Diamond jewelry sales sparkle in the UK

Sales of diamond jewelry are booming in the UK as British consumers splurge on up-market presents, according to the Financial Times (FT).

Many shops are reporting record demand for diamonds, other jewelry, antiques and art-with retailers describing the trend as a “flight to quality” in the wake of the September 11 attacks on the US.

Most retailers told the British business publication that there are fewer shoppers in high street but that those who are spending are not holding back.

“There is a real feeling that people want to treat themselves or those they love to very special Christmas presents at such an uncertain time,” one retailer told FT. Another said that consumers wanted to buy things they felt would last and might hold their value, such as antiques and art. “It’s almost as if they are looking at shopping now as an investment,” he added.

John Lewis, the department store chain, said it was selling far more jewelry than it had expected, ranging from cheaper items to vintage pieces selling for hundreds of pounds.

“Jewelry, and particularly diamonds, are hot-and it came from nowhere,” Nigel Wreford-Brown, merchandise director, told FT. “I think customers feel this is something for keeps.”

Ian Dahl, chief executive of UK retailing for Signet, the international jewelry chain that used to be Ratners, said diamonds were very much back in fashion. “They are the fastest growing category in our product range,” Dahl told FT.

Many retailers, reporting high demand for luxury products, said the sector was probably enjoying some sales diverted from holiday or leisure spending, FT reported. Chris Burrow, managing director of Alfred Terry, which manufactures diamond jewelry, said his customers were benefiting from that trend.

“Plenty of retailers have told me they have seen people walking in with more than Pounds 1,000 to spend after canceling a holiday,” said Burrow, who supplies more than 1,100 independent jewelers. “Diamond sales are storming ahead. It’s happening all around Britain.”

Jewelry sales are also thought to be benefiting as other areas that have been big sellers over the past few years-most notably mobile telephones-are seeing a marked slowdown in growth, FT reported.

David Shone, who owns Emson-Haig in Lakeside, one of the UK’s biggest jewelry stores, said his sales were running 25% ahead of last year, with diamonds up 30%.

“Diamond sales are ahead of last year and that was a record,” Shone told FT. “People are going back to more traditional presents and this year the focus is certainly on diamonds.”