It's prime wedding time for Millennials. People born between the early 1980s and the late 1990s are currently in their early twenties to mid-thirties, placing that generation squarely in the U.S. Census Bureau's median age brackets for first-time marriages: 29.5 years for men and 27.4 years for women in 2017.
What sets Millennial clients apart in their engagement and wedding jewelry choices? In a word, it's "personal." Rather than following a playbook of standards and norms, younger couples are interested in creating their own traditions. That's why many of these consumers are seeking out non-traditional materials and styles that speak to their individual personalities and relationships.
According to The Knot's 2017 Jewelry & Engagement Study, almost half of modern couples aren't as satisfied with an "out of the box" ring experience—they want more input in their ring's design. "Whether grooms completely customized (18%) the ring or implemented touches of custom design (27%) with a jeweler, nearly half (45%) of all grooms had their engagement rings personalized in some capacity," the study finds.
Many jewelers feel that creating a custom ring is simply more rewarding, workwise—but there's a financial payoff as well. The extra personalization means that today's couples are spending 25% more on their engagement rings than they were five or six years ago.
From a jeweler's perspective, all of these factors make Millennial wedding clients an especially attractive market to tap into. Here are a few easy-to-implement materials and ideas that can help you capture the attention of Millennial wedding clients.
Stone Shapes: It may come as a surprise, but the cuts and shapes of gemstones you offer could be the single biggest factor in appealing to wedding jewelry clients. "Both brides and grooms agree," The Knot's 2017 study found, "the most important factors to consider in their ring purchase are the cut and shape of the stone, followed by the ring style and setting, and then the quality of the stone." And when it comes to shapes, the princess cut has left the palace. Rounds are the reigning queen, according to The Knot study; we're seeing that ovals, pears and cushions make Millennial hearts beat faster, too.
Lab-Created Origins: As for the type of gemstone, consider going "above-ground." Lab-created diamonds and Moissanite are eclipsing heirloom and vintage stones in Google searches. These white gemstones offer incredible brilliance, clarity and size at an attractive price point, while offering a "green" pedigree that Millennial shoppers are actively seeking.
Stone Color: White gems may not be right for your Millennial clients. Color gemstones have been making a big push in engagement and wedding rings since the turn of the 2000s. And when it comes to color, nothing is more Milleniel than "Millennial pink"—a peachy blush most closely associated with Morganite that complements a variety of metals. While selecting a colorful gemstone for your ring design, Kevin Whitmore, Rio Grande’s gemstones product manager, offers this piece of advice: Choose a stone with a high rating on the Mohs scale of hardness. "You want something that can hold up to being worn every day without being scratched or dented," he says. "Rubies, sapphires, and topaz are all good choices."
Settings: With "Millennial Pink" still in full force, the availability of pink gold fabrication metals continues to increase. Rose-and-white gold and tri-color mixed metal rings are popular. Mokume gane, with its unique variations in color and pattern, is another material with Millennial appeal. Because of the increased visual excitement of unique stone shapes, colors and metals, many couples are striking a balance with minimalist engagement sets, flush-set wedding bands and simple stackable rings.
Sketching Your Design: Take a cue from renowned jewelry designer and illustrator Rémy Rotenier: Use counter sketching to help your wedding and engagement clients communicate their emotions and ideas to you. "The person walking in your door is feeling a ton of stuff. A lot of times they are a little bit shy and they are going to be talking about something that is extremely personal," Rémy explains. "Whether they are redesigning Grandma's necklace or it's the first time they are going to propose" whatever the situation, it is not nothing. These are objects that we endow with a ton of emotions. When you sit down and sketch for someone, it gives them a feeling of importance." As a bonus, you can include the sketch or full-color rendering of their design as part of the sale; frame the sketch to increase the "significance" factor even more.
Ring-Making Experiences: Some jewelers are taking the concept of "forging memories" one step further: They're opening up their studios or hosting workshops to couples wishing to have a hands-on experience in crafting their wedding bands. As part of its Make Your Own Wedding Band Workshop, Columbus, Ohio's The Smithery builds lots of "extras" into its private instruction experience, including a discount on any materials purchased that day, photo documentation, a ring box for the finished products and flowers and bubbly to take home.
Education: Simply taking a little time to educate your clients can remove a potential barrier to sales. According to The Knot's 2017 study, "The majority of grooms (72%) report facing some challenges throughout the ring purchasing journey, most notably not knowing if they were getting a good deal (35%) and not having a firm knowledge about diamond terminology (28%)." Helping people feel empowered and knowledgeable can help turn a potential customer into a loyal client.
Instagram: Making sure your jewelry looks good in your Instagram feed goes a very long way in building Millennial brand loyalty. Check out the Nimbus lighting kit, which is designed specifically for shooting jewelry with your smartphone camera, and pick up a few pointers from a pro jewelry photographer. Also consider sharing candid shots of your workspace and unfinished pieces in process; you’ll help your followers feel more connected to—and emotionally invested in—your work and your business.
Whatever the colors, styles and materials a couple is considering, it's clear that the job of today’s jewelers extends beyond making personalized rings—they're making personal experiences, too!