Join us for our weekly BAJ:Insight on the latest industry trends by Rachael Taylor, a freelance journalist who writes about jewellery for a number of titles, including The Financial Times, The Jewellery Editor and Retail Jeweller. In her 10 years reporting on the industry, she has travelled the globe to visit key industry fairs, descended a Fairtrade gold mine on top of a Peruvian mountain, toured silver jewellery factories in Thailand, and regularly has access to the most sparkling jewels and people in the business.
The official letter from Clarence House confirming the engagement between Prince Harry and Meghan Markle might seem like an inconsequential bit of celebrity news but, believe me, it will impact your career as a jeweller in some way. Whether that’s creating bespoke lookalikes for enamoured subjects, or stocking up on a particular cut of diamond that has suddenly become wildly popular throughout the Commonwealth and beyond.
Prince Harry and Meghan Markle
If this is the first time you have paid attention to a royal engagement and its impact on the jewellery industry, you might have reason to doubt me. How much influence can a choice of a ring between one man and woman have on the rest of the globe? Are brides-to-be really all that susceptible to a trend? The answers to these questions are, in order, enormous and absolutely. There is form, let’s not forget.
Princess of Cambridge’s wedding earrings
Prince Harry’s engagement ring choice (or perhaps Markle’s – her welcome to the royal family would suggest traditions are being relaxed) is a perfect blend of old and new. The three-stone diamond ring on a yellow gold band has been set with a larger central diamond sourced from Botswana, where the couple have spent time together, and two smaller diamonds taken from a brooch owned by Harry’s late mother, Princess Diana.
Princess Diana’s brooch
Princess Diana’s brooch
And it is not just what is chosen, but who is chosen. Business boomed for London jeweller Robinson Pelham after it was commissioned to create bespoke jewellery for the Middletons on Kate and Wills’ big day. Will this royal commission have a similar impact on Cleave and Company? The British jeweller lies in the shadow of Buckingham Palace and already has ties with the royal family, having been granted two royal warrants, one from Her Majesty as Manufacturers of Insignia and the other from Prince Charles as Medallists.
While we wait to discover just what scale of whirlwind this very public romance will inevitably create within the British jewellery industry, here are a few fun facts from past royal engagements to demonstrate just how much of an impact it could have.
When Debenhams created a £6 replica of the Princess of Cambridge’s engagement ring, it became its best-selling piece of jewellery to date
Clogau Gold, a brand that uses Welsh gold in its designs (all royal wedding bands are made from Welsh gold) declared in 2011 that the Kate and Wills’ wedding had been more profitable for its business than Christmas, despite having no official ties to the event
Sales of sapphire engagement rings jumped 55% at H Samuel in the same week Kate and Wills showed off their ring, while searches on its website for similar rings rocketed 138%
Links of London instantly sold out of the earrings Kate Middleton wore in that famous engagement photo shot by Mario Testino, despite the design being seven years old
Sales enquiries for Asscher-cut diamonds spiked 36% at 77 Diamonds when Pippa Middleton, sister-in-law to Prince William, accepted a proposal with an Asscher-cut diamond engagement ring.