Top 10 Jewelry Retail Trends of 2011

So I’ve looked at overall retail trends for the year and, with the help of my colleagues Jennifer Heebner and Paul Holewa, have come up with the top 10 trends in jewelry retail in 2011:

1. Silver. Or, as one of industry veteran put it, when I asked what was selling: “Silver, silver, silver. And that’s it.” Back in the day, many fine jewelers shied away from silver. Now it’s become a huge part of our industry, partly because of the gold price, and partly because it’s an affordable item during tough times. 

2. Diamond buying from the public. Many jewelers have amended those “we buy gold” signs to say “we buy gold and diamonds,” as JCK wrote in November. One retailer even told me she no longer buys from dealers; she gets all the diamonds she needs from walk-ins. And the trend may just be starting, once consumers realize just how much diamond prices have risen. Long-time analyst Ben Janowski predicts that “the next diamond mine will be the U.S. public.” 

3. Speaking of diamonds, they seem to have enjoyed a solid year, sales-wise. De Beers execs have said they are surprised by how much sales have grown, not just overseas, but in the U.S. as well. Colored diamonds seem particularly popular among high-end jewelers.

4. That said, more consumers are looking at colored stone engagement rings. That seems to be a long-term trend.

5. Beads/charms. Yes, some jewelers see sales slowing, and Pandora the company (and stock) didn’t have the best year. But many jewelers still swear by that line and other bead brands, especially Chamilia and Trollbeads. If it’s a fad, it hasn’t burned out yet.

6. Jewelpops’ Kameleon line is making a lot of noise, and, it appears, sales. It’s even led to lawsuits, perhaps the surest sign of success.

7. Retailers report solid sales this holiday for the Forevermark. Of course, it is just one season, but that’s a good sign.

8. What’s the next affordable fashion jewelry trend? My colleague Paul Holewa thinks it could be an old reliable, pearls: “Freshwaters are really doing well in the price point category,” he says.

9. Custom work remains strong, particularly since, with material costs rising, jewelers want to carry as little “live” inventory as possible. (And jewelers continue to be very interested in stocking prototypes.) There is also a lot more interest, and action, in the field of online custom design. It’s not just Gemvara. Sterling is looking it into as well.

10. Retailers paring down vendors. Now that we have climbed out of the ditch we were in during 2008 and 2009, jewelers remember the companies that supported them during the tough times—and the ones that didn’t. So they’re focusing on suppliers they consider true partners. 

Finally, I’m reluctant to christen this an official trend, but there is a lot more talk about home sales. Many companies will be watching whether Moissanite’s experiment pays off. 

For style-watchers, Jennifer predicts a big trend over the next year will be “Roaring Twenties”-inspired jewelry, given the flapper dresses on the spring runways, HBO’s Boardwalk Empire series, and the upcoming remake of The Great Gatsby (for which Tiffany & Co. is designing the film’s jewelry). Jen thinks this will translate into Art Deco-inspired settings, floral motifs, and black and white accessories.

Agree? Disagree? One of the fun things about making lists is they draw opinions. Let’s hear yours.

JCK News Director