Bridal / Industry

Severine Ferrari on How the Rules of Engagement Are Changing

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Severine Ferrari is as close as the jewelry industry gets to an engagement guru. The founder of Engagement 101, a 15-year-old platform for sharing engagement stories and proposal-planning tips, Ferrari has closely tracked the wedding category over the course of the pandemic. Below, she shares some takeaways about how getting engaged has changed in light of the COVID crisis, which ring trends are poised to take off this year, and one thing all retailers must understand about the wedding business circa 2021.

The wedding industry was incredibly hard hit by the pandemic, but we saw a lot of people continue to get engaged. How have engagements changed compared to pre-pandemic times?

People definitely got engaged in 2020. There were three interesting changes. First, proposals got more intimate with people getting engaged at home and during hikes or short getaways in remote locations. Second, just-engaged couples embraced longer engagement periods without stressing right away about wedding planning. Third, the budget for wedding bands and engagement rings increased for those who decided to just plan a micro-wedding or couples who were able to reallocate travel budget not spent.

Nana Fink aquamarine Liz ring
Liz ring in 18k white gold with 6.5 ct. aquamarine, diamonds, and citrine, 10,500 CHF (about $11,720); Nana Fink

Can you share any recent proposal stories you found to be especially memorable?

We received so many beautiful engagement stories, but two stand out because they are so “COVID” and also show the impact of social changes in the engagement world.

We shared the story of this lesbian couple, which was really sweet. Karah had some big plans for a proposal during a hot-air balloon ride, but it got too windy and she ended up proposing on a hike with a custom engagement ring by Sholdt. Jaime decided she wanted to propose back and secretly asked Kalee from Sholdt to design a ring that would be different but with the same “fern finish” design element. She also had big plans, but they both got COVID, so she just went ahead and proposed back while they were ill.

Erica proposed to Jordan with the help of their family during a pandemic scavenger hunt. She commissioned two stunning his and hers emerald engagement rings from Khan Diamonds in Boston. She chose emeralds as center stones because she felt emeralds were a better representation of their relationship. They are rarer than diamonds but also demand more care.

Turning the focus to product, what trends in engagement rings and wedding bands do you expect to resonate with consumers this year?

Because people still have a lot of time on their hands to think about their wedding rings, custom designs are going to be the major trend. This includes:

  • Wedding suites with one engagement ring and two bands
  • Unique center stones such as fancy-shape diamonds or colored gemstones in all hues and all across the Mohs scale
  • Cluster rings or dome rings including family diamonds
  • Three- and two-stone rings mixing stone shapes
  • Eternity bands with fancy-shape diamonds
  • Nesting bands, from simple chevron shapes to intricate fan or tiara bands
  • Custom gent’s bands in precious metals or cool alternative metals with stones.

There’s more budget for his ring because of the pandemic in straight- couple relationships. Overall, men’s jewelry is back in fashion, and once they have had a customized experience for the engagement ring, they want it for both their bands too. There’s also a rising number of same-sex engagements.

Rosa Van Parys Infinity mens band in rose gold
Infinity men’s band in 18k rose and black gold and diamonds; $7,026; Rosa Van Parys Jewelry

What are some ways jewelers can capitalize on Valentine’s Day this year?

I would say build messaging around the obvious fact that the pandemic has shown that having found your person has to be celebrated. Jewelry can help do that, especially customized jewelry.

What’s one important takeaway about selling wedding jewelry circa 2021 that you think all jewelry retailers must understand?

I think it is important to embrace young people’s values and outlook on life if you want to develop bridal sales. Diversity, inclusivity, sustainability, and new gender norms are all things jewelers need to think about when choosing inventory and engaging the clients in their store, on their website and social pages, and through their marketing/ads.

Nicole Rose marquise diamond ring
Vintage ring in platinum with 0.81 ct. marquise diamond; $3,995; Nicole Rose Fine Jewelry
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By: Victoria Gomelsky

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