Keeping up with the changing moods and values of consumers can be a challenge for jewellery businesses, particularly since the pandemic acted like an accelerator for changes in consumer buying habits and values. Dr. Federica Carlotto, Program Director for the MA in Luxury Business at Sotheby’s Institute of Art, London, shared her expertise on the key trends that have now shaped the landscape that luxury players will have to navigate in the years to come.
The jewellery sector is arguably the industry that has undergone some of the most disruptive changes in recent years. From sustainability to customer-centricity, jewellery brands are facing new challenges from changing customer values. However, luxury jewellery brands have risen to the challenge. Brands have not just managed to bounce back to pre-pandemic sales level in 2021, but have continued to create economic and cultural value out of the changes that struck the sector.
Looking into the future, these are the key global trends for jewellery businesses to get ready to embrace.
Recent unrest around environmental and social issues have called for a clear and active stance from companies. Luxury conglomerates have devised long-term plans and institutional roles to implement sustainability, from Chanel’s Mission 1.5°, which promises to tackle climate change, to the new electric Rolls Royce. Sustainability is at the forefront of long-term efforts for brands across the luxury sector, but is particularly felt in the jewellery sector. We can see sustainable jewellery coming to the fore in the Watch and Jewellery Initiative 2030 in partnership with the Responsible Jewellery Council (RJC). Launched by Cartier and Kering, the owner of Boucheron and Pomellato, this pact aims to build climate resilience and preserve resources. Businesses that participate will have to set their own goals based on scientific targets. This includes considering water use, their methods of sourcing key materials and how they can offset their carbon emissions. Cartier, for instance, has committed itself to reducing its carbon emissions by 45% before 2030. It is by listening to the values of consumers that jewellery businesses can thrive. Generation Z and millennials are shrewd consumers, and will often research and compare brands before making purchases. Partly, this is because they look at purchasing decisions as an expression of their values and personal identity. This means consumers now are drawn to brands that share the same values as them. Initiatives like the Watch and Jewellery Initiative 2030 are just one example of the jewellery sector responding to this driving consumer value, as well as being a sincere effort to build momentum, inspire others in the industry and kickstart profound change across the industry.
As well as addressing environmental issues, Cartier and Kering’s pact is also about fostering inclusiveness. Gender-neutral jewellery is commonplace in many luxury jewellery brands. Bulgari’s gender-neutral line B.zero1 markets itself on individuality, and Dior released a unisex Gem Dior line of watches and fine jewellery in Spring 2021. At the same time, the recent Beyoncé campaign for Tiffany’s has attracted criticism because of the “blood diamond” necklace that was featured in it.
Going forward, jewellery businesses will have to maintain meaningful connections with their environmental and social communities and champion ethical business practises. This is the pleasure of having a platform – you can catalyse responsible behaviours! Ultimately, though, consumers do expect jewellery companies to build their social leadership and become activists for change.
The Art of Luxury Jewellery
Collaborative initiatives between luxury jewellery and artists were once a marketing stunt, but they have actually proven to be the conduit to creative and cultural depth. The high-end spirit sector has also discovered the arts, which we see in the partnership between Dom Perignon and Lady Gaga. It is partly due to the nature of the incredible talent and creativity the jewellery sector employs that makes it one of the most resilient across the luxury industry.
Innovation and technology
Technology significantly touches all aspects of contemporary luxury across sectors, be it jewellery, watches, cars, fashion, beauty or hospitality. During the pandemic, technology proved to be the lifeline for many companies, enabling them to keep their operations going. But tech also fuels a whole new level of customer engagement. Sotheby’s adopted an innovative online sales format that has allowed Sotheby’s auctions to set new sales records. At the same time, start-ups like A Collected Man are tapping into a younger market with a lower discretionary spending, by selling pre-owned watches. Generally, jewellery companies will benefit from combining data-based customer intelligence with the creative possibilities of technology.
The jewellery sector is becoming increasingly dynamic and articulated. Luxury brands like Louis Vuitton are increasingly investing into haute joaillerie, at the same time infusing their iconic designs and symbology into new collections. Just looking at the latest Vivienne jewellery collection shows this.
Dr. Federica Carlotto, program director for the MA in Luxury Business at Sotheby’s Institute of Art, London