Putting tradition on ice: More women are buying their own jewelry

Carla Ciccarelli of Modesto’s Ciccarelli Jewelers (right) talks with customer Janet Ferolito about a jewelry purchase.

MODESTO — As the holiday season puts retailers into full gear, consumers have already begun shopping for gifts for their loved ones with many seeking out the glitz and glamour of gems at the local jeweler.

“People are looking for locally owned businesses, said Greg Ciccarelli of Modesto’s Ciccarelli Jewelers. “Things are reverting back to the old days. They want to see a familiar face and a smile from someone who is listening to what they want.”

However, some consumer trends are changing unexpectedly, and men aren’t the only ones picking out the biggest and brightest jewel for a holiday surprise. Consumers walking into jewelers have slowly changed the demographic of purchasing power to include a certain group of women, whom the industry refers to as “self-purchasers.”

“With the way things have been going the last few years, they say, ‘I ought to treat myself,’” said Gary Long of Stockton’s Gary J. Long Jewelers.

According to a 2009 study by the Jewelry Consumer Opinion Council (JCOC), 23 percent of self-purchasing women expected to buy jewelry containing colored gemstones or cultured pearls at least once during a typical year, while many women were likely to purchase the jewelry for the sake of fashion.

These women won’t wait idly at home to receive a taste of luxury, especially when they know exactly what they want.

“Most of the time when our clients come in, they’ve done the research already,” said Long “In the ‘70s we had to talk about the four Cs (cut, color, clarity, carat weight) – and really there’s a fifth one: confidence in who you’re buying it from.”

With a more educated consumer base, it’s no surprise that women are taking the initiative in determining what they want out of their jewelry. In the JCOC report, 50 percent of self-purchasing women will buy a piece of jewelry simply because they like it.

Women who buy for themselves seek out fashion jewelry in earrings and pendants.

“They’re buying chandelier earrings, stud earrings, a lot of hearts on fire pendants,” said Long.

Local jewelry retailers are responding to the power of women in luxury purchase decisions by offering wish list systems in order to clarify the preference of each woman in the case of an engagement, for example.

“It’s kind of like a bride registering for a wedding,” said Ciccarelli. “Often the lady will come in first, and we write down what she likes so the gentleman knows exactly what to look for.”

Couples who aren’t taking the wish list route, are shopping together to plan that part of their union. Long estimates that about 50 percent of the people he sees looking for engagement rings are couples coming in together; the average age of the brides and grooms are 28 and 30 respectively.

“Generally, the guy will want to buy something that she wants,” he said.

Christmas is often a time for engagements, but it’s also still the season of giving. While women are becoming more proactive in self-purchasing and keeping involved in the engagement process, men continue to put up the big bucks for jewelry gifts for their loved ones.

“What we see a lot of are couples who have been married for 10 years. I’m seeing couples come in for anniversary gifts again. It’s very nice to see mothers and wives getting loved and shown that special gift,” said Ciccarelli.

Consumers are likely to shop local for their jewelry purchases rather than ordering online, favoring confidence-based interaction with jewelers they know and trust.

“You wouldn’t be able to see it and touch it online,” said Long. “We have the individual contact with the customer, and we go above and beyond. We had a customer come in for a watch repair. Well, we don’t do watch repairs, but we took that watch down to another store for him.”

In the face of changing trends and economic conditions, local jewelers continue to thrive and enjoy the work that they do, providing a step in the process of each customer’s special moments year round, whether it be a personal treat for a deserving female self-purchaser or a memorable gift from a lover.

“I’ve sold grandparents their wedding rings, and I’ve almost sold the second generation. You’re touching lives,” said Ciccarelli. “When you see someone smile or open up after showing the item that was specifically made for them – after 35 years I still feel it.”

“That’s the great thing about the jewelry business,” said Long. “We’re all part of the celebration.”


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