U.S. diamond sales stay strong during a tough year

Despite a year filled with economic, political and national turmoil, diamond jewelry retail sales in the U.S. through 2001 declined in value only 1% compared to 2000, according to the Diamond Information Center at J. Walter Thompson Co. This marked the first time in over a decade that the overall diamond jewelry market experienced a drop in sales on an annual basis.

The U.S. diamond jewelry market doubled in the past decade, reaching $26.1 billion in retail sales in 2001.

Interestingly, the decline in 2001 figures was not due to consumers refraining from making a diamond jewelry purchase, rather, it was related to consumers simply watching their wallets, the DIC reported. Actual transactions (volume) grew by 2% while the average ticket price declined almost three percent. Thus, while consumers’ desire for diamond jewelry showed no signs of abating, they understandably tightened their belts a little in 2001.

“What we witnessed in 2001 was that, despite the weak economy, the national tragedy and the somber mood of the country, there was still a strong desire by Americans to make heartfelt statements to their loved ones,” said Richard Lennox, director-in-charge of the diamond group at J. Walter Thompson.

The diamond engagement ring category continued to hold strong despite the sluggish economy, with 84% of all U.S. brides acquiring a diamond engagement ring in 2001, driving retail sales five percent higher than in 2000, the DIC reported. Moreover, this major segment did not see a drop in its average price.

Another key driver in the diamond jewelry market in 2001, according to the DC, was the continued demand for jewelry showcasing larger stones. This was evident in the success of the Three-Stone Diamond Anniversary Ring, a significant piece of diamond jewelry celebrating a couple’s Past, Present & Future. Launched in early 2000, the Three-Stone Diamond Ring quickly established itself as a classic, “must have” piece of diamond jewelry, experiencing a growth rate of twenty eight percent in the number of Three-Stone Rings (pieces) sold.

Diamond jewelry sales grew solidly during the Christmas season, up 4% in value and 7% in pieces sold, the DIC said. The holiday season now accounts for 28% of all women’s diamond jewelry sold in 2001 and 22% of the sales.