Consumers Weigh in on Jewelry News Issues

September 16, 2003

Consumers Weigh in on Jewelry News Issues

Awareness of diamond right hand rings has doubled in two months. The recent arrest of a New York gem dealer in connection with an alleged terrorist plot has 61% of consumers saying the event has not adversely affected their perception of the industry. Only 19% of consumers approve of L.A. Lakers basketball star Kobe Bryant giving his wife a colored diamond after confessing to adultery. These are some of the "in the news" items consumers were polled on by an omnibus study of the Jewelry Consumer Opinion Council from Aug. 24 to Sept. 1.

Twelve percent of consumers studied says they are now strongly aware of diamond right hand rings, a percentage that has doubled in just two months. Likewise, the percentage of consumers who are somewhat aware of the new category of diamond fashion rings for women has almost doubled from 18% in June to 31% in August.

The jewelry and gem business has been increasingly scrutinized by the government's USA Patriot Act enforcers to ensure the industry's products are not sold to fund terrorism, or exploited for the purpose of hiding funds that support terrorism. Media coverage has focused recently on the arrest of New York gem dealer Yehuda Abraham on charges related to an FBI sting of an alleged terrorist arms supplier.

How do consumers feel about this? When asked by the JCOC survey if recent arrests have adversely altered their perception of the diamond and jewelry industry in general or of New York's 47th Street specifically, 61% of consumers surveyed said no, with 31% unsure, and only 8% indicating their opinion has changed for the worse.

When L.A. Lakers great Kobe Bryant, who was recently charged with rape, gave his wife a $4 million purplish pink diamond "apology" ring after publicly confessing to adultery, many observers joked that he was creating a new category of jewelry. But according to JCOC's August survey, 61% of consumers thought he did the wrong thing, with 20% unsure. Only 19% give the famed basketball player a thumb's up.

When asked which product category would be more appropriate as an apology gift, 70% said none. Of those who had other ideas for Kobe and Vanessa Bryant, 4% said a vacation, 3% indicated a rare colored gemstone, and 1% listed a new home, gold or platinum jewelry or a new car. For 80% of consumers, the most powerful emotion that motivates people to purchase jewelry for others is love, with only 15% indicating that guilt was a plausible motivation to buy jewelry.

Among other interesting items the survey polled consumers on, the number of people interested in wearing body jewelry – both the pierced and unpierced categories – is growing and now stands at 16%. Also, the survey shows that 30% of consumers don't wear a watch. Of those who do, the most popular brand was Timex at 13%, Seiko at 8%, Fossil at 5% and Citizen at 4%. The watch consumers most aspire to buy is a Rolex - 17% named it out of 44 brands listed. Bulova, Timex and Seiko each netted 7% of consumers when asked the same question. Six percent yearned for Tiffany and Movado, while 5% wanted Gucci the most.

The JCOC is a sampling panel of jewelry consumers throughout North America representing all ages, genders, income levels, buying categories and geographic regions. JCOC members answer research questions from mining companies, jewelry manufacturers, gem dealers and retailers about their jewelry buying preferences and get the chance to receive free jewelry, gifts and cash for their opinions.

• JCOC, (805) 239-2994, ext.101,,

– by Peggy Jo Donahue

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