The Future of the Jewellery Industry: Trends & Insights
It’s not at all surprising jewels and precious metals feature as the chosen booty in so many heist films. To Catch a Thief. The Pink Panther. Rififi. Oceans 8. Uncut Gems. The Muppets Most Wanted. And the worst quasi-remake of all time, F. Gary Gray’s 2003 ‘adaptation’ of The Italian Job.
All, despite their debated merit, go towards somewhat explaining our love of shiny things. Or, if not love, our perception of their immense value.
2022 was a wild chapter for the jewellery sector. With its current value sitting at just under $270b, a projected 8.5% growth rate will send that number sky-high to $518b by 2030.
Less numbers-heavy annual highlights include:
- LVMH’s acquisition of The Pedemonte Group, a merger of several independent production workshops in Italy and Paris known for their unique combination of tech and traditional craftsmanship.
- In April 2022, The De Beers Blue, a step-cut vivid blue diamond, sold at Sotheby’s for just under $57.5m — one of the highest prices ever paid for a diamond at auction.
- Prada launched their first collection of fine jewellery — a near 50-piece genderless offering, made from 100% recycled gold and certified, verifiable, traceable pavé diamonds.
- Both Bulgari and Tiffany & Co. made their Web3 debuts with respective NFT collections, Beyond Wonder and NFTiff.
- And plenty of houses are looking towards a laser-sharp focus on China’s luxury market to supercharge sales as the country’s massive Coronavirus wave begins to taper out.
Overall a sector on the up-and-up, despite warnings of volatile times ahead. Chalked up to ‘economic headwinds’ brought on by the ongoing state of the world, even the most resolute luxury groups are wary. Perhaps because we’re all so aware of how quickly things can spiral now.
Whatever the cause, fine and demi-fine jewellery labels face uncertainty just like the rest of luxury retail — no longer entitled to rest on laurels of exclusivity in the whirlwind that is current affairs.
While Millennials are luxury’s main clientele right now, within the next decade they will be usurped by Gen Z — a generation who came of age in a totally different world than their predecessors, thanks to the digital boom and globalisation.
In economic downturns like the one we find ourselves in now, luxury proves its resilience time and time again, but that seemingly innate quality shouldn’t be mistaken for immunity.
Though the U/HNW are less likely to forego luxury purchases, there is a mindset shift — particularly among Millennials and Gen Z — towards savvier spending. Specifically purchases that can be seen as investments, in both the product and the brand itself.
Legacy, history and heritage will always be heavy hitters with the loyalists among us, but with younger high-net-worth-ers less into brand fidelity than ever, how can fine jewellery houses find fealty in future luxurians?
Top Jewellery Market Trends: 2023 & Beyond
In the most fed-up of moments, it’s easy to view both Gen Z and Alpha as agents of chaos.
They’re recalibrating the world, luxury included.
For those who fear, or are even wary of change, they’re cast as dystopian makers. But one person’s disruption is another’s enrichment.
Like it or not, these younger cohorts will have the spending power to make or break brands in no less than a decade, and they wield that power confidently.
These are generations who shaped their values and attitudes early, caring little about pre-millennium hardships but a lot about sustainability, social impact and doing better, especially when it comes to luxury. And along with their higher standards, they’re willing to pay higher prices — citing that investment mindset emerging among many.
In homage to these attitudes, fine jewellery newcomers are tearing up the product design rulebook; embracing the radical, finding opportunity in inconsistency, breaking binaries and subverting convention.
Challenger brands and emerging players are producing genderless collections with a seditious undercurrent that plays into threads known to be tangled with this generation.
On the runway this is playing out in punk details; bold cuffs, hardware-heavy chains, chokers, as well as pared-back religious iconography. Embellishment to the point of impracticality.
Other aesthetic arenas straddle the boundary between avant-garde and mainstream.
From psychedelic, fantastical expressions of self, oversaturated with funky shapes and colour (see Bea Bongiasca), to representations of our digi-hybrid existence coupled with underground culture and old-stool grunge, the stylistic choices of upcoming designers are tapping into these niches, all of which are tethered to a seemingly unquenchable thirst for nostalgia.
