Love in the time of a Pandemic:
The remarkable year and turbulent times of 2020 will be a story not only of the twenty-first century’s enduring hardships, but also of love during the time of a global pandemic. After reading and watching all accounts of the pandemic, Americans have begun to put it all aside and start over again, taking nothing for granted.
For the first time, planning an engagement proposal has had to face the global challenges that now have national borders. In addition, taking compromised immune systems into account, a celebratory gathering is only as safe as our most vulnerable guests. Nevertheless, through catastrophic falls there has surfaced numerous rebirths, pioneering a time in developing demonstrative ways for engagement ring shopping as well as choosing a local destination to plan your proposal and exchange vows.
Today, for instance, younger men (the primary buyers of engagement rings) are the least anxious to go to stores; men excited to go in stores [64%]. Based on proprietary research conducted in April 2020, data proves that people are fast forwarding their relationship during COVID-19. At least 55% are quarantining with their partners Henceforth, engagement shoppers continue to be a big opportunity. Nearly two-thirds said engagement plans were same or were sped up, while 12% said they moved up their plans and 50% have kept the plans the same. Overall research data proves that optimism about the future is higher among men and young people, core Engagement customers. Signet (Zales & Kay)
Over the past year, travel restrictions have drawn unprecedented ways to rethink the place to propose for that special day. Even as Americans rise to the urgency of this newly found way of living, the time and place of a dynamic proposal is one that will last a lifetime, so they wish to make it magnificent!
“In my 19-year career with Jared, it will stand out as one of those special moments that I will look back on and appreciate that I was part of this couple’s journey to love,” says Tim Weyandt, Jared General Manager of the Woodlands, TX location.
A few immediate trends are already evident. In a sense, this is the birth of a new frontier as people retell their story of the year 2020.
“The truth is, people are fast forwarding their relationships during COVID-19”, says Toni Zehrer, Senior Vice President, Chief Merchandising Officer at Signet, owner of some of the largest jewelry stores in the world such as Kay Jewelers, Zales and Jared. “We’ve seen a variety of creative ways to demonstrate love from surprise parking lot proposals to in-store weddings!”
If you can accept the fact that changes in trends are on the horizon, then you’ll be happy to know that yellow gold is on the rise compared to rose gold, which is a trend believed to continue through 2021. There is a bigger focus on uniquely cut center stones – interest in cushion cuts is down considerably; radiant, emerald, and pear cuts seem to be on the rise. More to the point, people are gravitating to greater total carat weights. This can be attributed to the rise we are seeing in the side-stone rings – people want that extra sparkle along the band. The popularity of platinum is increasing because of the unique properties platinum has to offer – hypo allergenic, higher durability and less maintenance to maintain appearance. Search for moissanite engagement rings are up 294% since 2017 as brides are actively looking for an alternative to diamond engagement rings. Data provided by Charles & Colvard
When the global pandemic hit the country in March 2020, and forced many Americans to stay home, nobody knew what the future would bring. But as life would have it, many people found themselves quarantining with their significant others, which put relationships to the test. The result has proven to be a rise in engagements, with some even opting to expedite their engagements.
Overall for men, I believe that it is time to rethink the balance between the jewelry and style. The choice has never been more clear. The peace of mind that comes with expertise in online formal wear is the utmost convenience that clearly gives the consumer a sense of adventure in finding the ultimate bespoke tuxedo. Headquartered in the heart of Las Vegas, Gentleman’s guru provides custom-made bespoke tuxedos while providing the highest level of personalized online expertise that can assist your most complex style needs and requirements. Although Gentleman’s Guru excels in premier online-only formal wear, there’s a sense of community with respect to the specifications of each customer that represents everything that a one-on-one bespoke encounter would offer. The modified expert fashion ripple-effect has gained a country wide reputation that is definitely worth visiting for your bespoke tuxedo ready to order and be delivered to the comfort of your own home.
As fine jewelry continues to see traction throughout the pandemic, some of the top bridal trends seen include “an emphasis on unique cut, fancy center stones in engagement rings such as emerald, cushion, pear, oval, princess and asscher,” says Zehrer. We’ve already seen this to be true with stunning celebrity engagement rings from Lily Collins, Demi Lovato and Nicola Petlz.
