The question of whether or not to purchase a branded, or “designer,” engagement ring or to purchase a non-branded engagement ring is not a new one. This question has been tossed around for over a decade in the jewelry market. Much like fashion, food or favorite places to vacation, the answer to this question seems to be highly subjective. This week, I read through various articles, interviews, chat threads, etc. trying to come up with a clear winner.
Herein lies the difference between the aforementioned industries: the consumer. The consumer of food or fashion or vacation very well may have long-standing, dogged beliefs or preferences or opinions. What is unique to consumers of engagement rings is the emotional factor.
Choosing a ring is one of the few truly monumental moments in a person’s life. For most, the decision is carefully carved out over time, much like the diamond itself. It’s formed and reformed and shaped into a tangible perfection that is absolutely a tangible part of the consumer’s identity.
Harry Winston, Tiffany & Co., Cartier
The questions I had as I researched were many: What are the trends? Which of the two is more popular? How well does each choice hold its resale value? How do each of the choices effect status, quality and value?
I spent the first half of my search perusing the websites of the greats: Harry Winston, Tiffany & Co., Cartier. There is certainly a lot to be said for the impeccable work of the formidable frontrunners. It’s hard enough to get to the top, but to stay at the top is an entirely different animal altogether.
So, on that note, well done friends! It would seem that the first question I would ask, or anyone for that matter, is how does price factor into the buying process and the decision to choose branded or unbranded? Let’s start there.
Branded and Non-Branded Engagement Ring
Price is obviously one of the more nerve-wracking parts of the engagement ring purchase. I’d say the biggest difference between branded jewelry and non-branded is price. People often value brand name regardless of cost, which is absolutely ok. We do the same with cars, clothes and many other items.
The truth is that the quality of the diamond does not depend on brand name; rather on rigorous testing prior to wholesale purchase and the meeting of many explicit criteria set forth by the industry. Where and how your money is spent is a highly personal decision and there is no real right or wrong answer. There are beautiful and quality items on both sides of the coin.
So, what are the trends? In a world inundated with choices coming from advertising on every possible platform from TV to radio to billboard to print to social networks, a consumer is subjected with over a hundred ads a day. It’s almost impossible to discern relevant information from such a giant conglomeration of information. Trends are identified slowly like barges leaving the harbor. The turns are calculated and only visible if one stays carefully watching over a period of time.
For almost a century, the trend in North America for engagement rings has seen trends come and go but the undisputable reality was that designers won out over custom non-branded jewelry. What we have seen in the last decade is a remarkable turn in trend. The barge has shifted in a new direction and those in the industry have been carefully watching this unfold.
Independently Owned Jewelers
The trend has become such that small retailers, mom and pops, independently owned jewelers and even non-branded designers now have a major piece of the market share. One look at Pinterest and you can see dozens, if not hundreds, of options for engagement rings that are stunningly beautiful and one of a kind. Oftentimes, things the big names don’t offer.
The trend has lent itself to interesting cuts, unique custom settings, an array of color choices, stones and gems often let out of the engagement game altogether; it is a new frontier. It’s exciting to see the new ways that women are embracing the trend. They are breaking the mold over and over again to be innovative, creative, and special.
While the trends make it apparent that non-branded jewelry is not only on the rise but is slowly becoming a force to be reckoned with, one must still ask: it’s great and all to be unique, but how does this “innovation” in design lend itself to retail value? The proof is always in the pudding, as our grandmothers would say. After careful research on this delicate topic, I believe that the broad conclusion is quite simply this: a great gem is a great gem.
An impeccably crafted product that once may have had to overcome a deficit due to field dominance by branded designer jewelry, now has a fair shot at market value in resale because we have become more informed consumers. We put more thought and effort into our choices than ever before. This is true of the food we choose to put into our bodies, the clothes we wear, the schools we choose for our children. The list goes on. Not least, of which is how we buy our jewelry.
A Great Diamond is a Great Diamond
The question we are left with is how do the trends effect quality, status and value? That’s a loaded question, no? Let’s start with quality. As we established via extensive research into the question, a great diamond is a great diamond. The same Gemex ratings and GIA Reporting are done on the stones regardless of who buys them. Tiffany & Co.’s diamond is held to the same standards as an independent purchaser of diamonds for a local store.
Value is the second trickiest aspect of the three, quite simply because value is subjective. To some, the value of a brand like Tiffany’s may be more important than the value of a higher quality diamond that doesn’t carry a designer name. I think that the consumer trends point to women being more thoughtful in their choices across the board and subsequently choosing things from a value set that isn’t defined by brand names, but rather by the value of having created something unique.
That isn’t to say that purchasing high quality items, having the kind of money to spend on expensive designer pieces or placing a premium on a name brand carries a negative connotation. The simple truth is that we all generally want to be good people to other people.
We all want to live our best lives and make our best choices and when it comes to decisions as intimate and intricate as choosing the ring your partner will wear until death do you part, the right decision is always a gut instinct away. Taking the time to visit the locally owned, family owned and independently owned stores is always a good idea. Oftentimes, you find not only what you set out to find, but more importantly you find life long friendships. Shop all of our branded and non-branded engagement rings here.