Groups led by De Beers grapple with challenge of young adults eschewing marriage
Erin Lowry told her partner in 2015 that she did not want an expensive diamond engagement ring. “I said I’d rather you get me a $1,000 solid band and we take the remaining money and put it to the honeymoon,” said the New York-based writer. “I’d much rather have a great trip than the ring I’m wearing.”
The statement by Ms Lowry, 27, who has not yet married, highlights the issue for the diamond industry posed by millennials. De Beers, the world’s largest diamond mining company, launched one of the world’s most successful advertising campaigns in 1948 when it coined the slogan A Diamond is Forever. It served to put diamond engagement rings at the heart of marriage for the rest of the 20th century.
But many millennials have an ambivalent or negative view of marriage. Increasing numbers of people who have entered adulthood in the 21st century are choosing to marry much later in life compared to previous generations, or not at all.
Furthermore, some millennials appear to want to spend their money on experiences — such as travel — rather than luxury goods. And many millennials have less disposable income compared to their parents, so those who do want to buy jewellery are turning to gemstones that typically cost less than diamonds, such as rubies or sapphires. Others are buying man-made diamonds because these stones also cost less.
Recognising the scale of the threat, De Beers and its peers have come up with a marketing campaign the industry hopes will resonate with millennials by emphasising the scarcity of mined diamonds and by suggesting that jewellery featuring these stones can embody their commitment to enduring relationships, rather than marriage.
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