“We’re also seeing a return to classic engagement ring styles such as the solitaire stone in larger carat weights or with halo settings to enhance the size of the center stone,” adds Zehrer. The return to classic styles may be attributed to the current COVID-19 environment. Consumers are still looking to shop for fine jewelry; however, they are opting to select investment pieces that may retain their value and are timeless. Examples include the always popular Vera Wang LOVE collection at Zales which is infused with Bridal icon Vera Wang’s design aesthetic, the delicate and ornate Neil Lane Collection available at KAY Jewelers and the new Royal Asscher collection at Jared which features expertly cut diamonds by the prestigious Asscher family.
Along this vein, consumers are also electing to customize their rings based on core styles to make them more personable and authentic to who they are. Shoppers may easily begin to customize a ring online through customization tools on sites such as Zales and Kay or through the help of a virtual jewelry consultant. For a completely custom design, perhaps one based off an heirloom or a unique sketch, customers may also go in-store to their local Zales, Kay or Jared to realize their bridal jewelry dreams!
The other major shift this year and likely into 2021 is a preference for gold. Whether it’s yellow gold or rose gold, gold bands and wedding rings are surging in popularity across all categories. Some consumers are even opting to mix metals to add some texture.
As fine jewelry continues to see traction throughout the pandemic, some of the top bridal trends seen include “an emphasis on unique cut, fancy center stones in engagement rings such as emerald, pear, oval, princess and asscher,” says Zehrer. “We’re also seeing a return to classic engagement ring styles such as the solitaire stone in larger carat weights or with halo settings to enhance the size of the center stone. Gold is also trending in a major way across all categories!”
From the sustainability front, another interesting trend we’re seeing is brides opting to be more socially conscious in the purchases they make, particularly when it comes to engagement rings. Non-diamond substitutes such as moissanite is on the rise with searches for moissanite up 294% since 2017 (according to a Hello Giggles article) and the moissanite market currently valued at 31 million USD in 2020, with expected growth up to 53 million USD by 2026 (according toMarketWatch).
“Diamond alternatives are really about choices,” said Don O’Connell, President & CEO of Charles & Colvard, one of the leading pioneers of moissanite lab-created jewelry, “Brides today are seeking alternatives due to their ethical beliefs. Consumers care more about how products are made and where they come from. This type of mindfulness has translated into what we consider to be a ‘a lab grown movement’. Today’s consumer is open to other options that better define value for them and better express their core beliefs.”
So whether a bride opts for a classic diamond engagement ring or a more sustainable alternative such as a moissanite stone, one thing is certain, love is still doing alive and well.
“One of my favorite stories during the pandemic is an in-store wedding orchestrated by the Jared team in our Woodlands, TX location,” remarks Zehrer, “There, the entire store helped a couple get married in a matter of hours. The couple had originally stopped by to pick-up their engagement ring and mentioned they wished they could get married immediately. The Jared store mentioned that they happened to have a member on staff who was ordained as an officiant and the couple jumped at the opportunity to get married spontaneously. Soon, the store had sourced a marriage certificate, resized wedding bands and gotten close friends and family on video to view the proceedings.”
I recently had the privilege to speak with Don O’Connell President and CEO at Charles & Colvard about why moissanite is better when it comes to something that is ethically sourced, how from a trend perspective, engagement jewelry is experiencing growth in yellow gold and platinum metals and why she believes there has been a lab grown movement happening in the jewelry industry over the past few years and this has increased awareness of moissanite and the overall demand for lab created gems!
Joseph DeAcetis: Why do you think brides are seeking an alternative to diamonds?
Don O’Connell: I believe there are three main reasons brides are looking for alternatives to natural diamonds: value, individuality and ethical beliefs. Consumer are more mindful of how they spend their money and what they spend their money on. Alternatives such as moissanite offer brides an incredibly beautiful, high quality gemstone at a reasonable price. Value is often based on perception, and we’re finding that brides aren’t as tied to societal norms as much as previous generations have been. With that said, we hear from our customers that they want something different – not what everyone else has. That can be a colored stone or a more unique cut that is not readily available in diamond. Last, but not least, I know brides today are seeking alternatives due to their ethical beliefs. There is a greater awareness about the diamond industry, about the harmfulness of mining and about the social impacts. Consumers care more about how products are made and where they come from. This type of mindfulness has translated into what we consider to be a “a lab grown movement.” Diamond alternatives are really about choices. Today’s consumer is open to other options that better define value for them and better express their core beliefs.
