By Ilana Brandwain of Noble Fine Jewellery
I adore diamonds. No surprises there, considering diamonds have been in my family’s business for over three generations, but I am not alone. It never ceases to amaze me just how pleasure comes from wearing these iconic stones, mined from the soul of the earth from their humble beginnings as a carbon deposit, millions of years ago. Diamonds capture our heart in a way that no other precious stone can – and that includes the hearts of the next generation of diamond buyers – the Millennials, born between 1980 and 2000, and who represent the largest living population of our time.
The youngest Millennials are on the cusp of adulthood and, with adulthood, comes the inevitable life milestones of gaining an education, forging careers, falling in love and having children. A survey by Goldman Sachs* found that 70% of Millennials want to get married and 74% want to have children. The difference? They don’t intend to do it as early as their parents, opting to postpone parenthood until their 30’s. It’s human nature to want to celebrate landmark occasions like graduation and engagements with something unique and meaningful, and for many that means investing in a piece of diamond jewellery.
Diamonds rarely lose value and are a long term investment. A beautiful blue diamond worth thousands today will hold its value tomorrow. And the next day. And for the next generation. We often get requests from both men and women who love the sentiment of owning a piece of jewellery passed down to them from an older family member, but who want it customised to suit their own modern tastes. Adapting your offering in this way and ensuring you appeal to a new, different generation is all part of accessing the economy’s future spenders.
But I know what you’re thinking: aren’t Millennials meant to be so pre-occupied with shunning status symbols and gaining their experiential, life-fulfilling opportunities that owning a diamond seems somehow a bit crass and superficial by comparison? I don’t think so. My customers span all ages but this new generation of bright young things is just as captivated by the diamond as their ancestors. Millennials are prepared to invest in diamonds, but it comes with terms and conditions.
Millennials have grown up in digitally connected world and that means their awareness of brands and businesses and how they operate is literally at their fingertips. As business owners, we must be totally open and transparent about our practices, where our diamonds come from, how we treat our workers, how we invest back into the mining community and how we help secure the future of these precious stones. Global awareness of ‘conflict diamonds’, used to finance insurgency and war, has helped to regulate the industry and prevent the corruption and exploitation of some of the world’s most vulnerable workers. It’s only right that we are held to account – and Millennials aren’t afraid to ask difficult questions.
Recently, I returned from my brother’s diamond mines in Sierra Leone and saw first-hand how the workers live and work together with the mines at the heart of their community. Diamond mining is a skill that requires physical graft, tenacity and perseverance, yet the workers also take great pride in the job they do. What I witnessed there is all part of the experiential service I pass on to my client. I can reassure them about the ethical origins of our diamonds but I can also tell them my story of what it was like to be there; what the people were really like, how they feel about mining, how the work is carried out and so on. I posted on Instagram whilst I was there, sharing my experience with my customers and showing them the roots of our business. Understanding how Millennials want to buy is just as critical as what they want to buy. Staying socially connected with them, such as via Instagram, is essential. Millennials are thirsty for this kind of insight because it gives them a real sense of who and what they are really buying into.
This level of personalised service is something customers are increasingly seeking out as they move away from big, bland identities and generic service. Millennials are spending their money in a very different way to the hey-day of the eighties, when people were eager to show off their wealth and flash their cash. To be successful, you have to build a relationship with your customers before you can expect them to place their trust – and their money – in you. From our base in Antwerp, I meet our clients wherever they are and we go through the process of creating their ideal piece together. I advise them on every stage of the process, including the best design and stone for their budget, and keep them updated throughout. It’s this level of service commitment, wrapped around a personalised experience, that I believe will secure the custom of future Millennials; it’s not enough to have a great product any more. I’m sure it won’t be long before some of our customers come out to Sierra Leone with us to experience the diamond process for themselves.
Investing in diamonds is often driven from the heart, a desire to own something beautiful and unique. However, all diamonds are not equal and some are undoubtedly worth more than others. Just like any other sector, tastes and trends do also influence the market value. Yellow diamonds, for example, weren’t popular about 20 years ago, but are now one of the most in-demand variations. Today, the most valuable diamonds come in blue, yellow, pink and red; I don’t doubt that we will soon see younger generations investing in them.
From my experience of the Millennials, their desire to own something beautiful and special is no different to older customers. Diamonds will never lose their worth but, for this generation, the worth of the diamond goes much deeper than just its monetary value.
Source: Pew Research Centre, http://www.goldmansachs.com/our-thinking/pages/millennials/