Millennials are falling out of love with marriage—or at least delaying it until later in life. That could have some serious implications for the diamond industry, which has long depended on engagement rings and wedding anniversary presents to keep it going.
So the industry is trying out a new pitch on millennials—one that has nothing to do with marriage.
The Diamond Producers Association launched its first new campaign in five years this week to push millennials to commemorate their “real,” honest relationships with diamonds, even if marriage isn’t part of the equation.
The ad campaign, created by creative agency Mother NY, includes two videos that show the messy and beautiful sides of two non-traditional relationships between couples who are exploring the world together.
“Maybe we won’t ever get married, and maybe we will” says the female voiceover in one ad, as she sports a diamond necklace on her neck. “But I will spend my future with you.”
Mother NY, with the help of research firm The Sound, reportedly spent more than six months interviewing young people around the US as part of the project. The agency learned that millennials associated diamonds with a “fairytale love story that wasn’t relevant to them,” said Thomas Henry, strategist at Mother NY, in a statement. “We needed to bring this powerful symbol into the modern world by acknowledging that perfection is no longer the goal for a great relationship.”
Similarly, more than a decade ago, other members of the diamond industry began marketing right-hand diamond rings, primarily to independent women who didn’t need men to buy rings for them.
Millennials are still buying diamonds. In 2015, millennials spent nearly $26 billion on diamond jewelry, according to De Beers annual Diamond Insight Report (pdf). The cohort comprised 45% of retail diamond sales in the top four diamond markets—the US, China, Japan, and India—and 41% in the US, the research showed.
But it’s unclear whether millennials are spending as much on diamonds as the generations of young people before them.
Growth in diamond retail sales has slowed. Other reports suggests that money-conscious millennials are less inclined to spend on luxuries like diamonds, because they place a higher value on experiences like travel. They’ve also grown skeptical of the diamond industry and are turning to cheaper and perhaps more ethical gems like sapphires, emeralds, and pearls, or synthetic stones like lab-grown diamonds.
The Diamond Producers Association’s latest campaign aims to speak to both of these challenges. The videos depict adventurous couples who have travelled to Thailand and elsewhere wearing diamonds around their necks rather than rings on their fingers. And the ads suggest that there’s nothing quite like the real thing—whether in relationships or in jewelry. “Real is rare,” reads the tagline.