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Commentary: The Business

Jeff Unger: Poor Alternatives

When did it become cool to wear a non-precious metal on your finger for a wedding band?

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I USED TO THINK I was cool! I was with it! I play video games. I have an iPod. I know who Tony Hawk is and I watch Big and Rob on MTV. But when did it become cool to wear a non-precious metal on your finger for a wedding band? With the influx of alternative metals, the wedding ring market is about to take a “face plant off the half pipe” (meaning: not good).

I was shopping the other day at a department store. What a fool I was. You mean I can now buy a 6 mm wedding band for $14.95 in a metal that is on the bottom of the periodic table? I never knew that those numbers meant something in 11th grade chemistry. I should scrap my gold one and take the savings.

How did this happen? When did it become cool to commemorate the biggest day of your life with a washer off the plumbing aisle at The Home Depot?

With the selling of alternative materials, the average price per wedding band sale has dropped like a rock. Just a few years ago, the average wedding band sale was $500. Today, by some estimates, that number has been cut in half to $250. Where does the industry go from here? With precious metals growing in value, it’s always a surprise to these young couples when they want to sell their alternative metal wedding band for scrap.

I’ve heard from store owners about the shock and awe when these people find out their band is worth nothing. They also think they will always be 6 feet and 180 pounds; wait until they grow (along with their fingers)! “What do you mean you can’t size it?”

A jeweler in Georgia uses the “3 to 1” technique to sell wedding bands. He lets the couple know that they will need three alternative metal bands in their lifetime: one now, one for when they gain weight, and one when they lose the weight. “Why not buy one precious metal band and I will size it for a lifetime?” He told me he has a good closing ratio on gold wedding bands.

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Just last week, I was thinking we could not go any lower than alternative metals when I came across a newlywed couple. After congratulating them, I looked at their hands, and to my surprise, no alternative metal bands. Instead, they had their bands tattooed on their fingers.

I guess I’m not as cool as I used to be.

Jeff Unger was the president and co-owner of B & N Jewelry (d.b.a. Alisa Unger Designs) and a long-time INSTORE contributor. He passed away in February 2019 after a valiant 10-year battle with cancer.

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