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Bridal Jewelry Stays Above the Fray

With impulse purchasing virtually gone, jewelers are homing in the bridal market.

Tiffany & Co.’s Bezet ring.

With impulse purchasing virtually gone, jewelers are homing in on a segment that is driven by one of life’s traditions — the bridal market.

Jewelry brands large and small are focusing on engagement ring and wedding band collections in a bid to gain brand awareness and attract new, mostly young clientele.

There are 2.3 million American weddings each year and 1.9 million engagement rings are sold at an average price of $4,435, according to the American Wedding Study.

Andrew Jassin, managing director of Jassin & O’Rourke Group, a New York industry consulting firm noted that the bridal industry is a dependable one.

“Engagement jewelry is a constant in the jewelry industry,” Jassin said. “Retailers like Cartier and Tiffany have gone out full-court press to advertise in locations like never before to raise awareness to show that you can buy a two-carat stone or a 10-carat stone.”

Tiffany & Co. has a new engagement ring style called Tiffany Bezet. The modern ring features either a heart, pear, princess, radiant-round or princess-cut diamond bezel-set in a platinum band with no decoration. The austere look is a departure from Tiffany’s other styles, such as the Lucida, Legacy or the classic, six-prong setting. The ring will be available in Tiffany stores this May.

Jon King, executive vice president of Tiffany & Co., said the firm’s bridal business is healthy.

People will trade down as far as flowers or food, but not with their engagement ring,” he said. “People realize [a diamond] is an investment.”

De Beers, the diamond jewelry firm, is trying to make marriage a little more economical. The brand has launched a collection of diamond engagement rings with a starting price of $1,450.

The Forever Ring collection bears the De Beers quality guarantee, the diamonds are branded with a microscopic De Beers Marque and recorded in the De Beers diamond registry. The diamonds range in size from 0.30 to 0.70 carats and a moderate range of color and clarity.

Guy Leymarie, chief executive officer of De Beers, said love appears to be untouched by the credit crunch. He noted there was a 45 percent increase in sales of engagement rings in December at the company and a 50 percent increase over the past 12 months.

“A very wide selection ensures we have something for everyone,” he said.

Leymarie said men have become more flexible in their spending, no longer sticking to the three months’ salary rule.

“The decision is increasingly made by the couple together,” he said.

Also, in honor of Brides magazine’s 75th anniversary, De Beers will introduce another diamond engagement ring design called The Duo. The ring’s design features a platinum band with an attached wedding band for a two-in-one look. The rings are in the windows at De Beers’ Fifth Avenue flagship in Manhattan. There will also be a sweepstakes to give away an $18,000 ring that will be featured in the March-April issue of Brides.

It’s not simply about selling jewelry either. Established brands like Harry Winston have started to offer seminars in its Fifth Avenue flagship on how to buy a diamond, followed by a presentation of the brand’s engagement rings, and late January marked the launch of a Web site called ringtutor.com that provides diamond evaluation and recommendation service geared toward the wedding industry. The site was created by David Fortunoff, a former principal of Fortunoff, the bankrupt jewelry and home goods retailer.

Independent jeweler Penny Preville has introduced her first engagement ring collection. The six-style line incorporates Preville’s signature delicate and romantic look with filigree work and pavé diamond touches.

“There are very few women doing bridal collections,” said Preville, who was inspired to go into the category after designing an engagement ring for her now daughter-in-law a few years back. “My concept is that each ring would have a love story and each would mean something.”

Preville, who plans to add a bridal component to her advertising campaign as well, hopes her brand will garner a new following of clients.

“There will always be brides and they want something beautiful,” she said. “I think it’s a really great time to launch [the collection].”