Diversity and inclusion in the diamond and jewelry industry

Equality in human rights and diversity have been an uphill battle for a long time. The jewelry industry has long focused its attention on selling jewelry to traditional couples while overlooking a whole segment of customers that would be willing to buy if they were treated correctly.

The established advertising methods and even the design of jewelry stores have all sent a clear message that established jewelers only care about traditional couples, and in many cases, the idealistic white couple.

While there are many well known jewelers and jewelry store owners that are LGBT, they have been viewed upon as great providers of jewelry because they have an extra special creative eye. Jewelry style trends and recommendations of these LGBT jewelry professionals has even been sought far and wide, but yet the jewelry industry as a whole is still, for the most part, ignoring LGBT customers.

In September 2019 I was asked to be interviewed for a diversity article that would be published by RAPAPORT. I was really please with the final article about diversity in the jewelry industry was published in October 2019.

What follows are the questions that I was asked in the interview. As it turns out, my business partner, George Blair IV, and pitched in together to answer these questions. Some of the answers we wrote might seem a little harsh, but this is how we view the industry and this is our reality slap for those who have not yet considered how important diversity it to your future.

Where do you see the diamond and jewelry industry with regard to diversity (overall and in leadership)?

We have seen precisely two same-sex couples featured in mainstream jewelry ads, and they are by Tiffany in 2015--who can afford to be a trailblazer--and Zales in 2016, which surprised us a touch more but glad to see it. These ads came out shortly after the approval of same-sex marriage in the USA, and at the time it was hip to try and capture the early market because it was top-of-mind. Both ads exclusively featured thin white people, but bonus points for having their models in proximity to each other, and touching. The women, shown more intimately, were purely in the context of wedding ceremony (non-religious implication added by the efficient having no discernible affiliation). The men were comparatively desexualized in print, but were verified by the Daily Mail as being an actual couple.

What about the more recent campaigns by the DPA and Forevermark in the last year or so?

The Forevermark video came out in August 2019. That video shows many different couples in very romantic moments, but there is a scene with a lesbian couple where they are presented as mothers instead of portrayed as tender couples, like everyone else in that video. It is our opinion that this was a safe way of presenting a same-sex relationship without it being obvious.

The 2017 Real Is Rare ad was short lived. It was published on September 11, 2017 and only received 46,700 views. That ad wasn't particularly viral or promoted. There are two links from the newnownext.com article, one to the YouTube video and one to the tag page. It's interesting that the "a-girl-like-you" page is now a blank page on the realisadiamond.com website. The LGBT community is accustomed to having information about them scrubbed from websites when complaints are received from mainstream readers, we've seen it many times on government websites, news websites, and other informational websites. This missing information on the realisadiamond.com website could very well be unintentional, but it hints at a common, very upsetting treatment of the LGBT community. In a similar vein, there was a Cheerios ad in 2014 with two white dad and a black daughter. That entire ad campaign and associated YouTube video was scrubbed from the internet.

What is the general feeling on this topic that you are gauging?

"If I ignore it, it'll go away" or "it's not my problem" or worse yet "If I advertise same-sex couples it will scare away my regular customers."

We have seen minimal independent jeweler participation in courting the same sex market. The jewelers we've spoken to with regard to same-sex marriage all tell us that they never turn away a customer looking to buy engagement or wedding rings, but yet they still don't comprehend that the appearance of their store portrays traditional marriage values and appeals to the women buyers while shunning men. Most jewelry stores have a paltry selection of men's jewelry and they never advertise to the male customers, yet they expect that men will walk into their store when they are ready to buy wedding rings.

Does it match the reality?

Well, same sex people are still getting engaged and married. For the men, they would rather buy engagement rings and wedding bands from online retailers instead of dealing with potential shame that might be cast upon them when they walk into a jewelry store that surrounds them with large diamonds and semi-mount rings.

When it came time for George to buy his own wedding rings, he bought them online instead of visiting our own local jeweler.

My husband tried to buy my engagement ring at a local jeweler and was told "we don't sell those types of rings here" from one jeweler, and another jeweler told him to go somewhere else. He eventually ordered my engagement ring online with the help of his mother and best friend instead of getting the help and advice from a professional jeweler.

