In the midst of the Holiday Season, Solitaire International caught up with a slew of independent retailers selling fine and high jewellery.
Across the board, retailers in the US are reporting robust holiday sales, backed by bullish figures published by industry trade publications this month.
The Centurion, which conducted a spot survey earlier this month, reports that 70% of jewellers confirm that business was up by more than 10% on last year for the same period.
Adapting to continued disruption from the pandemic with improved ways to communicate with customers, some of America’s longest-serving independent jewellers are standing in better stead than anyone could have imagined at the onset of Covid-19.
“Fine jewellery is very strong, especially towards the higher end of fine,” says Peggy Grosz, Senior Vice President at Assael, a 75-year-old pearl business.
With an inventory that spans both classic and traditional jewellery, the company has begun to rely more on great photography to communicate with customers, ahead of completing a sale.
“The most definitive way that we have adapted to the pandemic is that we depend upon high quality professional photography more, because shipping has become somewhat problematic,” she says. “We do not ship goods on memo until the retailer has, at least, seen the pieces or designs we are proposing to ship for specific requests made by their clients.”
Higher-priced, finer items, such as fine strands of pearls, the company’s Colors Collection pieces, which are mostly one of a kind, and the Bubble Collection by Sean Gilson for Assael, are amongst their best-selling items. “Ours is a particularly modern and fresh take on pearl jewellery,” she says. “Pearls have clearly been more and more prominent in the last three years. It has affected sales of our very fine jewellery quite noticeably, from the classic strand to the more designer collections mentioned above. The consumer has learned about pearl quality and is requesting fine quality pearls.”
London Jewelers operates out of Glen Cove, New York, and has several locations in the New York and Long Island areas. London Jewelers is a retailer of luxury jewelry, fine jewellery brands and watches in the US.
Scott Saunders, Senior VP-Business Development, reports, “Sales are strong across the board in jewellery and watches. Important pieces are selling very well.”
He adds: “Layering has been a big trend, as well as everyday wearable jewellery, as people’s styles have become a bit more casual. Classic diamond jewellery has also been very strong this year.”
Like all retailers, “We have had to adapt to whatever came our way. We sell in store, online, virtually, on Instagram, Facebook. We have tried to reach the client in whatever way they felt most comfortable shopping with us,” he adds.
The right partnerships help.
“We are happy that our clients have supported us, and we are thrilled to have the right brand partnerships and merchandise in our stores,” he adds.
Meanwhile, Craig Underwood at Underwood Jewelers, says it’s the best year that the company has ever had, and reports a strong demand for large ticket items.
Underwood’s custom jewellery house specialises in the fine quality segment. It is based in Fayetteville. “Our business for fine jewellery has been very strong, especially for fine quality custom jewellery,” he says.
In terms of the pandemic, it is a “complete turnaround from where we were a year ago,” he says. “We continue to have and maintain practices that we hope put our customers’ minds at ease, but they are less stringent than before. “
Underwood says this has been the year of the large natural diamond.
“Everything from large diamond rings to large diamond earrings to large diamond bracelets is selling well,” he says. “We choose to only sell natural diamonds here at Underwood’s. And while we have had a few requests for synthetic diamonds, we feel we are better off focusing on natural diamonds.”
Other prominent trends include yellow gold and rose gold gaining in popularity. “In bridal, we still sell more white metal – platinum and white gold – but yellow gold is certainly gaining ground,” he says. “We are finding that in both fashion and bridal, the overall style seems to embrace the classics. Our customers are more focused on a larger centre stone with a classic design rather than an ornate or recognizable mounting style.”
Maria Carola Picchiotti, Marketing Director at Picchiotti, notes that investments in jewellery are on the rise.
“After the peak of the pandemic, and the lockdowns, we have been observing that anyone who decides to spend money on jewellery will be looking to make a sort of investment, purchasing a piece of jewellery that, besides having good design and excellent workmanship, should also feature superlative gemstones, giving it an intrinsic value,” she says. “This is why business for high jewellery has been strong this year with some important sales that have confirmed this trend,” she adds.
Fine jewellery is also doing well.
“Although it is in a slightly lower price range, and some of the pieces may not be as unique as the masterpieces, Picchiotti fine jewellery is still quite important and the creations are long-lasting and valuable,” she adds.
Don’t give up has been their answer to navigating the pandemic.
“We have simply continued doing what we have been doing for more than the 50 years that we have been in business by striving for excellence. It has not been easy, of course, but we have always felt that during difficult times one cannot let go because if you keep doing what you do best, clients and consumers will look forward to coming back to us as soon as the situation is improving again,” she says.
What are people buying? “People are looking for valuable pieces that overcome trending fashions and will last over time,” she reports. “This may be due to the fact that, after the pandemic, people are more cautious with their spending, and when they decide, they do want to spend some money, it will be for something of true value.”
As for specific items … “Cocktail rings are very popular right now. Large, colorful stones adorning our hands are trending like never before. Also drop earrings are quite popular, as is the Xpandable collection that allows rings and bracelets, through an invisible mechanism, to expand and contract, overcoming the problem of ring sizing and cumbersome bracelet clasps.
As the general mood is good, and people are starting to be confident again, holiday business is looking to be their best ever, she says. “After the last Holiday Season, when the whole world was virtually in lockdown, this year we feel that people want to indulge and spending money on jewellery is surely a great way to indulge ourselves.”