It seems like we’re blaming millennials for everything these days, and the latest one is the dip in jewelry sales, particularly precious gems like diamonds. I’ve already discussed in-depth that a part of the problem is an economic one — young people today have more debt and fewer good jobs than those from 20 years ago and simply can’t afford to pay the exorbitant prices that De Beers is charging.
Another part of the problem I’ve already discussed is the moral one. Study after study has demonstrated that young people are willing to spend more money on products that align with their moral leanings and abstain from spending where the establishment’s morals conflict with their own. From ethically produced clothing to clean foods, the young workforce talks with its wallet and makes its opinions on labor practices and clean food clear as a bell. As such, many young adults take great issue with the culture of forced labor, child labor, colonialism, and monopoly that fuels the diamond industry.
However, diamond executives are blaming another habit of young people for their hemorrhaging businesses: delaying marriage. A combination of sexual liberation, economic troubles, and uncertain future prospects has now pushed the average age of marriage up from the 20s to the 30s for many of today’s young adults.
As of April 2017, loosely one third of the millennial generation still lives with their parents. This is a bit of a chicken-and-egg conundrum — some say that young people move in with their parents because their marriage and cohabitation prospects are limited, while others posit that the act of living with one’s parents limits one’s dating pool, as many prospective mates associate that living situation with poverty and loser-dom.
Not only do these changing norms hurt the engagement ring and wedding ring market, but also the jewelry industry as a whole. From anniversary gifts to Valentine’s day presents to mother’s day, the vast majority of diamond-buying occasions have to do with marriage and a family, both of which are being delayed in the lives of today’s young adults. Even among those who do choose to marry, many are eschewing the grandiose marriage proposal in favor of a more frugal and/or unique option.
Perhaps this delay in marriage and childbearing age will result in a boom in the diamond industry 10 years down the road, but some other significant changes in the economy, purchasing preferences, and the social climate may continue to impede the growth of the diamond markets for young adults.