Pandemic Proposals: COVID-19’s Impact on Engagement Ring Trends

Planning during unthinkable circumstances...

No one saw COVID-19 coming, and it certainly has changed the lives of many across the globe. From the people we’ve lost to the everyday routines that no longer exist, the pandemic has altered the way we view several mainstays of daily life. One group impacted by such disruptions is the wedding industry, as couples frantically canceled and rescheduled weddings, engagements, and other big life events.😥

We wanted to reach out to those couples and learn more about how COVID-19 affected their engagement plans. In our recent survey, we asked over 200 couples and avid readers about their engagement experience in 2020 and 2021. 👉🏻Let’s review the data for some insight on how COVID-19 impacted engagement ring purchases throughout the last year and a half.

Survey: COVID-19 and Engagement Ring Buying Behaviors

COVID-19 ring purchases: Online or in-store?

Buying engagement rings online is not a new trend, and shoppers have flocked to virtual retailers who offer exceptional return policies, 24/7 access to jewelry experts, and even free resizing. However, COVID-19 left many happy couples scrambling to purchase rings online as stores closed during lockdowns.

Despite the restrictions of quarantine, ring sales are up, and Forevermark noted a 20-30% increase in sales volume over 2020. Here’s a rundown of whether our survey participants chose to shop for engagement rings online or in-store during quarantine and common reasons why they chose their preferred retailer.📝

Online buyers

Impacted by COVID-19, 37% Respondents Purchased Their Engagement Rings Online
© JewelryTalk

Of the 217 couples surveyed, roughly 37% said they purchased their engagement ring online. While this may not seem like a large number, the International Gem Society (IGS) reports that a survey of 450 traditional brick-and-mortar jewelry stores saw half of respondents report an increase in online sales. In fact, the online presence was so strong for some stores, the increase in sales actually negated losses during shutdowns!⚖️

So why are couples deciding to purchase their rings online? Here are the top 5 reasons for online ring buying:

  1. More affordable prices
  2. Strict quarantine measures AND Wider selection (tied for 2nd place)
  3. Easier to compare rings and jewelers
  4. Friendly shopping platforms

In addition to the reasons above, 7.5% of respondents selected “Other” as their reason. Here are a few of their responses regarding why they chose to shop online:

  • International purchases
  • Wider selection that included less traditional ring styles
  • Personal relationship with the jeweler
  • Discount codes
  • Custom or bespoke ring requirements
  • No local options
49% Factored Strict Quarantine Procedures Into Their Decision to Shop Engagement Rings Online
© JewelryTalk

Overall, about 49% of respondents admitted strict quarantine procedures factored into their decision to shop online. We also asked surveyees to explain their reasoning further, and many agreed that lockdown protocols definitely drove them to virtual shops if they weren’t already set on an online purchase. 

Quarantine protocols mentioned by name included closed stores, minimizing contact with others, unexpected pay cuts, shelter-in-place orders, and even opting to purchase the ring together as an isolated bonding activity. 💕Quarantining together seems to have spurred plenty of couples to get engaged in the last year, as social distancing emphasized affections and encouraged those isolating together to look forward to a brighter future beyond the pandemic.🌞

Retail buyers

In a recent IGS survey, roughly 50% of 450 jewelry store respondents reported their location(s) was closed for two months or more during lockdown. As such, customers who wanted to buy their ring in stores were forced to wait it out or opt for online retail.

Over time, as stores opened once more, staff members were able to create a safer environment for customers that allowed for pandemic ring shopping. About 32% of these respondents saw an increase in sales once their stores were able to reopen!

Strict Quarantine Measures for in-Store Jewelry Shoppers

So what effects did our in-store shoppers experience once it was possible to visit retail locations again? Of the 63% of our survey participants who said they shopped in stores, these are the most common answers they gave for how COVID-19 impacted their brick-and-mortar shopping experience*:

  • Longer wait to get engaged and changing timelines (had to wait for stores to reopen)
  • Mask requirements in any visited stores
  • Initial online browsing to gather information before visiting stores to limit exposure/time in store
  • Outside lines/queues
  • Appointments required at jewelry stores
  • Inability to try on rings in store
  • Limited selection
  • Only one person allowed in store (no couples)
  • Proposed without an engagement ring entirely
*It should be noted that this data also accounts for individuals who purchased their rings in stores during January and February of 2020 before governments enacted lockdown restrictions. However, given talk of COVID-19 already existed at this time, their data is included, as the pandemic may have influenced their decision to buy quicker or at all.

