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September 2016

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Millennials and Diamonds – Love, Hate, or In Between?

With the millennial generation all grown up, diamond sales have weakened in recent years. In 2015, DeBeers earnings dropped 58%. And, the tennis ball sized Lesedi La Rona diamond failed to sell at Sotheby’s July 2016 auction. Perhaps millennials and diamonds are just not a good mix.

Millennials and Diamonds: The Gut Reaction

Check out these responses to an article in The Economist asking why millennials aren’t buying diamonds. Cynicism aside, even though they are the most highly educated generation, millennials are having trouble getting higher paid jobs in the current economic environment. And many are struggling to pay the bills. So, in this case, the question may not necessarily be whether or not millennials want to buy diamonds; it is whether they can afford to buy them.

The Truth? Somewhere in the Middle

While millennials are often struggling financially, there are other factors that point to the fact that millennials and diamonds have a very different relationship than their parents and grandparents had. To millennials, diamonds may be a sign of ostentatiousness and pretense. Millennial consumers tend to be more value conscious, whether or not they have the money to purchase a diamond. They are more concerned with sustainability and ethical production, and often value unique and individual products over those that are standardized and mass produced. Millennials appreciate history and uniqueness, something with its own story.

The millennial generation values independence, and they want to flaunt their individuality. Many do not appreciate the outward signs of tradition that the diamond represents. They often choose colored gems, like rubies, emeralds and amethysts that reflect a more unique expression of personality and taste.

Thanks to the rise of technology, the spread of information on the internet, and popular Hollywood movies, such as Blood Diamondsthe diamond’s origin is also a pressing issue for young social justice warriors. When it comes to millennials and diamonds, these concerns can take the edge off the diamond’s special meaning, and remove some of the sparkle from the diamond purchase. Socially conscious millennials and improved technology has brought the diamond industry face to face with the growing trend of synthetic diamonds, whose origins are untainted, and which are are also 30% cheaper than mined diamonds. Not to mention the recent advent of 3D printing technology for lab-grown diamonds.

And it’s true as well that millennials value experience over material items. They may be reluctant to spend a large sum of money on a diamond, when the same money could be spent having an incredible experience.

The Way Forward for Diamond Retailers

According to research, millennials will be spending $200 billion annually by 2017, and $10 trillion over their lifetime as consumers, in the US alone. So the necessity to capture that market is obvious. The old slogan “A Diamond is Forever”, which held many a previous generation in thrall, no longer works on a generation that is more educated and tech savvy. Millennials no longer believe that a diamond has to mean forever. That’s why the Diamond Producers Association, in an effort to appeal to this new generation, came up with the “Real is Rare” campaign. The meaning behind the new slogan appeals to the need for a real connection, and real communication in an increasingly digital and unreal world.

The key to appealing to millennials is to give them the experience they are looking for. There are a a range of technologies that can help you do this. “Experiential” retail goes beyond shopping for the sake of making a purchase; it transforms shopping into an experience, in and of itself. So, do millennials and diamonds mix? They absolutely can, with the right approach to their hearts, minds and wallets.

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