christmas-tree-with-gifts-flipbook1Jewelers around the country had a tough time of it this holiday season, but they may have had a surge of December sales to make up for it. According to Nielsen’s National Jeweler Network annual holiday weekend sales roundup, which interviews independent jewelers around the country, some perfectly timed sales last week helped a few jewelers break even for the year. However, many jewelers reported an overall drop in holiday sales and lots of concern for 2009.

Owner Wilson Glasgow of Elizabeth Bruns Jewelers in Charlotte, N.C., said that both a weak economy and local bank-related job losses contributed to the poor sales. “In the Charlotte region,” he said, “we are doubly affected not only with the economy but with the loss of Wachovia bank. That’s given us a double whammy.”

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personalizedringOuch. Yesterday, the Associated Press ran a story that was not a surprise to those of us in the jewelry business: Sales are down, and the holiday season is not looking so shiny.

According to the article, demand for rings, pendants and bracelets has declined due to high food and energy costs. Also interesting is the fact that everyone is cutting back, even wealthy customers, which is creating real chaos in the economy.

Standard & Poor’s Marie Driscoll said, “People that shop luxury, who demand a certain brand, they just don’t trade down… They simply do without until they feel comfortable to purchase again. Women who wear Prada and Chanel shoes — I don’t see them trading down to Cole Haan, even though it’s a great brand.”

I disagree. In my experience, big-ticket purchasers always always love a little bargain. Take your typical David Yurman customer. Is she going to wear that $1,350 Garnet & Ruby Square Ring to the grocery store? Probably not. But I guarantee that if she walks into a store and finds some $20 knockoffs, she’ll buy 10 in every color and wear them all the time.

Which brings me to Carved Creations. Simple, elegant, stylish, these are the kinds of rings that really make a statement without being too loud or blaring or garish. Each of Carved Creation’s Roman Numeral rings, Mother’s Rings, bold pendants and the rest deliver personalized jewelry at its finest–but at about a third of the cost.

Time will tell just how far jewlery sales will drop. The shopping period that kicks off after Thanksgiving is just around the corner, and then we’ll see where the chips fall.

Sure, an economic downturn may prevent a guy from buying, let’s say, a $140,000 Hot Wheels car, but a new survey says that same guy won’t blink when it comes to his engagement ring.

According to diamond merchants GemEx Inc., 62 percent of men and 60 percent of women say an engagement ring is always worth spending money on, to the tun of 1-3 months of the fiancee’s salary. In fact, 10 percent thought that the ring should account for 10 months’ salary. Ka-pow! The good news is, 41 percent of the women said they would help pay for the wedding ring.

MarketWatch unearths more details from the report, like:

  • Size doesn’t matter: Ninety-four percent of women and 90 percent of men say they would prefer a bright 3/4 carat diamond as opposed to a duller 1 carat diamond
  • Only 50 percent of men said they would be insulted if their fiancee asked to exchange her engagement ring
  • Eighty-four percent of women say their diamond ring represents more than an engagement–it’s a symbol of their style and personality
  • Eighty-five percent of women were surprised when their boyfriends proposed and 15 percent knew it was coming

From WalletPop‘s Brandon Barker:

Every business owner — not to mention every stock broker — knows about diversification. It’s the best way to weather the whims of a fickle economy. But in the middle of this economic downturn, how does a luxury-oriented business diversify? Facing high gas prices, steep food prices and the continuing aftershocks of the mortgage crisis, jewelry might be the last purchase on anyone’s mind.

Last week the Wall Street Journal (subscription required) brought some attention to John Christian, a small custom-jewelry company in Austin, Texas. Originally geared toward big-ticket rings, pendants and charms priced at $599 and above, the company found that skyrocketing gold prices were putting them in a sticky spot. “People are still going to get married and love their kids and celebrate special times in their lives,” said Wes Weaver, John Christian’s CEO. “But the jewelry’s going to have to change.”

The solution? A portmanteau: Platanium® — a unique, stainless-steel alloy that combines the luster of platinum and the strength of titanium. The company’s executives, including John Waugh — a 50-year jewelry veteran who used to run class-ring titan ArtCarved — and his son Turner Waugh considered the downside of such a move. John Christian had spent years developing its high-end brand, and providing a cheaper line might confuse current customers and tarnish the company’s image. But, at a certain point, it wasn’t a matter of choice. “I was fighting to survive,” Mr. Weaver told the Wall Street Journal.

Weaver and Waugh decided to “isolate and protect” their higher-end products while marketing the cheaper jewelry on a separate platform. It started a new brand called Carved Creations, selling Platanium® and sterling silver products for less that $200. Some customers were wary of Platanium®, but according to Weaver, once “you explain what it is they pick it every time.”

Today, almost half of the company’s orders come from the less expensive line.

The following an example of platanium, the 8.5 MM LifeSpirit Channel ring: