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When it comes to defining and understanding the luxury market, there are certain items which are commonly associated with gifting and selecting special items for loved ones - and one of those things is jewellery. An industry which includes popular societal items like engagement and eternity rings and friendship bracelets, the jewellery industry is one which is heavily reliant on the state of the economy, with economic trends underpinning the success of the industry in certain seasons and years.
For those consumers shopping within the jewellery industry, one of the leading trends and obvious factors which defines the shopping experience is the extremes at which the industry lies. Jewellery can be purchased for thousands of pounds and for mere pennies, depending on brand and material, as well as quality and the craftsmanship associated with the creation of any given item. Deals and discounts are rife in the industry, and as a result it is just as easy for a consumer to pick up a discounted product as it is to find a product which is cheap from the off - it all depends on where the consumer chooses to shop and how they explore and shop around different deals.
One of the major trends which is defining the way that consumers shop in the jewellery industry is the rise in different jewels and a wider acknowledgement and understanding of what different stones mean and what their value is. Engagement rings are typically linked with the use of diamonds, however in the last few decades there has been a huge increase in the use of other stones in the creation of engagement rings, with popular stones including emeralds, sapphires and rubies among others. And once the consumer has selected the type of stone, they are then faced with a choice regarding the size of the stone and its clarity, with large and clear diamonds costing a great deal more than those which are cloudy and broken.
But how did it all begin?
Many consumers who view jewellery to be something of high value believe that the history of the jewellery industry comes from the early days of mining, when precious jewels and stones were first discovered and used as a means of showcasing wealth and prosperity. However, the industry began long before then – dating back all the way to Neanderthal times when the earliest subspecies of humankind (our very oldest Ancestors) used shells and other naturally found objects as a way of adorning themselves for aesthetic appearance. From there, jewellery in early modern Europe was crafted from materials such as bone, teeth and stone – essentially anything which could be strung onto some kind of rope and used to hold items of clothing together.
When it comes to the precious materials and modern pieces that we recognise as jewellery today, the very first signs of copper being used in jewellery can be observed around seven thousands years ago – a revelation which brought to the surface questions about gender roles in history and showed that women were just as likely to be involved in the fine metal industry as men.
To look back over the history of the modern jewellery industry is to understand just how important trends are – but also how pinnacle society is, and how much of the jewellery industry is subject to the state of the economy and how much disposable income consumers have to spend on jewellery at any given time. And this doesn’t just show up in cost and the purchasing of jewellery; it is also prevalent in the style of jewellery being crafted at any given time. A good example is the rise of the Art Nouveau period which represented a change in art and decoration in the 1890’s, and which utilised the imagery of flowers and mythical creatures as a way of putting a spotlight on the craftsmanship of the piece itself rather than merely on the beauty of the stone. However, this all changed with the eve of World War I, and by the time the war was over the jewellery industry had hugely toned down its styling – developing more of the demure and sober style which we associate with fine jewellery today.
One of the most interesting ways for consumers to view and learn about the history of jewellery is through specialist exhibits at museums and galleries, with the V&A in London providing insight into how both women and men through the ages have worn and used jewellery as a way of indicating status and prosperity, style and fashion sense, and personal preference.
A major part of the jewellery industry’s marketing strategy comes from the idea of jewellery being one of the main accessories which can complete a pull together an outfit; which can add a luxury finish to any look and which has the power to elevate the transform the way the wearer looks as they model the jewellery.
One of the main distinctions within the jewellery industry is between high quality and fine jewellery, and costume jewellery which is designed to make a statement; most consumers purchasing it for a specific outfit or purpose, wearing it once and then removing it and largely forgetting about it for a while. The former are the kind of jewellery products which are considered timeless, and will often be kept within a family for many generations; being handed down by either the females or males in the family dependent on children and what the product is. In this high end market, the top products tend to include:
As well as the stones which distinguish and offer the main guidance around value, the setting material of the product also plays its part in ascertaining the quality of a piece – with some of the most popular setting and basic materials including silver, gold and rose gold.
