Jewelry industry needs to catch up with growing consumer demand for pearls

For too long, pearl jewelry has been an afterthought for jewelers, a category of a few necklaces and earrings they felt compelled to wear, but nothing exciting. It’s starting to change.

Pearls are having their fashion moment, boosted by designers like Dolce and Gabbana, Prada, Givenchy, Dior, Vesace, Miu Miu and Chanel showing pearls on the catwalk.

And pearls are no longer just for women as Dior, Alexander McQueen and Ryan Roche dress male models in pearls. For this they can thank Marc Jacobs designer who calls her Mikimoto pearl necklace her “lucky charm”.

More and more jewelry designers are discovering the versatility of pearls, as recent winners of the Cultured Pearl Association of AmericaAnnual bead making competition. This year, the highest distinction was awarded to an earring design by Tariq Riaz made of one hundred Akoya pearls enhanced with emeralds.

The combination of pearls with other gemstones, such as diamonds, sapphires and turquoise, was a trend this year, with seven of the ten winning designs mixing them. Even the The Natural Diamond Council recognizes that pearls and diamonds go well together.

“Diamonds and pearls look romantic and dreamy. These are qualities that everyone always wants to capture in their jewelry, especially now,” said Jennifer McCurry of Marissa Collections, noting that the sparkle of diamonds and the dazzling sparkle of pearls complement each other perfectly.

Until now, pearl jewelry has been an underserved market, says Marty Hurwitz of market research firm MVEye. “Pearls are nature’s perfect gem, natural, renewable, sustainable and growing them improves the ocean environment. There is huge interest in pearls among consumers. Jewelry retailers need to catch up.

In collaboration with the Cultured Pearl Association, his company has just completed a benchmark study on consumer preferences for pearls among more than 1,000 fine jewelry buyers between the ages of 25 and 55. Survey respondents were qualified as having made a purchase over $200 in the past three years.

Millennials want more pearls

The survey found that interest in pearl jewelry is particularly strong among millennials between the ages of 25 and 35. Specifically, 42% of millennials are very likely to request pearl jewelry, compared to just 19% of 46-55 year olds.

Some 24% of millennials are very likely to buy pearl jewelry for themselves compared to 10% of 46-55 year olds and some 47% are very likely to buy pearls as a gift, compared to 16% of 46-55 year olds . old.

When asked if they would consider pearls for themselves, 47% of millennials raised their hands, while only 16% of older consumers said yes.

It should be noted in particular that while awareness of cultured pearls is very high (81% recognize the term), only 60% of consumers are aware that pearls are a renewable and sustainable resource.

This presents the greatest challenge and opportunity for the pearl jewelry market. “The interest in pearls is there, but retailers need to dig deeper into the category, learn more about them, and introduce more varieties and exciting designs to consumers,” says Jennifer Heebner, executive director of the Cultured Pearl Association.

Retailers stand to gain from showing more pearl jewelry because profit margins are higher in pearls than in diamonds, says Heebner. And she says that when buying diamonds, consumers can easily gauge the price based on cut, quality and cut, but pearls aren’t so easily compared.

“The colors of pearls vary so much. Each bead is one of a kind. It’s really hard to compare one pearl to another,” she says.

Pearls for brides

A key finding from the survey is that 36% of millennials will consider a pearl the center stone of an engagement ring, and a further 40% will say they could give it a try.

It was a pleasant surprise for Heebner and Peggy Grosz, a board member of the Cultured Pearl Association and senior vice president of Assael, a fine jewelry company specializing in pearls. Assael supplies Neiman Marcus, Mitchells, Richards Jewelers and approximately 100 other fine pearl jewelry retailers.

“We’re seeing more interest in the bride,” Grosz says, but she adds a caveat. “Pearls don’t fare well when exposed to soap, lotions, perfumes, and household chemicals, so they’re not suited to being carried on the hand all the time. But then, a pearl center stone is replaced in a much more affordable way.

Grosz describes the renewed interest in pearls as a “Pearl Revolution, explaining the pendulum goes back from the ostentatious bling of the other stones to the “understated elegance” of the pearls.

“Yes, there has been a lot of excitement around colored gemstones, but pearls come in so many colors and each has a special shade of color that makes them special,” she explains.

“They complement your skin tone and complexion like no other stone. Depending on how they are set and worn, a designer can draw color from a pearl. And they come in so many different shapes, styles, and lengths. You never overdress or underdress with pearls,” she continues.

Pearls make jewelry that lasts

Two-thirds of fine jewelry consumers surveyed own at least one piece of pearl jewelry. Pearls are the third most popular gemstone for personal purchase, after diamonds and sapphires, and the second most popular after diamonds for gift giving.

The bottom line, as the report states, is: “The pearl trade doesn’t have to sell cultured pearls to consumers, because they already love, have and want them.”

Pearls are a unique sustainable gemstone that can help jewelers build a sustainable business. What’s needed is for jewelers to expand their selection, learn more about the pearl’s powerful sustainability story, and communicate it more effectively to their customers. It’s a story that millennials, in particular, are eager to hear.

The opportunity is there for jewelry retailers and consumers to be ready and waiting for more pearls.

“There is still work to be done to show how pearls have come a long way from the little strands of white pearls Grandma wore to a world of shapes, sizes, colors and prices to satisfy. all tastes and all budgets”, concludes the study.