Additionally, retailers themselves have adapted to social distancing requirements for a more comfortable shopping experience for all customers. From limiting the number of people allowed in the store to extensive sanitizing procedures, stores have had to adapt quickly to COVID-19’s terrifying transmission rates.

Another interesting trend in ring buying from the pandemic is the recent surge in antique ring purchases. Vintage jewelry has become increasingly popular over the last decade, given the controversial diamond industry and potential human rights and environmental abuses inflicted by diamond mining.  

Antique diamond rings are sustainable and more affordable than their newer counterparts, and they became popular among pandemic shoppers—particularly those who shopped in stores—whose budgets may have been cut by restricted hours or lost jobs during COVID-19.

Next, let’s look at how COVID-19 impacted couples’ ring expectations and budgets in 2020 and 2021.

Engagement ring budgets and expectations

Our findings🕵️

62% Of Respondents Said COVID-19 Did Not Have Any Effect on the Price They Were Willing to Pay for Their Ring
© JewelryTalk

So are people spending less on engagement rings during the pandemic? According to our survey data, about 62% of participants said COVID-19 did not have any effect on the price they were willing to pay for their ring.

COVID-19 Pandemic's Influence on Overall Wedding Budget
© JewelryTalk

Similarly, 65% of couples said the pandemic did not influence their overall wedding budget whatsoever. Furthermore, about 37% said they spent more than 80% of their proposal budget on an engagement ring, and an additional 12% stated they used all of their proposal budget for the ring.

It seems our participants were more than happy to remain true to their initial budgets. Overall, couples traded elaborate or costly proposals for their ideal ring instead.

Other reports regarding ring expenditure

Meanwhile, there have been a few reports of couples spending more on engagement rings in 2020 and 2021. Popular website, Brides, claims that jewelry experts are seeing a shift in budget expenditures from pricey honeymoons and ceremonies to smaller events and more expensive rings.

However, they also note this could be a result of couples having excess income from concerts, vacations, and other occasions that were canceled due to quarantine restrictions.

In their Diamond Insight ‘Flash’ Report, De Beers Group mentions similar trends toward a focus on engagement rings during the pandemic. Research noted significant upticks in preferred diamond color, cut, and clarity among engaged couples, and related conclusions were reached regarding couples spending more on rings rather than the wedding itself in the current global environment.

Additionally, in De Beers’ national survey of 360 US women from October of 2020, 54% of participants admitted they were thinking more about their engagement ring than the wedding ceremony (32%) or the often eagerly anticipated honeymoon (15%).

As COVID-19 continues to shift couples’ priorities regarding engagement, women are paying more attention to the type and style of ring they want. Using our data, let’s review some popular gemstones that may become the “new norm” in post-pandemic engagement jewelry.😊

The most popular quarantine gemstones

Most Popular "Quarantine Gemstones"
© JewelryTalk

While ring tastes and wedding budgets may have changed slightly during COVID-19, it’s clear the diamond is still the king of engagement jewelry! In our survey, over 73% of participants purchased a diamond engagement ring, followed by sapphire, ruby, amethyst, and emerald respectively. Combinations of these gems were also popular.📈

In addition to these gemstones, about 12% of surveyees actually purchased a different stone altogether. Here’s a list of other gems selected for engagement rings during the pandemic:

  • Opal
  • Alexandrite
  • Moonstone
  • Cubic Zirconia
  • Aquamarine
  • Topaz
  • No stone at all

White diamonds have been the most sought-after engagement stone for decades, and it seems pandemic buyers have remained true to this trend. Jenny Klatt, co-founder of Jemma Wynne, feels this may be a result of concerned consumers wanting to create a tangible investment via their purchase.  

Diamonds are timeless and hold their value well, so buying a diamond engagement ring can be seen as a way to preserve capital. Jewelry designer Ashley Zhang also shared with The Zoe Report that couples are moving to antique diamonds, which offer a warmer glow and less common cuts for affordable prices.

Wedding planning during a pandemic

While the data reflects few drastic changes in how people are getting engaged, there seems to be a shift in how individuals purchase rings. Over the last decade, online retailers have become a staple in engagement ring sales, and it seems the pandemic may have kicked that trend up a notch. Overall, it seems not even COVID-19 could stop couples in love from taking the next steps in their journey through life together.🥰

Now that the world is returning to some level of normalcy, are you thinking of proposing? Looking for advice on where to start with your proposal plan? Read our article on smart proposal planning for more information on how to plot the perfect moment with your fianceé!

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