November 30, 2022

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Pandemic prompts shifted emphasis on engagement rings, wedding jewelry

The pandemic has prompted many couples to change the way they say ‘I do.’

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COVID-19 has prompted many couples to change the way they say ‘I do.’

With large gatherings still off-the-table amid continued limitations, and travel still largely on pause, couples are having to reimagine the way they celebrate their love.

This shift has prompted a change in the way couples budget for their wedding ceremony and celebrations, according to Toronto-born, Beverly Hills based celebrity wedding expert Melissa Andre.

“The thing about quarantine is, the only thing there is is that ring,” Andre says. “Whether you get married at city hall, or you’re having a Zoom wedding, or you’re doing it in your backyard, the ring stays the same. Whereas, everything else changes — the venue, the dress, the guests. Everything has changed.”

Amid the continuing uncertainty of ‘When am I going to get married?,’ ‘Where am I going to get married?’ and ‘Who is going to be there to watch me get married?,’ Andre says couples are anticipating a longer-than-normal engagement. And, therefore, a realignment of wedding funds.


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“That same budget is going in different places because we’re probably not feeding 500 people. Maybe we don’t have all those travel expenses. So, the budget of the party is not necessarily scaling to the size of the guests,” Andre says. “It’s being reorganized, which means a bigger budget for the things that you can have — so, the ring and jewelry.”

Celebrity wedding expert Melissa Andre.
Celebrity wedding expert Melissa Andre. Photo by Joyce Park

According to Katie Reusch, marketing director of the Montreal-headquartered jewelry brand Maison Birks, couples began investing in “larger, higher-quality diamonds” in 2020.

“The average stone selected is now over one carat,” Reusch says.

Larger and higher-quality call for a bigger budget of course. And Reusch says that’s proving to be the case with COVID-era ring-shoppers.

“The ring becomes the celebration right now. And that budget is just diffused across a few years, until you have those other costs that come along with having a wedding,” she says. “And I think, younger people specifically, are much more educated about diamonds because of the vast amount of knowledge that is all over the internet.

“You don’t necessarily come into a jewelry store and have no knowledge of diamonds … It’s different than it used to be.”

This increased education, Reusch says, leads to more informed consumers who know exactly what cut, colour and style of ring they want.

In addition to a larger, more expensive ring style, Reusch says the pandemic has also put a greater emphasis on the ring-shopping experience and engagement process overall. 


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“Certain things have definitely accelerated over the pandemic. If we look back … traditionally, the proposal was always a surprise,” Reusch says. “The partner would come in, they’d buy a diamond engagement ring that would shock their fiancé that would give them this spontaneous moment that would guide them into the next part of their lives.”

Birks Dare to Dream Stackable Engagement ring, $5,600.
Birks Dare to Dream Stackable Engagement ring, $5,600. Maison Birks

Reusch says the engagement is no longer a “secret, surprise moment” and is, instead, a more collaborative purchase. According to data released by the 140-year-old jewelry company, 50 per cent of partners now shop for rings together compared with 30 per cent in 2018.

“They want to try on rings together, they want to learn about diamonds together, and, ultimately, they want to make this purchase together,” Reusch says. “Leading up to a proposal that is more anticipated, maybe, than it was in the past.”

Another factor driving the purchasing shift is a desire for more personalization and versatility from one’s wedding jewelry. The days when an engagement ring and wedding band were the only jewelry a woman cared about, or even wore on her left hand, are long gone.

“We’ve kind of moved from that moment. The whole trend of stacking rings and stacking bracelets and incorporating that into your overall outfit has become so important,” Reusch says. “And we see trends that follow that.”

Traditionally, the solitaire diamond engagement ring with a platinum or white-gold band was the standard for engagement rings, Reusch says.


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“We’re seeing interest to move away from this traditional look and more into rose gold. And yellow gold is coming back in a big way. More interesting cuts and more unique styles,” Reusch says. “We noticed that our consumers, more and more, are looking for something that is more versatile.”

“Choosing an engagement ring that you’re going to wear every day, that matches with your bracelets and your earrings. That matches what type of girl you are and what type of bride you are,” Andre adds. “It’s less of looking at the whole experience of getting engaged and getting married in this bubble vacuum of only that day.”

Pieces from Canadian jewelry brand Mejuri.
Pieces from Canadian jewelry brand Mejuri. Mejuri

Toronto-based jewelry brand Mejuri has also noticed this shift in engagement and wedding-day jewelry trends.

The company recently launched a collection of celebration-specific pieces that play into the preference for picking jewelry that can be worn and gifted on the day of one’s wedding — and every day after that.

“We’re now seeing jewelry that they want to wear every single day,” Noura Sakkihja, the founder of the brand, says. “That’s what makes us super-excited about getting into the bridal industry because we’re all about making use of your pieces and wearing them everyday.”

Sakkihja points to an increased awareness surrounding sustainability, along with the aforementioned increased investment in pieces that truly represent a bride’s personal style, as main motivators behind the push for personalization.


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“They don’t want to wear these pieces only for special occasions,” Sakkihja says. “I don’t know what ‘special occasions’ mean to our generation. We don’t have that lifestyle that we had before. We want every day to be exciting.”

My own wedding, it was in Paris, and it was in a park. Things that I wore on that day, I still wear. And I have started seeing that more and more,” Justine Lancon, chief creative officer at Mejuri, adds. “Because, you’re also going to want to wear something that you’re going to like.”

The company entered the category in 2018 with its Milestone Rings, followed by men’s wedding bands in 2019. With the recent wedding expansion, there’s also an emphasis on gifts, a category that Sakkihja says has seen a more than 60 per cent increase year-over-year.

“Before the pandemic, a lot of brides used to come in to our stores with their bridesmaids to buy them gifts. And we’ve seen that shift go online,” Sakkihja says. “So, when we think of weddings, we think of this whole experience as opposed to just the bride.”

That emphasis on giving gifts goes both ways though, she says.

“You’re no longer invited to 1,000 weddings, because it has all been downsized. But, you still tend to send a gift,” Sakkihja says. “And we’re seeing that people, in general, are choosing jewelry to be one of the things to gift.”

Jewelry also represents a nice keepsake for a couple when after-wedding experiences like honeymoons remain out-of-reach.


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“For weddings that have been reduced, it has meant this gift is more meaningful,” Lancon says. “It’s less about the day, and more about thinking of someone.”

Lancon pointed to diamonds, pearls and uniquely shaped stones such as marquise-cut champagne quartz as some of the styles proving most popular for gifting. “Everything personalized,” including initials and zodiac signs, are other sought-after options.

Essentially, the instability of the continuing pandemic has prompted couples to look to wedding jewelry as an avenue to wrench back control of a celebratory event that, otherwise, can feel very up-in-the-air at the moment.

“Weddings, in general, have evolved,” Lancon says. “Obviously, with the pandemic. But, in general too, to weddings that are more personal.”

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