Whilst traditions remain strong – at least in the UK – more often than not the groom will choose the engagement ring for the bride.
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But new research, conducted on behalf of Diamonds Factory by OnePoll and reported on JewelleryFocus.co.uk, showed that a third (36%) of married or engaged women would have preferred to have chosen the engagement ring themselves. It is understandable, given that for most, it will stay on their ring finger for life. Given that the stakes are so high, offering the customer detailed knowledge and advice can be the difference between selling a ring and losing the sale.
Hannah Lovatt, director at manufacturer AML Wedding Bands, believes that offering a modern approach to wedding bands is essential. She describes the company’s designs as “traditional, modern and funky.” She adds: “We are very versatile so we excel at changing our designs to suit our customers’ needs.”
Modern trends for weddings rings for women tend to be moving away from the plain gold rings of yesteryear to more expensive and glamorous diamond rings. Danny Cohen, company director at Treasure House, says: “We are seeing a lot more diamond set wedding rings being sold and matching engagement ring. More importantly the ladies now prefer to choose for themselves rather than being presented or rather unpleasantly surprised by their partners.” This perceived movement in the market is seconded by Rachael McTiernan, director at Wedds & Co, who says ladies “favour the diamond and the gents take the remainder of the budget.”
There is a growing trend for rings that can be shaped in way that enables the eternity ring, wedding band and engagement ring to sit comfortably on the same finger at the same time, McTiernan adds: “There is increase in [demand for] shaped bands, there is a lot more bespoke jewellery so the demand on shaped bands is growing. You might have a plain 3mm band, if the lady has an engagement ring that’s something a little different, you have to build the wedding ring around the engagement ring. To do this you take a piece of metal out, so it’s got a slight ‘V’ or a slight nick in it. Shaped bands are very popular right now.”
The traditional gold wedding ring is still popular but there is also a high demand for these rings in both palladium and silver. On top of this there is a rising demand for two-tone rings, which are able to mix the traditional look with a modern feel. Karen Martin operations director and group sales manager at Betts Metal Sales commented: “Two tone rings have increased in popularity and we now offer a range of silver/gold and palladium/silver two tone rings available with a polished, beaded edge or tramline finish with plans to introduce bi coloured gold rings next year.”
The rise in modern and diamond set wedding bands means that consumers are now using eternity rings as wedding bands as well. Sarah Sheard, jewellery manager at Eternity Range, says: “People are looking at our products, not just for eternity rings, but to also use our rings as wedding bands as well which is great, women have more of a tendency to go for diamond set wedding bands and not just plain ones.”
The centre piece
While in the traditional engagement ring the centre stone is the showpiece and attention-grabber, there is a growing trend for pieces without the centre, and customers will have their own diamond added to the ring at a later date. Manoj Parmar, design and operations manager at River Mounts Jewellery, who specialise in creating diamond set rings without the centre stone, believes that this gives the customer more freedom. Parmar says: “Many customers want to put their own diamond in an engagement ring, or they have a diamond that’s been passed down or a coloured stone like a sapphire or ruby, the customer has that extra option in our designs, they can put their own stone in and we provide the mount.” A particularly popular engagement ring is the halo ring where the centre stone is surrounded by a row or two of diamond, Parmar comments that this type of rings gives more emphasis to the centre stone, making it look “bigger and brighter.”
When is the best time to stock these rings?
The traditional months of engagement ring and wedding ring sales are slowly morphing into a space to stock these rings all year round. Traditionally, the best months for sales of these products tends to be around March for weddings rings, and around September to December for engagement rings, and while this still remains broadly true, there is much more of an all year-round demand for wedding and engagement rings. Peter Green, head of wedding ring sales at Baird & Co, says: “It varies greatly nowadays. It used to be around March, for the summer influx of weddings. But times have changed and it seems to have evened out, so we get a steady flow of orders throughout the year.”
The price range of rings that jewellers provide will generally come down to local target audience but having a decent range of different prices can help retailers to encourage a wider market range of customers to sell to. With the economic hardships still just behind us it seems that there is plenty of demand for cheaper ring but also a growing demand for more expensive rings. Martin added: “As price is being focused on in these ‘austerity’ times we have particularly noticed how 9ct sales have increased.”
Stocking the right styles of jewellery is absolutely key when it comes to selling engagement and wedding rings, but at the same time the retailer must be versatile and own enough stock to appeal to a variety of markets.
By Tom Davis. This article first appeared in the November 2014 issue of Jewellery Focus