“Jewellery has a challenge: products are precious, under a window, we don't encourage customers to touch. So, we do it with other products such as leather goods and accessories. How to be inviting while being luxurious and exclusive, how to be inviting without being banal? That’s the jewellery paradox,” - Cyrille Vigneron, CEO of Cartier
Once considered the most revered shopping experience, the atmosphere of a traditional luxury jeweller’s flagship is now rendered prosaic.
The romance of browsing and purchasing in-store now manifests in tactile, sensory experiences, harking back to notions of shopping for pleasure but in newer, more immersive ways.
In 2021, world-leading jewellers Swarovski embarked on a complete overhaul of their stores as part of their larger rebrand. As well as a new swan emblem, Creative Director Giovanna Engelbert reimagined around 30 of the brand’s stores around the world and pioneered 28 new concept stores under their ‘Wonderlab’ project.
‘A world of crystal where science and magic meet’, guests can wander through a lab inspired by Swarovski’s headquarters, a ‘metaphorical candy store’, and a chess room full of subtle nods to their Austrian heritage. As more stores open, the experience varies depending on location, almost creating a subtle challenge for fans to experience everything every Wonderlab has to offer.
In 2017, Tiffany & Co. unveiled their Blue Box Café, an IRL ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s’ experience, where guests can embrace their inner Holly Golightly. First launched at their flagship store on Fifth Avenue, NYC, the house brought their concept across the Atlantic to London’s Harrods in 2020.
Determined to continue leading the charge towards a more experiential future for fine jewellery, the iconic brand looked just down the (King’s) road for their next opportunity.
Celebrating 150 years in London and 185 years since their founding, Tiffany’s Vision & Virtuosity exhibition at Saatchi Gallery visually chronicled seven chapters of creative innovation, complete with both virtual and real-life try-ons of famous pieces and a set recreation of Blake Edwards’ 1961 filmic homage to the house.
The experience incorporated sensory stimulation, with an otherworldly ASMR-inspired gallery dedicated to the house’s coveted engagement rings where visitors were cocooned in the sounds of soft chimes and swaying vines of tissue paper hearts while encouraged to write love notes on the interactive display walls. Ultimately, a fantastical representation of the legacy brand with a modern twist that rings true of their brand spirit.
Contemporary British-based brand Vashi is another who reinvigorated their CX in-store. Founded on the belief that something you made will always mean more than something you bought, Vashi flagships invite visitors to meet with artisans, feel the metals and be an influential player in crafting their bespoke pieces.
From workshops to bookable one-to-ones or drop-in consultations, Vashi goes beyond taking care of their clientele, they lift the curtain — giving VICs a novelty experience and fostering a conspiratorial connection that keeps them coming back.
2021 was the year NFTs, web3 and the metaverse caught fire. In 2023, the hype has yet to wane. And quite a lot of questions still need clarifying.
One that doesn’t, however, is the value of NFTs when it comes to fine jewellery. By the end of 2027, the NFT market has the potential to be worth $13b with a CAGR of 35%. It makes sense. NFTs possess many of the qualities that make traditional luxury so coveted. Rarity. Scarcity. Authenticity. Innovation. Endurance.
The Aura Blockchain Consortium, collaboratively launched by Richemont, LVMH and Prada Group in 2021, authenticates luxury products by assigning each a unique digital identity. Similar tech is employed by Icecap, an Ethereal-based Diamond NFT Marketplace.
Usually sold in limited editions or one-off sales, digital assets & NFTs possess the same allure as provenance does for avid collectors of any rare or fine item. It’s no secret aesthetes pay hundreds of thousands, if not millions of pounds and dollars to own the real thing, whatever that thing may be.
Plenty of luxury brands see the appeal, and the potential. Along with Tiffany’s and Bulgari, New York-based jeweller Amadeo, British blockchain-diehard Simone Faurschou and royal-warrant holders Asprey have all incorporated NFTs into their product offerings. Some have even built their brand around it — Metagolden claims to be the original blockchain jewellery brand and the future of retail.