When it came time for me to order our wedding bands, I did visit the only jeweler I knew that had the right inclusive attitude, even though his store is stocked with jewelry for women. I picked out my wedding bands from the Stuller catalog because he didn't have an appropriate selection for me to see in person.

Are things changing?

Not in this industry, and George and I are getting tired of the excuse that "this industry moves slow." We're also getting the sense that same-sex couples are losing the battle for inclusiveness. There political talk of reversing the same-sex marriage laws, and the leadership from the top of the government makes it seem that it's okay to continue bigoted and discriminatory attitudes.

Who are the main drivers of change?

Pop culture, presidential administrations, and the economy. While pop culture and celebrities are moving forward and becoming more public in their views, government leadership is holding things back. The economy has turned away from expensive fancy jewelry. Tech toys and new cars are dominating sales right now, and people who own jewelry are focusing on servicing what they have instead of buying something new. In our own circle of friends we've even noticed that we are wearing less of the jewelry we own and concentrating more on the presentation of current fashions. This gets back to what I said earlier about jewelry stores not catering to the male customers, in that the selection of mens fashionable jewelry is not being presented in stores. There's a huge profit margin in mens jewelry, but a jeweler has to sell several single pieces of mens jewelry to generate the same dollar value that is made from sales of diamonds and other fine jewelry.

Another common saying we hear from jewelers and at conferences is that the jewelers want to become the family jeweler that customers will go to for everyday gifts, which eventually builds trust and the large purchases of wedding jewelry. We'd like to know how the jewelers believe they can accomplish attracting and keeping the same-sex couples if they don't pay attention to what those customers actually want.

What are the main challenges to making the industry more diverse?

Frankly, homophobia, with a mixture of old values including misogyny, classism, and racism. The jewelry community is not intersectional. It has barely acknowledged that women buy their own items. Ads for wedding jewelry should no longer include both a bride and a groom, they should only include one or the other so the customer can see what they want to see. Additionally, the ads should show brides and grooms in more diverse wedding day clothing other than the traditional wedding gown and suit.

What are our thought leaders in the industry saying and doing about it?

We have not seen an urgent invitation from the jewelry industry inviting the LGBTIQ community, once. When we launched the Jewelers Equality Alliance we received a lot of "congratulations" and pats on the back for being so forward, but then when we offered training for proper pronoun usage and inclusiveness we received general push-back from many jewelers that they felt they didn't need training. Essentially, they felt that their traditional way of greeting wedding jewelry customers was already perfect even though those greetings were often times sexist without them even realizing it.

What will be the impact on the industry if it doesn’t become more inclusive? Or does it need to be more inclusive? Do the customers care?

The industry will continue to shrink, and the larger vocal majority will complain that it is the consumer's fault. This issue has strong parallels with the industry's problems with inviting the millennial community, much of which has an evolved opinion on same-sex marriage. Additionally, we are at a modern crossroads of gender expression that the mainstream jewelry community has not been able to keep up with, although high fashion in wardrobe has always made room for it.

Jewelers don't want to sell high fashion; they want to sell engagement rings. To do so, they have maintained the status quo rather investigate alternatives to invite the new consumer. This has a lot to do with its reticence with technology, which is the cornerstone of how the new consumer communicates and buys things. Again, this gets back to the idea that the jewelry industry is slow to change. Many are dinosaurs in how they run their business and they cannot see their inevitable extinction.

As for the customer base, asking if they care is part of the problem. The industry fails to remind them why they should care beyond the reason that "it's tradition." The younger consumer also knows now, due to technology, that tradition is relatively new and is only the tradition that baby boomers created. The younger generations continue to earn less, struggle more with education, and fail to make the radar of most corporation decision, so many have chosen to rebel against proposed tradition stated by their parents, grand-parents, or "old American core values" that only came into existence post World War II. Even if the younger generations does get married, many do so for political or social reasons, and invariably that is less romantic.

In closing, I hope we haven't shattered the intent of your story. Many jewelry thought leaders talk a good talk and say everything is moving along fine. Some professional consultants in the industry do share the same sentiments that we've stated above, but generally those of us with the blunt and realistic views are ignored.
AT: 09/07/2019 01:44:15 AM  

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