If your ears, neck, wrists, and fingers are bare, you must have missed the memo, “Jewelry is an important part of being a c-suite executive.” Whether traveling to the office on Long Island or to Milan for a meeting, jewelry immediately signals corporate status.

Annual jewelry global sales are healthy, growing at 5-6 percent per year. In 2018, the global luxury jewelry market amounted to approximately US$20 billion (18 billion Euros) and the largest markets for jewelry and watches include the USA, Germany, and France. The success of the industry can be attributed to the agility of designers, manufacturers, distributors, online and brick/mortar retailers who have become agile competitors in a very crowded industry.

In the 1980s, apparel brands were important (i.e., Marks & Spencer/UK), while global market leaders today are Zara, H&M and Hugo Boss. Jewelry appears to be following a similar path, although, at the moment, the jewelry industry is local. The ten largest jewelry groups control only 12 percent of the worldwide market and only 2 – Cartier and Tiffany & Co., are in Interbrand’s ranking of the top 100 global brands. The strong national brands include Christ (Germany), Cho Tai Fook (China) and small to midsize operations available in single stores. If the jewelry industry follows apparel, the larger companies will soon be acquiring the small and independent operators.

Online jewelry sales are only 4-5 percent of the market today and likely to grow to 10 percent (in the fine jewelry zone) by 2020. It is unlikely to expand beyond this point because most consumers prefer to buy expensive items from brick and mortar stores as they are perceived to be more reliable and provide the opportunity to touch and feel the merchandise. For fashion jewelry it is possible that there will be an increase in online sales – up to 15 percent.

In order to increase sales, jewelry manufacturers must increase their use of digital media directing information to current and future consumers, shaping brand identity and building customer relationships. A McKinsey survey found that two-thirds of luxury shoppers say they do online research before attempting an in-store purchase while one-to-two-thirds use social media for information and advice.

Some consumers are trading up – from the standard one-carat diamond engagement ring to two, three or four carats with five- or 6-digit price tags. At the lower end of the market, department stores and other general retailers are engaged in price wars.

Consumers are now mixing fine jewelry (precious metals and stones) with fashion jewelry (plated alloys and crystal stones). Fine jewelry was once primarily a gift purchase; however, today, consumers are buying higher-end items for themselves.

The mix/match price points can be illustrated by actress Helen Hunt who paired $700,000 worth of Martin Katz jewelry with a H&M dress for the Academy Awards (2013). To expand this trend, fine jewelers might consider introducing new product lines at lower price points, seducing younger or less affluent consumers to their brand through an affordable portal.

Statement jewelry expresses the personality of the person wearing it. It is unique, and bold, and says “this is who I am.” Wearing distinctive jewelry is not new, the practice dates back to the Egyptians who used statement jewelry during ceremonies, rituals and to show favor. The Romans loved jewels, preferring rings made with heavy stones for winter and lighter, more delicate materials for summer.

In the 1920s Coco Chanel created elaborate jewelry using crystal or colored glass in varying sizes, similar to the Egyptians. Chanel is frequently credited with creating the concept of costume jewelry, designing seasonal items, mixing real and imitation stones and pearls. Vivienne Becker (author, The Cocktail Style) reviews the jewelry of the 30s and 40s where big, jeweled rings, multi-strand pearl necklaces and lots of gilt metal and rose gold were fashionable; the jewelry was assertive and bossy.

Charm bracelets were popular in the 1950s while Paco Rabanne embraced statement jewelry, introducing plastic, PVC and bright colors. “I made jewelry for the alternative side of women’s personality, for their madness.”

Madeleine Albright (former United States Secretary of State), in her book, (Read My Pins: Stories from a Diplomat’s Jewel Box), discusses the stories behind her favorite accessory. Today, people wear jewelry to make statements about who they are and what they value.

Jewelry is a necessity for the business executive and should never be left to the last minute or to chance. A specific, carefully selected piece of jewelry demonstrates attention to detail, highlights a personality and adds a special dimension to the individual.

Some pieces can be worn all the time. Married? By all means wear the wedding band. Prefer not to look at your cellphone? Wear a wristwatch. When dressing for work, choose jewelry that is not distracting or noisy and will not offend anyone. If unsure about what or how much to wear…always remember that “less is more.” A general rule: OK to wear a watch, bracelet, ring, one pair of earrings and a necklace (do not wear skulls or skeletons at the office).

Going formal? Wear your best jewelry. It is certainly appropriate to wear a pair of crystal or diamond earrings or a statement necklace. Pull out the pearls, and precious stones – but do not overwhelm your appearance. What to wear for a party with friends? Now is the time to display the clanging bangles and blinding bling. Feel free to combine silver, gold, pewter and copper metals and place rings on any finger that is comfortable. Mix gemstones with faux stones – no one has to know what is real…or not.

Jewelry can change the way we see ourselves and the way we feel. Dress with a purpose and the selected jewelry echoes personal feelings, thoughts, reflecting confidence and actually help to actualize our best selves.

For additional information: JA New York/Emerald Expositions and New York Antique Jewelry & Watch Show.

© Dr. Elinor Garely. This copyright article, including photos, may not be reproduced without written permission from the author.

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