The New Dynamics of Fine Jewellery


Natalie Yiasoumi | July 16, 2019

Jewellery houses are placing more focus on hospitality, increasing the range of their product and embracing all things digital, in a bid to speak to the new generation of luxury consumers and tap into the sector’s rapid growth trajectory.

Fine jewellery has been one of the fastest growing categories in the luxury market.

According to a recent report by management consultancy McKinsey and Company, the category has been growing at a healthy 5 to 6 percent each year and is on its way to reach up to 250 billion euro ($281 billion) in sales by 2020.

To tap into this growth opportunity, jewellers are adopting a new, more inclusive attitude to their business strategies to keep pace with the changing dynamics of the market.

Fuelled by e-commerce, social media and the demands of the highly sought-after millennial consumers - who are now growing to become serious high jewellery buyers too - the jewellery sector  is letting down its glitzy walls in favour of experiences, trend-led collections and online interactions.

“To appeal to the growing global affluent millennial population, high-end jewellers are abandoning previous long-held beliefs that exclusivity and high prices were essential brand characteristics,”said Patrizia Arienti, Deloitte EMEA fashion and luxury leader, in a statement.

Hospitality has taken a whole new meaning in the world of jewellery, with brands taking customer entertainment up a notch and going the extra mile to host one-of-a-kind events or exhibitions that tell the story of the house, both for high-spending clientele but also for any member of the public that happens to be interested. Jewellery houses are now growing entire teams dedicated to creating tailor-made experiences for clients.

When Cartier opened up the doors to its revamped Bond Street boutique at the end of 2018, it transformed an entire floor into a space that functioned as a  lounge, bar and dining room. The space was used to exhibit archival pieces, host talks, art exhibitions and experiences to entertain clients and friends of the brand.

In June, the house also debuted its new high jewellery collection in London, entitled “Magnitude”, in an exhibition space used to host London Fashion Week catwalk shows. The space was open to private clients for two weeks, during which they were treated to piano concerts, movie premieres or trips to Ascot race course in between their shopping trips. It then opened up to the public, in a bid to make Cartier and its history known to a broader audience.

This customer-centric, open approach is light years away from the revered aura of exclusivity jewellers have been traditionally known for – and it’s working, garnering both sales and public interest.

According to Cartier, its latest exhibition in the Forbidden City in Beijing pulled in more than 100,000 visitors within the first week of its opening, while sales of the “Magnitude” range in London reached record-highs in the first two days.

Little wonder then that competitors are following suit.

Earlier this month, Boucheron debuted an apartment on 26 Place Vendome an ultra luxurious residence complete with a marble-clad bathroom and bedroom overlooking Paris’ famous square. The brand’s high-jewellery clients are given the key and can stay in the residence for the duration of their stay in the French capital.

Chopard, which has just enlarged and renovated its London flagship store on Old Bond Street, adopted a similar approach with a boudoir-style living room to showcase its womens collections on the top floor, a basement filled with wooden antiques and a bar used to showcase the men’s ranges and host regular gentlemen’s nights.

“The urgency of personalisation is so high that some brands are incorporating personalisation in their long-term strategies, in order to differentiate themselves with impeccable designs and services,” added Arienti.

Apart from tailoring unique experiences for clients in real life, communicating with clients online is also priority for fine jewellery brands.

Which is why one after the other, they’ve all inked partnerships with online players like Net-a-Porter, Farfetch and Moda Operandi and for the first time surrendered control and allowed these retailers to merchandise and style their product in new, more casual or fashion-forward ways.

Despite initial apprehension that such high-priced items would not perform well online, fine jewellery has become one of the biggest growth categories for e-commerce players, fuelled by the shift towards self-purchasing by female customers. Net-a-Porter sold a Cartier Panthere watch within two minutes of launch, while personal shopping platform Threads, which services customers via WhatsApp, said its highest sale via the messaging platform amounted to 1.2 million pounds ($1.5 million).

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During Paris Couture Week earlier this month, Net-a-Porter - whose fine jewellery views have gone up 200 percent in the last year - introduced an invitation-only digital destination where top clients can view high-ticket items by traditionally offline labels like Boghossian, Giampiero Bodino and Boehmer and Bassenge.

“Building on the success of our fine jewellery and watch suite, we wanted to offer clients a truly unique opportunity to discover the world’s most exclusive high jewellery maisons through a highly personalised, invitation-only service,” said Alison Loehnis, president at Net-a-Porter and Mr. Porter, in a statement.

Another way the fine jewellery world has opened up is by becoming more willing to rub shoulders with the fashion sector, whether by engaging with fashion influencers or giving a bigger push to fashion accessories of their own.

Cartier launched a new “Guirlande” bag with a tongue-in-cheek video campaign on Instagram that saw every major influencer from Aimee Song to Bryan Boy, take the bag on a stroll through Paris; Chopard debuted a bag of its own with fashion icon Chloe Sevigny that came in a trendy box style and featured a large heart appliqué; while Bulgari has transformed its Serpenti bags into Instagram must-haves through clever influencer placement.

As a result, fashion brands are taking the opportunity to explore the segment, with Gucci being the latest entrant.

The Kering-owned label has just opened the doors to its first dedicated jewellery space on Paris’ Place Vendome that will offer a more elevated take on the house’s signature magpie costume jewellery.

It’s a smart move, as branded product becoming as important in the high jewellery world as it is in fashion. According to McKinsey, branded jewellery will account for up to 40 percent of the jewellery market  by 2020, fuelled by the demands of younger or emerging market consumers - and fashion labels or fashion-driven products will be most suited to cater to their needs.

“Future growth in branded jewellery is likely to come from non-jewellery players in adjacent categories such as high-end apparel or leather goods—companies like Dior, Hermès, and Louis Vuitton—introducing jewellery collections or expanding their assortment," said a McKinsey spokesperson. "[That’s why] every jewellery company should seek to strengthen and differentiate its brands through unique, distinctive designs.”