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Bridal & Engagement Trends

Articles from DIAMOND JEWELLERY (845 Articles), RINGS - GENERAL (735 Articles), RINGS - ENGAGEMENT (216 Articles)


Bucking tradition

Commitment jewellery has had a facelift, and now singles and unmarried partners are also announcing their status with bling. CARLA CARUSO reports.

Once upon a time, many would have thought it sacrilegious for a female guest to wear black to a wedding. Now, brides clad their bridesmaids head-to-toe in the hue. Some brides even cross to the dark-side themselves when picking their gown.

The rulebook has been thrown out and anything goes for today's weddings - uneven-numbered bridal parties include male "maids-of-honour", while extravagant Saturday night nuptials are exchanged for Sunday lunches.

My Wedding Magazine creative director Belinda Wuensch says it's all about couples wanting their celebration to be seen as unique and different: "When following tradition, there are many rules to abide by, so I think we are in times now where breaking tradition is 'in'."

Reflectively, the brilliant-cut, solitaire diamond engagement ring in gold or platinum is no longer the dream for every bride-to-be and there are now a myriad of new trends in commitment jewellery tantalising the senses.

Of course, this assumes marriage is even on the cards; for many of the Sex and the City generation, it isn't, but now you don't have to be married, heterosexual or even attached to celebrate your status with a piece of jewellery.

Such shifting social customs presents retailers with a lucrative gift-bag of opportunities, opening a whole new category that is already receiving strong support from manufacturers.

Bulgari has released a ring in its B.zero1 line that can be used as an all-in-one engagement and wedding ring - and for men and women combined. The unisex ring comes in 18-carat white or yellow gold, is set with pavé diamonds, and presents an ideal "matching ring" proposition for any couple, according to the company.

The concept of matching rings is particularly popular for newlyweds in Europe, where engagement rings are not such a big deal, according to Stephen Brown, the general manager of Melbourne wholesaler RJ Scanlan & Co.: "Traditionally, a couple there marks their wedding with similar, matching rings, which may have slight differences," he says, "such as the woman's ring being enhanced with diamonds and the men's ring being broader in design."

With society norms opening up, the partner ring trend has also emerged as the accessory of choice for de facto partners, gay couples, and those marrying for a second time.

Germany jewellery brand TeNo, which RJ Scanlan & Co distributes, has just released a new range of partner rings made from materials like stainless steel, high-tech ceramic, 18-carat yellow or rose gold, silver and diamonds.

"For TeNo, partner rings are the biggest part of their business, making up 40 per cent," Brown says. "In Australia, it is a very small part of our business, but it is something we are certainly going to be paying more attention to."

It seems more men are today splashing out on diamond-set wedding rings instead of just plain bands, and even engagement rings as well as a wedding band. "This has been a growing trend in the last couple of years," Brown says. "Ten to 15 years ago, a man's masculinity would have been called into question. Now, even AFL stars are wearing such rings."

According to Brown, the rings may vary between single stone princess or baguette-cut diamonds between 10 and 20 points in size, rings with three to six small brilliant cuts between one and five points, and channel-set.

Stones are also being reassessed by brides, with diamonds no longer the only best friend a girl can have. Rhys Fox, the advertising and internet coordinator at Brisbane retailer Opals Down Under, says enquiries for opal engagement rings have stepped up considerably: "The younger generation is really getting into the whole unique appeal of using opals in engagement rings," Fox says. "I think couples are wanting something different to diamonds and every opal is unique, with no one opal showing the same pattern and colour as another."

With the economic crisis hitting Australians in the hip pocket, some are even considering diamond simulants for their special day.

Lauren Chang Sommer, the managing director of Sydney moissanite retailer Moi Moi Fine Jewellery, says the simulant - created from silicon carbide - is growing more popular as an alternative stone: "The average price of a one-carat diamond ring is upwards of $10,000, whereas a one-carat moissanite ring of the same quality averages at $1,400."

It's not uncommon for couples who opt out of diamonds to "trade up" when they get a little more money. Newly engaged couples on a tight budget may now start out with simple rings before upgrading to more expensive options over time. Sydney jewellery retailer Percy Marks is one of many stores now offering diamond trade-up programs for its clients.

