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11
January 2017

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Diamonds in China: The New Diamond Retail Market

The ‘yen’ for diamonds, mainly for engagements, is a Western concept. It began in the US with a genius marketing campaign by DeBeers, and carried on through popular Hollywood culture, until diamonds really were considered a “girl’s best friend”. But recently, other countries whose local customs have never involved diamond engagement rings are now gravitating toward the traditional Western trend. This is particularly true of one country: diamonds in China have become all the rage, with modern day millennial women wanting diamonds for engagement rings and diamond accessories to dress up their outfits. The trend towards diamonds in China is so popular that even men want in on the action.

Diamonds in China: Millennial Women

Millennials are all about independence. Millennial women don’t necessarily wait for men to buy them diamonds, but tend to buy them for themselves. Women aged 18 to 34, defined by DeBeers as millennials, account for 68% of Chinese diamond sales, bringing a market value of $6.76 billion in 2015 alone. This emerging group has the potential to turn the diamond market around. In China alone, there are 220 million potential diamond consumers who are still years away from reaching their peak financial stage of life. By appealing to them now, the market for diamonds in China could help lift the appeal of diamonds, spurring the global market.

Bye, Bye Romance

For Chinese millennials, the concept of the diamond is strongly linked to fashion trends and pride in personal achievement. Experts in the industry believe that companies in China who base their business solely on the idea of marriage and romance will have trouble selling to millennials, and must evolve their marketing in order to improve sales. They may do this by developing brands and jewelry lines that focus exclusively on bridal, while providing a host of other diamond jewelry options that are not connected to getting engaged. Diamond and jewelry retailers are wanting to provide millennial customers with more modern, practical and fashionable designs, in addition to the diamond engagement ring. According to experts, the old notion that marriage – and the diamond – is forever no longer reflects reality.

China Embraces US Cultural Mores

Chinese women are exposed to US broadcasting, and their ideas of romance are different than they ever used to be. While many diamonds in China are sold to women seeking fashion statements, not romance, there is still a robust market for diamonds for engagements – and for this specific market, it seems the bigger the stone, the better. Recently a video made the social media rounds in China showing a man proposing to his girlfriend in public with an extravagant display that included flash mob dancers. The girlfriend at first appears excited, smiling and crying, until her boyfriend opens the ring box. She then covers her mouth and walks away without a word. Reporters who followed up on the video stated that the woman was upset that the diamond was under one carat in size.

Diamonds & Men, Diamonds & Technology

The interest of young Chinese women in diamonds may even be surpassing that of Western women. And, unlike in the West, diamonds in China are not just for women. According to a survey by DeBeers, 67% of Chinese men want diamonds as well. In addition, new mobile technologies enable diamond consumers to view the entire diamond story online, satisfying the Chinese millennial’s need for a hi-tech purchase experience, as well as for diamonds.

In spite of the tough global market conditions for diamonds, this new Chinese market indicates a resurgence for the industry. Now, jewelry retailers in Asia and worldwide must focus on how to advance their market appeal to the new generation of buyers.

 

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