While couples are spending less on elaborate weddings and honeymoons due to the pandemic, they are spending more than ever on the perfect diamond engagement ring — often upgrading in color, cut and clarity, rather than size. That was the key finding from the De Beers Group's latest Diamond Insight "Flash" Report, which has been looking carefully at the impact of COVID-19 on relationships and engagements.
Interviews with independent jewelers throughout the US also revealed that the rate of engagements has increased significantly, with bridal sales accounting for the primary source of diamond jewelry demand.
"For many couples, the pandemic has brought them even closer together, in some instances speeding up the path to engagement after forming a deeper connection while experiencing lockdown and its associated ups and downs as a partnership," commented Bruce Cleaver, CEO, De Beers Group. "Engagement rings are taking on even greater symbolism in this environment, with retailers reporting couples are prepared to invest more than usual, particularly due to budget reductions in other areas."
De Beers' informal survey also revealed that consumers are often choosing more classic designs. Jewelers noted that round diamonds and round-edged fancy shapes of better qualities are dominating their bestsellers, and that designs have become simpler, with customers less interested in extra pavé and melee embellishments.
While halos are still selling well, jewelers are generally seeing engagement ring customers opt for more conservative looks. Round diamonds are the most popular shape, followed by ovals and cushions.
The "Flash" report also included findings from a national survey of 360 US women in serious relationships, undertaken in late October in collaboration with engagement and wedding website, The Knot. It found that the majority of respondents (54%) were thinking more about their engagement ring than the wedding itself (32%) or the honeymoon (15%), supporting jewelers' hypothesis that engagement ring sales were benefiting from reduced wedding and travel budgets in light of COVID-19 restrictions.
When it came to researching engagement rings, 86% of respondents said "online" was, by far, the most effective channel for gaining ideas/inspiration, with 85% saying they had saved examples of styles they liked.
"Part of the reason people are getting engaged during COVID is because there is so much distance between them and their community," noted Dr. Terry Real, a relationship therapist and author of the forthcoming book Us: The Power of Moving Beyond Me and You. "The couple is intimate, but thirsty for outside stimulation... For a young person to have a performance of your love that's witnessed is like water in the desert in this culture. The ring is that performance. Especially now."
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