The COVID-19 pandemic has created a permanent shift to the way that people shop.
Not to mention, public health uncertainties could create safety concerns for people to try on jewelry in stores.
With this context in mind, creating an online jewelry business is a smart move because it’s a safe and efficient way to reach shoppers.
Beyond the practical considerations of safety and efficiency, online retail creates a pathway for people to discover brands that they wouldn’t have come across otherwise.
As a merchant, you have the ability to reach customers anywhere in the world, regardless of where you’re located. Regardless of whether you are an independent jewelry designer on Etsy or part of a team at a larger brand name operation, you have an equal footing to build a discoverable store.
Keep in mind that there were demographic trends in motion even before the COVID-19 pandemic that made the case for selling jewelry online. One important trend to watch is the rise of the online shopping population.
Shortly before the pandemic began, online shopping had already accounted for 40% of global shoppers, meaning that they are on the path to becoming the dominant spending force. These individuals have been creating a shift in the way that people of all generations make purchase decisions.
As the first generation of digital natives, this group relies on social media and online retail experiences to discover new products — a trend that has increased during the pandemic, according to the National Retail Federation (NRF).
Research from the NRF has also found that 87% of parents rely on recommendation from their children when deciding what to buy.
These trends point to a historic shift in the way that people shop for new jewelry, which is a timeless cultural staple to our human society. The key to getting started is to find the right niche and to build a brand that stands out.
Market Analysis: Trending Jewelry Brand Niches
When you sell jewelry online, there’s an opportunity to reach people with your brand all over the world. This expansive market means that there’s an opportunity for all retailers — from Tiffany and Cartier to the local costume jewelry store — to attract an engaged and loyal customer base.
The flip side of this growth potential is that there’s also a lot of competition. No matter the type of jewelry, making your brand discoverable can be a challenge, especially since attention spans are tough to capture. Shoppers have a seemingly infinite number of options to navigate their purchase decisions.
Knowing that the market is crowded, the most impactful first step that you can take to building your online store is to identify your niche. In general, most online jewelry stores fall into one or more of the following seven categories:
- Affordable fashion jewelry
Ranging from necklaces to bracelets, rings, and costume accessories, fashion jewelry tends to go in and out of style quickly. These pieces tend to be lower in quality and longevity but highly affordable for shoppers who are looking to make a statement.
One way to stay on top of the fashion jewelry market is to browse magazines such as Seventeen, Vogue, Marie Claire, Harper’s BAZAAR, and Cosmopolitan. Influencers on TikTok and Instagram often set the tone for trends.
Fashion jewelry tends to consist of lower quality materials such as imitation metals (i.e. silver instead of platinum) and gemstones (i.e. cubic zirconia instead of diamonds). Designers will often base designs on higher-priced items.
It’s important to keep in mind that the fashion jewelry industry is diverse, however. Pieces may be as inexpensive as $5 or as expensive as $100. Individual items may be mass produced in factories or handmade from independent designers and online shop owners.
“Affordable,” doesn’t always mean “cheap.” But it doesn’t mean “luxury” either.
- Body jewelry
There’s an opportunity for jewelry merchants to make a name for themselves in the world of body piercings, consisting of nose rings, belly button rings, tong rings, eyebrow rings and more.
Body jewelry tends to be more personal than bracelets or necklaces, especially due to variations in piercing sizes and allergic reactions to metals. For instance, some people need to opt for certain types of precious metals or implant grade titanium in order to avoid discomfort.
For this reason, body jewelers will often include pieces in different sizes and metal options — both of which can influence cost. Some stores may also offer the option to customize pieces at the request of shoppers.
As an example, a single nose ring could be available in gold, sterling silver, or implant grade titanium with a straight back, L back to the left, L back to the right, screw, or curve.
Among shoppers, there is often a greater variation in preferences due to personal factors such as comfort level, health and piercing placement.
- Plated jewelry
Shoppers often enjoy the look and feel of precious metals but are unable to afford the fine jewelry price tag. One option to reach this market is plated jewelry made from inexpensive metals and coated with a precious metal layer.
Examples of plated jewelry include sterling silver coated with 14K gold or sterling silver coated with pure silver. Nickel is also a less expensive material that gets coated with a rare precious metal like gold or silver.
If you sell plated jewelry, it’s important to maintain a close relationship with your manufacturers. For one, you’ll need to be sure that there isn’t any lead in what you’re selling, as the material is known to be hazardous and could put your store at legal risk.
You’ll also need to be clear with potential buyers that the jewelry is coated and not a true precious metal. Keep in mind that some people have allergic reactions to non-precious metals, so your transparency as a merchant is essential to ensuring a sense of safety.
- Handmade jewelry
This category consists of “made-to-order” jewelry and includes a level of customization for every buyer. The value to shoppers is that they receive an item that is unique to their preferences in terms of material, color and size.
The drawback of handmade jewelry is that every piece creates time to produce, and production often cannot scale. For this reason, handmade jewelry tends to come from boutique retailers or individuals on selling platforms like Etsy. Made-to-order jewelry merchants tend to be solopreneurs or small business owners.
While handmade jewelry businesses are challenging to scale, that isn’t always a bad thing — there is a market of buyers who appreciate the personal touch and custom experience. Unique pieces may also command a higher price point.
- Fine jewelry
The fine jewelry niche consists of precious metals, rare gemstones, and unique designs. Typically, pieces are made in limited and exclusive batches to accompany high price points that can hit values upwards of tens of thousands of dollars.
The allure of fine jewelry is that the materials are rare and craftsmanship is high. Fine jewelry tends to last people lifetimes and become heirlooms for people to pass to future generations.
The majority of shoppers may only make a few, if any, fine jewelry purchases in their lifetimes due to the cost involved. Wealthier buyers may buy high-end jewelry pieces more often and may be more likely to join loyalty programs.
Shoppers often consider fine jewelry to be an investment, as many pieces become more valuable as time passes. For this reason, fine jewelry tends to have high demand and resale value as second-hand pieces.
The most common examples of fine jewelry include diamond jewelry such as wedding rings and engagement rings. People also tend to buy fine jewelry for special occasions.
- Vintage jewelry
Vintage shoppers are drawn to the allure of jewelry that has made its way through history and time to reach our modern era. Jewelry is especially popular and practical as a second-hand item due to the timelessness and durability of many pieces.
Vintage items have a strong appeal in the fashion industry due to items being unique, one-of-a-kind or special. Vintage enthusiasts tend to enjoy the discoverability that comes with finding unique items.
Because vintage items are second-hand, each item may have a unique story in terms of their previous owner, historical era or original fashion designer. These origin stories have the ability to increase the value of each item.
Vintage jewelry consists of fashion accessories, handmade items and even luxury items. Some antiques, particularly ones with an interesting story, have the potential to become more valuable over time.
Pricing is often on a case-by-case basis.
7. Fair trade jewelry
One outcome of the COVID-19 pandemic is that shoppers are becoming more ethical and conscious in their purchases. The jewelry industry, as with many others, has historically had human rights and environmental problems in its supply chains.
For this reason, brands with fair trade practices have the potential to make a name for themselves as socially responsible brands. Examples of conscious business practices include paying workers above-market wages, sourcing supplies directly from farmers, using recycled materials and partnering with local communities to create a greater sense of wellbeing.
All types of jewelry have the potential to incorporate fair trade, sustainable and conscious business practices. All jewelry companies have a role to play in creating higher standards for the industry.