Other brands place more emphasis on wearability than those using blockchain tech purely as a platform for digital ownership. Jewellery label Räthel & Wolf launched their digital arm in July 2022, offering customers the chance to download digital versions of their designs to either be worn in the metaverse or 3D printed in a material of the user’s choice.
While R&W’s digital twins are freely available, there’s a market for luxury digital duplicates. A concept still optimal for authenticity while also offering an incentivised gateway to unique experiences, either through a specific metaverse or esports platforms.
Sustainability is a baseline for new luxurians, having a commitment statement to reduce your brand’s carbon footprint is nothing to write home about anymore.
Those who do cut through the noise are crafting exactly what the U/HNW want, how they want it — in ways that uphold planetary health, inclusivity, social progression and a more liberal way of living.
Aulerth International, a ‘first-of-its-kind design house for jewellery that's couture-inspired, meticulously crafted’, partners with leading designers around the world to create pieces that are environmentally more responsible than others on the market, without compromising on design, craftsmanship or finish.
Luxury French brand Boucheron recently launched an innovative capsule collection made from Cofalit — a material derived from depolluted asbestos.
Though the idea and collection, titled ‘The Jack de Boucheron Ultime range’, is in its infancy due to the unknown nature of how the black, stone-like substance performs over time, it’s a move boldly disrupting the conventions in fine jewellery manufacturing.
To combat controversial practices associated with diamond mining and to present a contributing solution in response to the climate crisis, Aether are creating lab-grown diamonds with 100% atmospheric carbon.
Direct air capture technology is used to extract CO2 from our air before being synthesised and placed into clean energy-powered chemical reactors where diamonds will grow. The fully formed, cut and finished crystals are then distributed to be worn by the most stylish yet sustainable shoppers around the world.
Fellow brands prioritise activism in their collections. Contemporary London-based jewellery brand Hatton Labs united with Ukrainian designer Artem Pylypenko on a capsule collection in response to the war in Ukraine. Designed entirely by Pylypenko, the rugged yet refined pieces are symbolic of hope and light.
“I want this collaboration to be the light at the end of the tunnel, — A reminder of something important, something we have forgotten, to form new boundaries within each of us, or to destroy them completely. I want to devote this collaboration to choice–choosing values, morals, guidelines and actions.” - Artem Pylypenko
100% of the collection’s profits went to the largest children’s hospital in Ukraine.
How to Fashion the Future of Fine Jewellery
In simple terms: forward-thinking brands need to challenge the old guard.
‘Fashionable’ was once a dirty word in fine jewellery circles, deemed to negatively associate the precious with the generic.
With consumer profiles now much more of a web than neat columns, either extreme is increasingly difficult to define — a challenge to be capitalised on by clever brands.
To tap into new audiences — ones who will have limitless spending power in a decade or so — go wild in these three key arenas.
Be Revolutionary IRL
Boredom is the number one killer of brands. Oversaturated markets and desensitised audiences aren’t interested in the uninteresting. Lockdown restrictions resulted in a pent-up demand for everything. Experience especially. So create one that so intrinsically, joyfully and spiritually captures your brand that Vigneron’s paradox is rendered irrelevant. There’s so much room to play in spaces that are traditionally quite stayed.
Get Digi With It
Web3 is here whether we like it or not. (For the record: we’re fans.) NFTs are a burgeoning market and the metaverse, though in its nascent stages, is on its merry way in some form or another. Start thinking about marketing with AR and VR, tap into blockchain tech. Capitalise on the exclusivity and authenticity your customers already crave and give it to them in new ways.
Make Conscious Choices
Figure out what your audience considers precious. Consider the tensions between subversive and cooperative. What matters and what doesn’t. Both to your brand, and your audience. The thought behind brand movements is noticeable, and can be the (sometimes stark) difference between loyalty and being lost in the ever-zapping neurons of consumer minds.
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