Jewelers, Ethical Sourcing, and Nabbing the Interest of Millennials

Industry may be finally and collectively realizing the importance of capturing millennials’ interest in jewelry.

This group’s general disinterest in our category has been alarming. By now, everybody knows that these consumers love technology and are tuned into cause marketing, but recent research shows that this group believes that corporate philanthropy is important, nearly all care about current events, and more than a quarter care about equal rights. Other research warns of an impending luxury sales drought, brought on in part by millennials.

The issue of millennials is now in the forefront of many of the brightest minds in industry. Millennials were the most pressing issue to arise in Baselworld—aside from the lack of traffic—because of their lackluster love of jewelry. Roberto Coin told JCK that “love had changed,” and that “millennials have no sentiment behind their love” because they didn’t understand the value of jewelry in the love equation. Ditto for Andrea Hansen of LUXE Intelligence, who expressed similar concern while I perused new pieces from her clients, citing that Ben Smithee, founder and chief advisor of Spych Research, a millennial-focused intelligence firm, was a force in knowing what this generation wants.

“Ben speaks of the interaction between brands and people, and this aspect of marketing has never been so important,” Hansen says. “Millennials seek different values and different fulfillment from their purchases. We as jewelers need to create relevance for our products. It’s time to learn a new language.”

What could help jewelers ride this wave of uncertainty and drive more interest to the jewelry category among millennials is calling attention to ethically sourced gems, jewelry, and materials. This is one reason why it’s important to recognize Ethical Metalsmiths, a 10-year-old nonprofit promoting ethics and making jewelry a vehicle of long-term positive benefit for all partners worldwide. It is raising awareness through its Gardens of Gold exhibit of member pieces April 7–11 at Linhardt Design in New York City. Ditto for the companion fund-raising auction happening now to beef up curriculum offerings and to make ethical jewelry “the rule rather than the exception,” according to a release on efforts. Further proof of the importance of this topic: Longtime retailer Tara Silberberg of the Clay Pot in Brooklyn, N.Y., and New York City, is a Gardens of Gold sponsor.

“As a leading New York City retailer of alternative bridal jewelry, we have always had a customer base that sought conflict-free stones and recycled materials,” she explained in a press release.

Still, this is just scratching the surface of the millennial issue. Social media helps to get messages and education out, but as Hansen well knows, what you say is as important as how you say it. “What other factors will influence millennials to get them to become more interested in jewelry?” she asks. “How do we educate them, and the generation that comes after them, in embracing the purchase and gifting of jewelry as part of their lives? How do we as an industry promote the traditions and values of what we do for the future?”

Let’s start a constructive dialogue now on how to instill an appreciation of jewelry in this generation, whose spending is soon poised to eclipse that of baby boomers.

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