The term “millennial” has stuck around as a label for those born between 1980 and 1995. This generation is known for growing up in the digital age, but are not true “digital natives since they did not grow up with the level of technology and communication access we enjoy today. The majority might’ve had a computer at home and likely had a flip phone as their first cell phone. Many conclusions have been drawn about this generation over the years, such as their love for avocado toast and dwindling desire for home ownership.
We won’t go into all the theories about millennial behavior, but one consumerism trend Millennials are following is obvious – jewelry preferences and sales. Jewelry sales for millennials isn’t following the typical narrative of a decline in purchases. Primarily, millennials are instead changing the jewelry game by shifting their preferences and being more cognizant of individual likes and desires instead of what’s “traditional”.
Here are some key ways that millennials are changing the jewelry fashion industry:
The value of gold as a currency has a clear place in human history. Historically, the value of gold as jewelry comes from human perceptions of beauty, and as perceptions change over time it’s normal that jewelry is reevaluated by each generation.
The demand for gold jewelry in the US continues to rise. The industry benefits from the currently low price of gold and an increase in sales. As this generation begins to spend more of their income on experiences instead of physical items, there is hope that jewelers can woo millennials into spending that extra income in their stores as disposable income is on trend to increase in the coming decades.
Diamonds are always a timeless classic. The modern view of diamonds can be credited to De Beers. De Beers constricted the diamond supply to intentionally increase demand and drive profits. Through a genius marketing ploy, De Beers began the “A Diamond is Forever” campaign that created the modern concept of a diamond engagement ring.
One of the defining aspects of this current generation is how they make a conscious effort to purchase goods that are sustainable for the environment across all commercial segments and diamonds are no exception. Surveys have shown that 75% of people are willing to pay more for a sustainable or ethically harvested diamond or other gemstone. One option is to purchase synthetic diamonds that have been grown in a laboratory rather than mined from a traditional source.
These shifts in sustainability attitudes has sparked the uprising of start-ups like Ada Diamonds. Lab created jewelry from AdaDiamonds offer diamonds at a fraction of the cost and environmental impact as compared with traditionally mined diamonds. The lab-grown diamonds reduce the burning of diesel fuel and other environmental damage that occurs when mining traditional diamonds and are created ethically. While some might be skeptical that lab grown diamonds are not up to the same quality as traditional diamonds, but this has proved to be false after many trials. Lab-grown diamonds are a great alternative to traditional diamonds for the millennial generation.
More good news for the millennial buyer is that these lab grown diamonds are also 40% cheaper on average as compared to traditional diamonds. As the technology for creating these diamonds becomes cheaper, the sustainability craze will only make lab grown diamonds more popular.
Beyond fashion, millennials also want their jewelry to be functional. Wearables are a fast-growing industry. With many options to choose from, such as Fitbits or Apple Watches, millennials are able to have style and function on their wrist. Many high-end brands such as Michael Kors have launched their own wearables, or gone the route of Tory Burch and Hermes and designed luxury Fitbit bands and covers.
While still relatively small in terms of online purchases, online sales of jewelry continue to grow year after year. Millennials are much more comfortable making online purchases, particularly with jewelry, than earlier generations who might’ve been more skeptical. Brands continue to build their online presence to meet the needs of millennials and build top-notch customer experiences. Online shopping for jewelry has particularly grown for single men and women, who enjoy purchasing higher-end pieces for themselves without the need for a special occasion.
An additional advantage to online shopping is the ability to shop for customized or pre-made pieces. Millennials enjoy shopping with online retailers that offer 24/7 customer service, free shipping, easy returns, and secure checkouts.
Shopping by Social Influence
Millennials have been shown to purchase more fashion pieces when they’ve been endorsed. Influencers and celebrities are now playing a large role in the jewelry industry. These influencers and celebrities are making big bucks off of advertising for fashion brands through their social media posts and endorsements. rewardStyle, which was founded in 2011, allows fashion bloggers and social media influencers to monetize the content that they are putting out. Commissions are paid out based on the sales of fashion and jewelry that the posts drive.
Many millennials are also finding their new favorite pieces from social media advertising. Soon-to-be engaged women often have online inspiration boards that boyfriends are using to help select their perfect diamond engagement rings.
Because many millennials are still in the early-to-mid stages of their careers, they often look for jewelry that is appropriate for the workplace, shying away from more “gaudy” styles. Staying on trend, many jewelers are partnering with retailers who cater to working millennials, such as Bauble Bar’s partnership with Target. Cross-branding has proven to be a great strategy for improving fashion jewelry sales to this generation.
Most fashion trends eventually make a comeback, but vintage and heirloom jewelry appears to be a millennial trend that isn’t going away. Popular styles are often intricate or delicate pieces, or may contain gemstones. Antiques are valued for being one-of-a-kind, an important value for many millennial fashionistas. Vintage styles are seen as a unique way to personalize your look.
Vintage and heirloom jewelry is also seen as a way of keeping fashion sustainable as well. Often these pieces are incredibly well made and can last for years to come. With proper care, vintage jewelry holds great resale value.
Local or Handmade
Shopping local is a trend many generations get behind, but millennials in particular are more conscious of where they make their purchases. Millennials are more likely to make handmade or local jewelry purchases, especially when they travel. Many also enjoy purchasing goods that were made by workers or women in low-income or impoverished areas as their purchase helps generate income for the individuals who craft the pieces.
Online shopping has also touched the handmade and local markets with sites such as Etsy, which allows people to post their items for sale on the platform. It’s easy to find handmade or vintage goods that benefit a small-business owner from the platform and still have a user-friendly, online shopping experience that millennials enjoy.
The jewelry industry will rely on Millennials to keep it afloat in the coming years, particularly as the generation enters its older, more stable years. The first set of Millennials (millennial being defined as being born between 1981 and 1996) entering their 40s is closer than you think!