It is one thing to look at the top retailers in the jewellery industry – but it is quite another to consider and explore the top designers who are bringing their visions to life. Today, jewellery is considered a form of wearable art – with commercial and high end jewellery products going in one of two directions with regards to their styling: traditional and stylish, or shrouded with artistic flair and different techniques. Georg Jenson is one such designer who has made wearable art more of a commercial trend, using silver as his main material to craft Art Nouveau pieces which were both detailed and intricate in their design.
For those consumers with an invested interest in the jewellery industry, something which stands out as an ever-growing trend with regards to retailers and designers alike is the way that they are getting themselves known and recognised on the market. No longer is it enough to design unique and innovative jewellery – now it is all about having an online and social presence to match the flair for design, with some of the most successful designers being those who not only partner with top retailers who can sell their products to the captive market, but who also use their own social media channels and promote their own products to the bank of consumers who want to feel like they are interacting directly with the designer. Some of the top names in the jewellery design world include:
Have you heard of these designers? If you aren’t a jewellery industry buff then the answer is probably no – however what you will likely be familiar with is the concepts and design ideas that they bring to the market, as many of the top names are responsible for huge trends which swipe across and dominate the industry to make it different and unique every single season.
Of course, while these designers can – and sometimes do – own their own boutique shops and manage their own ecommerce sites, we tend to find that many are also prominent across the high street as brands in high end and fine jewellery stores; with some of the big retailer names including:
It is also worth noting that many affluent cities across the world also benefit from the presence of fine jewellery districts and shopping areas, for example Hatton Garden in Central London which is renowned for its selection of stores selling the finest and most expensive jewellery and diamonds in the world – perfect for engagement ring shopping, as well as heists and robberies (with Hatton Garden finding itself subject to a series of robbery plots over the years due to its high value).
As well as these top designers, there are also a whole range of high street brands which are now in the businesses of designing and manufacturing their own jewellery lines; often taking the stylistic concepts and ideas for each season from the major jewellery designers, and making them more affordable and more available for the average consumer. For many this style of jewellery is considered as costume jewellery due to its cheap status, however the design can often be intricate in detail but just made with cheap and poor quality materials. Some of the top examples include:
To look at the trends in the jewellery industry is to understand the prominence and importance of not just styling trends but also financial and economical trends in supporting the success of the jewellery industry.
One of the major trends which is changing the way that customers shop and look for gifting jewellery in particular is the rise in birth stones across affordable and high end pieces of jewellery. The modern list of birth stones as we know them today was defined and finalised in 1912, and ever since has been a guide towards the supposed perfect stone for an individual based on when they were born and what their star sign is. Though much of the historical meaning and powerful association has long since dissolved amid the history and development of birth stones, they still remain a popular way of personalising jewellery and creating the perfect gifts for consumers of all ages and demographics. As such, there are a wide range of both largescale retailers and small independent brands which specialise in birth stone jewellery – making the process of browsing and purchasing a convenient experience for the buyer no matter what their budget.
Another trend which is becoming increasingly well understood is the importance of allergies – something which is not just rife in the jewellery industry but which also has a huge impact on the food and hospitality industry as well. In jewellery, this means that retailers now have a responsibility to inform consumers of what metals have been used to create any piece of jewellery – with one of the most common allergy trends being base metal which can cause a reaction. Similarly, though on not such a health-affecting scale, consumers are also advised to take note of the quality of a material based on how it interacts with their skin and how it acts over time – with many pieces of cheaper jewellery rusting or leaving green marks on the skin after being worn, due to the low quality and finish of the product.
And finally, the trends which are putting different products in the spotlight: the rise in rose gold as a popular and aesthetically pleasing setting material, and the increase in the number of jewellery making kits and workshops which enable the consumer to take part in the creation of their own piece of jewellery – fun as a group activity of the perfect gift for someone who is a big fan of jewellery and of getting involved in DIY activities.
All of these trends are responsible not just for the consistent popularity and growth of the jewellery industry, but also for the way that it adapts and shifts in line with the modern consumer. Consumers today want high quality but they also want affordable products, and with the huge rise in the prominence of ecommerce the jewellery industry is seeing a move away from local jewellery stories in favour of those which sell online and offer much cheaper deals – however, as with any online purchase, consumers must be cautious and do all they can to ensure that they are receiving the level of quality that they are paying for.
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