The 2018 Forecast According to Jewelry’s Big Thinkers

Last Thursday, jewelers received a big fat clue about what to expect in 2018, when Pantone named Ultra Violet its 2018 color of the year. But what else, besides a horde of jewels in pretty shades of purple, is coming down the pike in the new year?

As I do every year around this time, I reached out to a handful of big thinkers who specialize in everything from design trends to luxury marketing to get a sneak peek of what they’re seeing in their crystal balls. Without further ado…

Amanda Gizzi, director of PR and events for Jewelers of America

“Opportunities. In 2017, challenges might have been a trending word for our industry. With 2017 behind us, the focus shifts toward the opportunities presented to us. For 2018, trends will be taking shape with both jewelry and—hopefully—retail innovation.

“Fashion-forward jewelry in entry-level price points will help drive traffic and bring in a new generation of jewelry buyers. If we sit back and wait for the engagement ring and wedding band customers to introduce jewelry, we have waited too long. The self-purchasing customer holds major opportunities.

“Retail innovation is another big trend for 2018. Retail is no longer about just the physical environment. In order to be successful in 2018, a retailer must have a polished physical store, engaging website, and a social media presence that drives sales.”

Cecilia L. Gardner, Esq., former Jewelers Vigilance Committee president and CEO, and current director of the Jewelry Industry Summit

“In 2018, communications from jewelers addressing their engagement in ethics and social responsibility will become increasingly important to consumers when they purchase jewelry products. Sharing these values demonstrates to customers the importance of integrity and demonstrates that the industry cares about the benefits these products bring to the communities that produce them. This increased emphasis on a sustainable supply chain will inevitably contribute to a healthier industry overall.”

Marion Fasel, founder and editorial director of The Adventurine

“People are pining for security and stability in the challenging times we live in now. I think that has been reflected in a return to classic silhouettes in jewelry design, such as slender diamond chokers, hoop earrings, and signet rings.

“Designers served up these traditional looks with a modern twist that made them relevant again and I expect that to continue into 2018. These types of jewels add polish to an outfit. They are also somewhat of a palette cleanser from a bunch of tiny jewels layered together.

“Layering for now will continue to be in all the multiple ear piercings. Statement earrings, hoops, huggies, and studs are all going strong and will continue to do so. Personalization, charms, and talismans are another trend that will gain even more momentum in 2018. People want their jewelry to have meaning, remind them of their loved ones, and serve as some form of protection.”

Marty Hurwitz, CEO of MVI Marketing

“Seven key topics will dominate the jewelry space in 2018:

“Lab-grown diamonds: Already a growing market on the supply side, manmade, lab-grown diamonds will become a strong category at retail and with younger consumers who will continue to learn about them on social media and ask for them in stores.

“Social media influencers: The new marketing paradigm, very significant in fashion today, will expand to jewelry brands and larger retailers in 2018. Jewelry budget spends will grow for these unique social media influencers who can make a global trend with just one post.

“Attrition and consolidation: Independent retailers will continue to close their doors because they can’t compete, have no succession plans, or are just too tired to reinvent themselves for the brave new world. On the supplier side, look for more consolidation as size and dollar volume will provide manufacturers leverage with a shrinking number of retailer doors. As margins erode, these same manufacturers will also begin competing with their retailer customers in direct-to-consumer initiatives and the retailers won’t have the power to stop it anymore.

“Younger brands and brand licensing: Keep an eye out for new brands and celeb personalities coming into jewelry from the YouTube world. Stay tuned.

“Australian diamonds chain of custody: Get ready for a consumer push from Rio Tinto Diamonds on behalf of the Argyle mine in Australia for Australian Diamonds with a Story— finally, complete chain-of-custody diamonds from mine to market.

“Fashion consultants, not gemologists: Forget gemology. If you want to survive in jewelry retailing today, you must become a fashion consultant and sell to self-purchasing females directly.

“The store of the future: A unique, young retailing model for jewelry is being developed by some key players in the industry and will be presented and beta-tested in 2018.”

Milton Pedraza, founder and CEO of the Luxury Institute

“We expect the luxury jewelry industry will continue to experience low single-digit growth in 2018, with mixed results among well-known brands. Many marginal brands with small footprints, both on the branded jewelry producer and the boutique retail side, will disappear, leaving some breathing room for those who have the financial resources and business savvy to survive and thrive.

“Top brands will gain some share of the pie since consumers trust them most. We expect laboratory diamonds to continue to penetrate the category and give the natural diamond business some healthy competition. Socially responsible brands will be preferred although consumers will not be willing to pay a premium for them.

“Colors are still a big draw for consumers. We also expect some disruptive business models in the shared economy jewelry category, such as Flont, and other innovators in the vintage jewelry category, to emerge. Finally, if you haven’t figured out that emotionally intelligent managers and frontline associates are critical to your business, it may be time to retire and play golf.”

Pam Danziger, speaker, author, market researcher, and founder of Unity Marketing

“What kind of jewelry goes with a tattoo? That is a question that every jewelry retailer needs to be asking, because in surveys that Unity Marketing conducts with jewelry retailers, their No. 1 concern is finding new customers and attracting the next generation jewelry buyer. A recent study by Fox News found that 47 percent of women under 35 are tattooed.

“This is the next generation customer that jewelers must attract and their choice of permanent body adornment in the form of a tattoo tells much about their approach to selecting jewelry, the more traditional choice for artistic self-expression. Delicate, girlish, and pretty jewelry is not what will attract a tattooed beauty’s eye, but bold, flamboyant pieces that match her personal style would. Jewelers need to study and learn about this woman and design their store experiences and merchandise selection around her preferences and tastes.

“Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and jewelers need a new lens through which to understand the kind of jewelry that will be beautiful to the next generation woman, and man, who is another emerging customer that jewelers should be thinking about, too.”

Stuart Robertson, research director for Gemworld International

“2017 saw some interesting trends in the U.S. gem trade that one can expect to carry into 2018, not the least of which are the large gains made by small studio artisans and designers in connecting with millennials—a consumer class that traditional retail jewelers have been largely unable to tap.

“In color gems, exotic, as well as traditional garnets, beryls, and tourmalines, are very popular and should continue as such. 2017 saw price corrections in corundum, making a sound rebound in demand for mid-grades of ruby and sapphire likely in 2018.

“At a quick glance, current economic indicators would suggest that 2018 will be a strong year for business. After all, 2017 posted the first consecutive quarters of 3 percent growth since 2014. But there is also reason for some concern that consumers could tighten spending early into the new year and adopt a cautious tone since the 2018 midterm elections are already shaping up to be unusually contentious. Political theater distracts consumers, and discretionary spending suffers as a result.”

(At top: East-West emerald necklace in 14k yellow gold with lab-grown emerald-cut Nexus diamond; $379;

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