will be a strong product segment. Retail jewellers will start moving inventory that has been stagnant for a while. This is a good year to mount the “over-the-counter” diamonds and get them in the case. Expect more record breaking prices on Fancy Coloured Diamonds but prices for commercial quality white diamonds may start falling due to lab-grown diamonds.
The diamond industry as a whole is going to see several difficult years. The controversy about diamond grading is not over. In fact it is still in the early stages. There is a class-action in the works against ELG International over grading reports. Since the industry has yet to agree on universally accepted grading standards, the courts may need to do it for us.
Lab-created diamonds are taking the spotlight. This year I expect to see strong environmentally-conscious marketing efforts promoting the “green” aspects of lab-grown diamonds. They are getting larger, cleaner and whiter and will take a big bite out of the bridal market by offering nice stones at affordable prices so consumers don’t need to downgrade quality to meet a budget. As natural Fancy Coloured diamonds become increasingly expensive, lab-grown pinks, blues and yellows become true bargains
Fine natural untreated or very lightly heated gemstones are experiencing a sharp rise in both demand and price. Television shopping channels are introducing consumers to more unusual and less mainstream gems. This is an opportunity to cash in on lesser known species for better margins. Watch the shows, see their offerings and seek out the sources.
Mid-range common stones like Amethyst, Blue Topaz and Citrine are elevated to fine art in the hands of creative gem cutters. Seek out artists like John Dyer or Michael Dyber at Tucson to set your store apart from the competition.
Smartwear is the hottest and most exciting new concept to hit the jewellery industry. Swarovski is introducing its new Shine Collection at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas featuring activity and sleep trackers built into crystal jewellery. Apple’s new watch is expected to be the must have item this year. There is room for new designers to step into this emerging field. How about earrings that double as hearing aids? Or a ring that vibrates as an alarm clock? Anything is possible, including turning your body into an electrical generator. Team up with a nerd to blend your design talents with their technical expertise.
There are several other trends and opportunities that I will discuss in the next few weeks and I am confident that there will be some surprising twists and turns as our industry continues to evolve. This will be an interesting year!