For too long, pearl jewelry has been an afterthought for jewelers, a category of a few strands of necklace and earrings that they felt compelled to wear, but nothing exciting. This is starting to change.
Pearls have their fashion moment, spurred on by designers like Dolce and Gabbana, Prada, Givenchy, Dior, Vesace, Miu Miu and Chanel who show pearls on the catwalk.
And pearls are no longer just for women, as Dior, Alexander McQueen and Ryan Roche adorn male models with pearls. For this they can thank designer Marc Jacobs 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 Association of Cultured Pearls of AmericaAnnual pearl creation competition. This year, a Tariq Riaz earring with a hundred Akoya pearls embellished with emeralds won the highest honor.
Combining pearls with other gemstones, like diamonds, sapphires and turquoises, was a trend this year, with seven of the ten winning designs mixing them together. Even the The Natural Diamond Council recognizes that pearls and diamonds go well together.
“There is a romantic, dreamy look to diamonds and pearls. 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 brilliant 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 their cultivation improves the ocean environment. Consumers are very interested in pearls. Jewelry retailers need to catch up.
In collaboration with the Cultured Pearl Association, his company has just completed a comparative study of 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 the 25-35 age group. Concretely, 42% of millennials are very likely to ask for pearl jewelry, compared to only 19% of 46-55 year olds.
Some 24% of millennials are very likely to buy pearl jewelry for themselves vs. 10% of 46 to 55 year olds and some 47% are very likely to buy pearls as a gift, vs. 16% of 46 to 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 if the notoriety of cultured pearls is very high (81% recognize the term), only 60% of consumers know that pearls are a renewable and sustainable resource.
This represents the biggest 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 present more varieties and exciting designs to consumers,” says Jennifer Heebner, executive director of the Cultured Pearl Association.
Retailers stand to gain from presenting more pearl jewelry, as the profit margins are higher for pearls than diamonds, Heebner explains. And she says when shopping for diamonds, consumers can easily price according to cut, quality and size, but pearls aren’t that easy to compare.
“The colors of the pearls vary so much. Each pearl is unique. It’s really hard to compare one pearl to another, ”she says.
Beads for brides
A major finding from the survey is that 36% of millennials will consider a pearl to be the center stone of an engagement ring, while 40% say they might try it.
It was a good surprise for Heebner and Peggy Grosz, board member of the Cultured Pearl Association and senior vice president of Assael, a jewelry company specializing in pearls. Assael supplies pearls to Neiman Marcus, Mitchells, Richards Jewelers and about 100 other jewelry retailers.
“We’re seeing more interest in the bride,” Grosz says, but adds a caveat. “Pearls don’t do well when exposed to soap, lotions, perfumes and household chemicals, so they’re not suitable for being worn 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 ”, explain that the pendulum returns from the ostentatious bling of other stones to the “discreet elegance” of pearls.
“Yes, there has been a lot of enthusiasm 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 complexion and complexion like no other stone. Depending on how they are set and worn, a designer can coax the color of a pearl. And they come in so many different shapes, styles, and lengths. You are never overdressed or underdressed with pearls, ”she continues.
Pearls create a sustainable jewelry business
Two-thirds of the consumers of fine jewelry surveyed own at least one pearl jewelry. Pearls are the third most popular gemstone to buy, after diamonds and sapphires, and the second most popular after diamonds to give as gifts.
The bottom line, as the report states, is: “The pearl business does not have to sell cultured pearls to consumers because they already love, have and want them. “
Pearls are a unique durable gemstone that can help jewelers build a sustainable business. What jewelers need is to broaden their selection, learn more about the pearl’s powerful sustainability story, and communicate it more effectively to their customers. It’s a story millennials, in particular, can’t wait to hear.
The opportunity is here for jewelry retailers and consumers are ready and waiting for more pearls.
“More work needs to be done to show how pearls have come a long way from the tiny strands of white pearls that grandmother wore to a world of shapes, sizes, colors and prices to satisfy. all tastes and all budgets, ”the study concludes.