The market goes well beyond bridal.

Total diamond jewelry demand from U.S. consumers increased 4.4 percent in 2016 to exceed $40 billion for the first time, De Beers Group reports.

And self-purchasing women are emerging as a major growth driver.

While slower U.S. GDP growth in the first quarter of 2017 is likely to have impacted diamond jewelry demand in the short term, the U.S. has recorded five years of consecutive demand growth. U.S. consumers now account for roughly half of all diamond jewelry purchases globally – a level not seen since before the financial crisis.

Although bridal diamond jewelry continues to be the foundation of demand in the U.S., more frequent acquisitions and a higher value of spend from single women helped drive demand. Meanwhile, self-purchase trends increased among both single and married women.

Fifty-seven percent of self-purchased diamond jewelry is acquired by married women, while a third is from millennials. Retailers also reported high levels of consumer interest for multi-diamond pieces.

"American consumers continue to express strong desire for diamonds, but their purchasing habits are changing rapidly," said Bruce Cleaver, CEO of the De Beers Group. "While bridal diamond jewelry remains fundamental, we are seeing both single and married women buying for themselves more frequently and more purchases being made online."

The data comes from De Beers' latest "Diamond Insight" publication, which is available at www.debeersgroup.com/insight.

(A recent study by MVI Marketing Ltd. also found that many women are eager to buy jewelry for themselves. Unfortunately, that study found that they often don't see traditional jewelry stores as a good place to make those purchases, perceiving such retailers as lacking in product assortment, younger female staffing and welcoming store environments.)

The De Beers data showed that consumers are spending more per piece on diamond jewelry, with retailers reporting an increase in the $1,000 to $4,999 category.

Globally, demand for diamond jewelry in 2016 increased marginally in U.S. dollars (at actual exchange rates) to $80 billion, with demand growth from the U.S. offsetting a contraction in India.

Other findings from De Beers:

  • Demand from Chinese consumers grew 0.6 percent in local currency and has continued to improve in early 2017, with robust sales around Chinese New Year contributing to the positive performance in the first quarter.
  • Demand from Indian consumers started to return to more normal levels in 2017 following an 8.8 percent contraction (in local currency) in 2016 due to the jewelers’ strike, demonetization and exchange rates.
  • Demand from Japanese consumers declined 2.9 percent in local currency in 2016, but growth in U.S. dollars reached 8.1 percent due to the strength of the yen.
  • Demand in the Gulf was impacted by a challenging macro-economic environment, driven by continued oil price weakness.
    Further marginal global growth in diamond jewelry demand (in U.S. dollar terms) is likely in 2017.

While U.S. demand drove global growth in 2016, Cleaver said, "it is increasing demand from emerging markets that is behind the last five years being the strongest on record."

"Despite some markets facing challenging conditions last year," he said, "we see this trend continuing, with improvements in demand from China and India, in particular, emerging in 2017."


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