The Life of Luxury Jewelry and Watch Shoppers

Analyzing the ­shopping habits and ­spending patterns of affluent consumers

At the end of last year, JCK partnered with W ­magazine on a study of jewelry style and purchasing ­demographics among affluent consumers in the fine jewelry and watch market. The survey’s 534 total respondents, the vast majority of whom were women, had a median household income of $159,181 and a median age of 43. Included in that mix were 110 respondents with a median household income of $425,000 and a median age of 49.

The findings were clear. In this new “hourglass” economy, successful companies are operating at the extremes: They are selling one-of-a-kind pieces to clients for whom money is no object, or they are aggressively pursuing price-point shoppers, many of whom consider even Walmart above their means. The middle market, with its legions of aspirational consumers, has all but vanished.

Beyond what the research told us about the growing divide between rich and poor, it also provided us with a road map to modern style. We know today’s top consumers gravitate to precious objects, but we were surprised by the degree to which fashion rules their choices. They mix and match costume and fine ­jewelry with little regard for the traditional boundaries between them.

That said, they aren’t “trading down” as metal costs rise; gold is still the most desirable metal, while they appreciate silver for its style and design, not its value. Wearing a fine watch is, by the same token, a fashion choice—especially among younger consumers. 

When it comes to luxury shopping, retailers must master both the “high touch” and “no touch” experience if they wish to stay relevant to their best customers. In other words, offering both exemplary, one-on-one customer service and easy-to-use self-service options is key to winning hearts and minds.

“In the new normal world, the most influential luxury consumers demand a different relationship with their brands,” says Nina Lawrence, W vice president and publisher. “They want to be inspired, entertained, and more emotionally connected to them.”

It’s true: Luxury consumers are enchanted by the narratives that underpin their most important purchases. Just keep in mind that they value authenticity above all else. So when you’re spinning that tale, make sure it’s 100% real.

W ( reaches 1.4 million readers who make up the most affluent audience among all the women’s fashion magazines.

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