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Jewelry's Changing Landscape

Jewelry's Changing Landscape
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Fashion and clothing are certainly recognized for more than just their functional properties - what one chooses to wear can be a form of self expression, and also impact one’s mood, confidence and even behavior. Jewelry is a unique, but important subset of the fashion category; it’s generally not a functional accessory but rather a purely decorative one, yet it is weighted with meaning for its wearer. Beyond an intrinsic value, jewelry also often creates a strong emotional connection and is a way to hold on to memories and accomplishments.

According to data from Statista, the global jewelry market in 2022 is valued at more than $300 billion dollars. It is clear that this is a market that holds much opportunity for both brands and retailers, as we are expecting the market growth to accelerate at a CAGR of over 15% between 2020-2024.

So, where specifically do the market opportunities lie, and at which price points? We will take a look at where changing behaviors of consumers can be leveraged to spark innovation and capitalize on market share, give insights on the correlation between price and materials, as well as analyze some of the most predominant jewelry trends.

Demi-Fine Jewelry

Demi-fine jewelry is a term used to describe premium quality jewelry pieces that are still attainable for more aspirational consumers. It sits squarely between lower priced costume jewelry and expensive fine jewelry. The demi-fine category borrows attributes of both, and with the great growth it has seen over recent years, it is evident that this is an immense market opportunity for brands to tap into in order to reach a new category of consumers. The demi-fine category was introduced by Net-a-Porter in late 2016, tapping into a then unexplored market, and since then many new brands have emerged to cater to this shopper. This new wave of Gen Z and Millennial consumers want to invest in jewelry that is just that, an investment, without having to pay the fine jewelry price tag.

The secret behind demi-fine? The balance of metals used. Mejuri is a major brand in this category who is all about jewelry as an expression of self that can mean something different to everyone. Their jewelry is hand-crafted and made to withstand real life, and they manage to stay within the demi-fine category and its price point by mixing alternative materials like vermeil into their collections. For context, vermeil, being different from gold plating, is a thick layer of 18K solid gold on sterling silver. Not only will it last longer, but you get the look and feel of gold jewelry at a fraction of the price.

To understand the unique positioning and market opportunity of demi-fine brands like Mejuri, we benchmarked a few brands against established luxury jewelry brand Tiffany & Co.  The insights are eye-watering, to say the least.

StyleSage Data: Average Price Points by Jewelry Category

For example, StyleSage data shows that a Mejuri necklace costs 5% of the average price of a Tiffany one, and a Mejuri bracelet costs 4% of the average Tiffany counterpart. With this gap in price points, it is evident that there is a clear space for jewelry that feels luxurious, personal and exclusive at a more accessible  price point. This is precisely where demi-fine comes in. The category is an opportunity to not only reach a whole new target customer group, but also to challenge the already established players on the fine jewelry market by converting consumers young and retaining them.

Another trending brand on the demi-fine jewelry market is Stone and Strand. They market themselves as a jewelry brand that “seeks to combine affordable jewelry, female ethos, and meticulously designed, quality pieces — all without the typical 10x mark-up”, and their gemstones and diamonds speak of just that story. Compared to Mejuri they sit at a slightly higher price point, but a Stone and Strand necklace still only costs 7% of a Tiffany one. Special techniques they use for their jewelry include a special bonding technique called ‘act’, which provides gold-filled jewelry with 5% of the total weight in solid gold, and dainty semi-precious stones and diamonds in pavé settings. The pavé is a setting in which several small diamonds or gemstones are used, set so close together that the surface appears to lack metal holding the stones in place. A pavé set ring is often much more affordable than other types, simply because it’s paved with accent stones. A Stone and Strand ring costs on average only 17% of an average Tiffany ring.

How are non-jewelry-specialized retailers responding to this trend? Just as one could imagine, by introducing more products at lower prices, as they are responding to some of these new jewelry brands and strategically aiming to pick up some of that market share. The average price for jewelry at department/multi-brand stores at large is trending down slightly, 5% from January 2021.

StyleSage Data: Average Product Counts at Multi-brand Retailers and Department Stores

As the same retailers are realizing the rising interest in investment jewelry for younger consumers, we are also seeing product counts go up. Since January 2021, product counts of necklaces, bracelets, and rings are up 25%, 24% and 31% respectively. This space is one to watch closely, as these young consumers come into their full spending power and shape the direction of these brands.

Interested in other brands in the demi-fine space?  Check out Missoma, Wolf Circus, Monica Vinader, Catbird, and Otiumberg.

While we often discuss heirloom rings, necklaces, and bracelets, a new category is having a moment right now - body jewelry. Attention-demanding chains made out of either intricate or chunky gold (or gold-plated alternatives) will dress up any outfit and are pushing this trend forward, whether it's dressing for Zoom, the beach or a festival.  Consumers are craving both belly chains and anklets right now, as body jewelry overall is up 17% in global searches since last year. When Rihanna announced her pregnancy, she did so while draping the baby bump in a vintage Lacroix cross pendant. To find out more insights on this trend, check out our trend report on Body Chains (exclusively available for StyleSage clients).

Consumers are now not only looking to armor themselves with jewelry, but to become one with it. Specifically, piercings are trending, that is whether you prefer an intricate constellation on your earlobe or sparkling stones along the outer rim. Piercers Maria Tash and Maria Black have been at the forefront of this growing global trend.  Asymmetrical styles are particularly on the rise right now, giving another nod to jewelry as a form of self-expression and personalization. This jewelry trend is not limited to ears, and during this year’s Paris Fashion Week, nose and lip piercings took center stage. At Balmain, large golden rings adorned models’ lower lips, and septum piercings were seen on runways of designers like Rick Owens, Courrèges, and Coperni.

When it comes to jewelry, it’s all about standing out in a crowd, now more than ever. Often being purchased to celebrate an accomplishment or enhance a moment or memory, jewelry holds immense emotional and sentimental value, and customizable and personalized pieces further add to these aspects. Foundrae is a trending fine jewelry brand with a large selection of charms, tokens and medallions - many with the option to customize lettering and date engraving. Their love tokens, baby medallions, and oversized four clovers radiate emotion and allow the wearer to express themselves to the outside world. All pieces are founded on a lexicon of mythological and classical symbols and truly embody the feeling of modern day heirloom jewelry. Seen on celebrities from J.Lo to Gwyneth Paltrow, this brand has tapped into jewelry’s customizable and personal  future.

Men’s Jewelry

Jewelry is now not only taking center stage at women’s fashion weeks, but also at the ones for men. Pearls for men, seen on stars like Harry Styles and A$AP Rocky, were just the beginning of this trend, and searches for ‘mens jewelry’ are up 14% in consumer searches since last year.

A growing interest in men’s fashion has led to a natural progression in men’s jewelry and has sparked innovation with designers. On spring runways, we saw figurative pendants at Loewe, decorative brooches at Jil Sander and big sparkling hoops at Y/Project. Not only can these welcome additions add some flare to any man’s wardrobe, but from a strategic perspective they are also an accessible entryway into a brand for consumers who are unable to buy a head-to-toe outfit.

So, all that sparkle and shine aside, jewelry is a strategic and wise way to maintain aspirational relevance with younger consumers that brands, retailers and merchandisers alike should analyze to make informed business decisions. Want more insights on tools for pricing and assortment mix that are critical during these times?  Learn more here!

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