Joseph DeAcetis: Why is moissanite a good alternative to diamonds?
Don O’Connell: People often mistake moissanite as a diamond simulant, but it’s really a synthetic gemstone recognized by the American Gemological Society with the same chemical and optical properties of moissanite that would be found in the earth. Moissanite is too rare to mine.
Our Forever One moissanite is grown using a patented process to ensure we offer the highest quality gems, which range from colorless to near colorless and are very slightly included or better.
When compared to a mined diamond, moissanite is much more affordable. By choosing moissanite for their engagement and wedding rings, brides (and grooms) don’t have to compromise quality due to cost. Moissanite has more fire and brilliance than diamonds and is available in a variety of cuts and carat weights that would often be unavailable or cost prohibitive in mined diamonds. Our Forever One moissanite gems are available in 28 cuts and range from small side stones up to 6 carat center stones.
Joseph DeAcetis: What is the difference between diamonds and moissanite?
Don O’Connell: Moissanite is made of silicon carbide and diamonds are made of carbon. Silicon carbide is a rare mineral found in the earth, but it’s so rare that it is hard to find a piece in the ground large enough to cut into a one carat gemstone. Moissanite is second only to diamond in hardness. On the Mohs hardness scale, diamond is a 10 and moissanite is a close 9.25-9.5. Though they are both white gems, the optical properties of moissanite and diamonds are different. Moissanite has more fire and brilliance than diamond, meaning that more light is reflected out of a moissanite gemstone. This is called double refraction. Moissanite also has more of a rainbow effect, or fire, than a diamond.
Moissanite weighs less than diamonds so many times moissanite weight will be referenced as diamond equivalent weight or DEW. This helps consumers who are more familiar with diamond weights better understand the size of the gemstone. Last, but not least, moissanite is less expensive than mined diamonds. While there are costs associated with growing moissanite, these costs are far less than the cost required to mine diamonds.
Joseph DeAcetis: What is the price difference between the two?
Don O’Connell: The value of moissanite increases as the carat weight of the stones increase, but on average a moissanite gem is approximately 10% the cost of a mined diamond of the same size and quality.
Joseph DeAcetis: Why is moissanite better when it comes to something that is ethically sourced?
Don O’Connell: If we’re comparing ethically sourced gems, moissanite is durable enough for daily wear and a better value. Moissanite is second only to diamond in hardness, meaning it is less likely to chip or break when compared to other created gemstones. The quality of moissanite is another differentiator. You get more for your money when buying a moissanite gemstone.
Lab created diamonds are another ethical alternative to mined diamond, but lab diamonds are closer in price to a mined diamond. We just launched our own brand of lab diamonds called Caydia™. With this addition to our Forever One moissanite offering, we now offer our customers a choice between two of the best alternative options.
Joseph DeAcetis: What trends are you seeing in the bridal market?
Don O’Connell: Traditional styles such as round brilliant solitaires will never go out of style in the bridal market. They are timeless. From a trend perspective, we’re experiencing growth in yellow gold and platinum metals. With our Forever One moissanite, we’ve seen a greater desire for unique cuts such as radiant, emerald and pear. Also, our customers have been gravitating to larger total carat weight options, which is the value proposition of moissanite. Larger gems are more attainable.
Joseph DeAcetis: Have you seen an increase in demand for moissanite jewelry in the last couple years?
Don O’Connell: Back in 2018, Pinterest published a wedding trends survey and reported that moissanite was the most popular gemstone searched on its website. We believe there has been a lab grown movement happening in the jewelry industry over the past few years and this has increased awareness of moissanite and the overall demand for lab created gems. Now that we offer Forever One moissanite and Caydia lab grown diamonds, we are a bigger part of that conversation about this evolution. We’re eager to see how this trend progresses over the next several years.