Jewelry & The Millennial

Millennial generations are growing up. This means they are slowly captivating the attention of businesses and retailers alike in their spending habits and concerns as consumers. Baby boomers are now making way for new standards, interests, color preferences, ethics, and general taste.

While there are nearly unlimited ways to slice and dice consumer behavior, one of the key consistent trends found in millennial shopping is sustainable manufacturing and ethical business practices. And this isn’t just to give retailers and businesses a hard time. millennial are more educated than their predecessors on global issues and have grown up hearing about the environmental impact of plastics, global warming and neglectful overproduction of goods.

As a result, shoppers in this generation prefer to do business with corporations and brands with “pro-social messages, sustainable manufacturing methods and ethical business standards”, according to Forbes. And just to make it tougher on businesses, this doesn’t just mean slicing off ten percent after annual earnings and donating it to a relevant charity. It means crafting the entire corporate identity around solving a fundamental world issue – a la Toms shoes providing shoes to children in third world countries: “more than eight in 10 millennial (81%) expect companies to make a public commitment to good corporate citizenship, according to Horizon Media’s Finger on the Pulse study”, says HRDIVE. This means benchmarks of honesty, transparency, and participation for customers so that a do-good feeling comes hand in hand with spending.

So what does this mean for the jewelry shoppers specifically?

Well known luxury brands like Tiffany & Co and Cartier are preferred among millennial shoppers. And despite the self-effacing, consciences and ethical hearted nature of the generation, they are “self-gifters” and actually invest in merchandise like diamonds. But why? Why does this generation not want to spend too much money on other expenses but will spend money on jewelry? The answer is simple: “It comes down to investing in quality over quantity…millennial are conscious about sustainability and buying products that last longer than their mass-produced counterparts,” according to Inc.  Diamonds are probably one of the most universally known symbols of wealth, status and beauty, so it is important for their jewelry to fall within their standards as well.

Ethical & Lab Grown Diamonds 

millennial buy diamonds and jewelry. but will invest more and feel more comfortable with their purchase if it is from an ethical brand. “In its 2015 Global Corporate Sustainability Report, Nielsen found that 73 per cent of millennial would spend more on a product if it came from an ethical brand.” This explains the generations affinity towards lab grown diamonds; they’re ethical, fully controllable, and reasonably priced. According to MarketPlus “In the survey among 1,000+ American consumers, aged 21-40 years, across all income ranges with half having household incomes of $50,000 or higher, nearly 70% of consumers said “Yes,” they would consider a lab-grown diamond for the center stone in an engagement ring if they were shopping with someone for an engagement ring. That represents an increase of 13 percentage points in only one year, when 57% said the same.” So it seems like the world is heading in a greener and more sustainable direction, but why does it seem like millennial are putting their money with their mouth is.


For the report Nielsen conducted an online survey of 30,000 consumers in 60 countries to assess purchasing patterns. Here are some key insights. 


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It is not what some people assume which is that these next generation shoppers are just “full of it”, talk a big game and don’t live up to it. It is mostly that they simply don’t know enough about which brands are ethical and which ones to avoid. Clear marketing and a strong direct message to consumers will draw these ethical shoppers in – and we are not talking green-washing. We are simply talking transparency, open communication and being upfront about who you are as a brand and where you stand in the landscape of ethics and sustainability.

Digital, Digital, Digital 

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Millennials, as we all know, are also the first digital natives. This means online shopping is big and important  – and the most common channel for millennial to spend their hard-earned cash. This has been a hurdle for the luxury jewelry market as most high-end products are sized and chosen in person, so how do they assimilate an oppositional shopping culture? Jewelry businesses have addressed this issue by providing a fully integrated experience, meaning both online and brick and mortar are available and sometimes used in tandem with one another.

For example, Brilliant Earth offers an online customization tool along with a showroom. You can pick your perfect ring and style it online, and then go try it on in person before committing to it. “And there is help available at every step of the journey, whether online chat, phone, or in-person. Once a shopper contacts a jewelry specialist, that specialist is usually the one who helps that shopper all the way through the rest of their purchase journey,” says Forbes. 

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And Brilliant Earth isn’t the only brand doing this. Engagement ring companies, like Miadonna Diamond, are offering online selection with at home try ons.

Looking Forward

The jewelry industry is a constantly shifting and morphing organism with changing styles, trends and prices. The new frontier is sustainability and a morally conscious generation demanding a fundamental change — not in the design or look of the jewelry per se , but in the nature of its production process and in the ethics of material sourcing. Lets see if the industry can step up and adapt to this new challenge.

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