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Katrina Marchioni, a diamond expert at Melbourne retailer Trewarne Fine Jewellery, says recent market directions show that there really are no rules: "Many girls receive or hope for a ring on their first wedding anniversary," she says. "Others may receive one on the birth of their first child or on another significant wedding anniversary. In my case, sadly, it took 25 years! In reality, over 75 per cent of women never receive an eternity ring, so it is a huge, untapped market."

To tap this rich vein of potential sales, Marchioni says Trewarne Fine Jewellery promotes "either an anniversary ring or other ring worn on the right hand. The difference is that the anniversary ring still is more of a band style, although quite wide, whereas the others are more a statement piece in any style".

Such an accessory could come in the form of a trilogy ring, consisting of three diamonds and representing a couple's past, present and future.

Stackable rings are also being used as an alternative to traditional eternity rings to enhance wedding jewellery, as seen at places such as Tiffany and Co., Sydney retailer Victoria and Albert Antiques, and Pandora.

Pandora's stackable rings are designed to be stacked five to six at a time on one finger.

With many now marrying later, or not at all, another big trend is the celebration of one's single status with a right-hand ring. Diamond giant De Beers has been responsible for popularising right-hand rings, bought and worn by women as a symbol of independence.

Trewarne Fine Jewellery has a whole category on its website for such rings, stating, "One of the last taboos in our culture was that a woman could not buy her own diamond and that the man simply did it for you. Today's woman is saying 'I feel good about myself. I can do it. I'm empowered to do it.'"

Sommer says accessories like right-hand rings tap into a market with huge potential - self-purchasing women: "Women's earning and spending power continues to increase and, with that, comes an increased demand for luxury products including fine jewellery."

US author Cheryl Jarvis's book, The Necklace, is a real-life account of the power of self-purchasing women. It follows the story of 13 women who buy a $US15,000 diamond necklace together and share wearing it. According to Jarvis, "What started as a quirky social experiment became something far deeper, as the women transformed a symbol of exclusivity into a symbol of inclusiveness."

In the same vein, Mazzuchelli's Jewellers ambassador and actress Pia Miranda revealed at the launch of new stores in Sydney late last year that her most treasured jewellery item was a pair of diamond stud earrings - a gift from six of her girlfriends, who all made a pact that they'd each buy one another diamonds when they turned 30. Her engagement ring didn't even come into the equation. A sign of the times.

Single men need not miss out on celebrating their "singledom" either.

The unisex SHI Symbol - an Australian concept - is dubbed the international symbol for singles across the globe.

SHI's sterling silver pendants, incorporating the Mars and Venus gender symbols, can be worn on bracelets, necklaces and armbands, helping to declare single status and gender preference to the world - there are both heterosexual and same-sex versions.

Jan Pagonis, the managing director of SHI Symbol in Perth, says SHI - an acronym for "single, happy, interested" - came about from it being difficult as a single to work out who was attached, except by looking for a wedding band.

"As we all know, not everyone is married and so this method of determination has its flaws. This dating tool was devised to make it easy for singles to recognise who was or wasn't single."

With so many new trends, retailers should be selective about what they incorporate.

Barry Urquhart, the managing director of Marketing Focus, says, given the current economic turmoil, the retailer's objective must be maintaining positive cash flow.

Trends and fads can often mean immediate profit but, according to Urquhart, "Don't allow them to overwhelm the integrity of your brand."

A steady shift in the way that society now views commitment is changing the traditional ceremonies surrounding marriage, and bridal jewellery retailers are experiencing opening markets for the first time in many years. Retailers don't need to ignore their traditional customers to keep their eyes open for emerging trends.

Carla Caruso • Journalist
Carla Caruso has been a jewellery junkie for as long as she can remember, has covered the Vicenza gold fair in Italy and one day hopes to pen a novel about all that glitters. She has been a freelance contributor to Jeweller since 2005.
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Sunday, 19 January, 2020 08:46pm
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