We all know 2021 was the best year ever for jewelry sales, with US sales soaring like never before, but how much jewelry was sold in total? As always, the US government provides the figures – and a year later, it always revises them.
This time around, like most, the figures were revised down. And in some areas, the downward revisions were drastic.
The US Department of Commerce, Bureau of Economic Analysis provides the most important source of US jewelry sales. It collects data from tax reports, open sources, and by surveys. A sizeable chunk of this data is derived from a number of assumptions. As more data comes in, the data gets revisited, and the value of how much jewelry was sold gets restated.
So How Much Jewelry Was Sold?
The latest revision restates all jewelry and watch sales data, going back to January 2017, more than four-and-a-half years of sales. In 2017 and 2018, sales were edged up, rising 0.3% and 0.7%, respectively.
However, in 2019, jewelry sales were revised down 0.5%. These are the updated figures of how much jewelry was sold in these three years:
2017: $59.3 billion (up from $59.0 billion)
2018: $61.3 billion (up from $60.9 billion)
2019: $61 billion (down from $61.3 billion)
The small 0.6% rise in sales previously reported in 2019 is now reported as a 0.6% decline.
How Much Was Sold During the Pandemic?
The bigger revisions affected 2020 and 2021. Here, the differences in how much was sold are large and dramatic.
In 2020, the year COVID broke out, sales were initially reported at $62.23 billion – a modest but meaningful 1.6% rise over the previous year.
The restated figures now state sales of $58.92 billion. This is a major restatement of how much was sold – down 5.4% from the previous figure or a massive $3.36 billion less.
The updated figure also means that in 2020, jewelry demand actually declined 3.3% compared to 2019.
But the genuinely surprising change in the reported value of US jewelry sales was for 2021.
After celebrating hard-to-believe 52% year-over-year growth, some of the cheer was perhaps a little premature. According to the most recent data, jewelry sales in the US totaled $86.4 billion, and not $94.5 billion, in 2021.
According to the updated figures, jewelry sales were up 46.7%, still a record rise in sales.
However, this is an 8.6% reduction, cutting an immense $8.1 billion from how much jewelry we believed was sold.
Together, 2020 and 2021 jewelry sales totaled $11.5 billion less than previously stated.
Why Does it Matter?
Knowing the actual size of the industry is of immense importance. It impacts how much money banks allocate to finance the industry, and it impacts financial planning for companies in the industry. It also helps us identify where and what kind of growth (or decline) we are facing. God, as you know, is in the details.
My Own Mea Culpa
In November 2021, I published a report that included a forecast for 40% growth in holiday sales. As my clients can testify, I’m not a fan of providing of providing forecasts. This is proof that it’s for a compelling reason.
As more public companies reported their sales, it became clear that holiday sales rose by about 38% at best. But based on the restated US figures, sales rose just 34% in the 2021 holiday season.
And yet, 2021 was a fantastic year for the jewelry industry, and I stand behind my saying that 2021 was “the year of jewelry”.
Jewelry Sales Figures Are Elastic
It may sound odd that there is elasticity in what should otherwise be a hard fact. But collecting data is an ongoing process. The more you have, the more accurate it becomes.
The last time the US government published a substantial change in reporting how much jewelry was sold was in 2018. At the time, it revised ten years of market estimates, dating all the way back to January 2008, shaving off more than $16.5 billion in jewelry sales in 2017 alone.
Jewelry Sales in 2022
Increasingly, midstream players are voicing concerns over a drop in sales. Considering that this translates to polished diamond prices falling against the high-cost rough diamonds, this is an issue for the diamond market.
At the same time and pardon my forecast just after the above mea culpa, right now, it seems that 2022 is set to see a rise in sales value.
How much? According to our market analysis and data gathered from US retailers, jewelry sales are up 8.3% year to date.
The US government data, which also revised this year’s figures, shows a 7.7% year-over-year increase. From experience, this figure will be restated next year, and most likely downwards.
I’m cautious because according to our data, while the total value of jewelry sales rose in the first nine months of 2022, the number of jewelry items sold declined during the period.
When looking at just diamonds, we see a similar trend: the total value of retail sales is up while the number of units sold is down.
The Bottom Line
Consumer demand for jewelry kept growing even during the harsh days of 2020. And jewelry demand has not stopped growing since. That said, while jewelry demand keeps growing in value, it is declining in quantity of items sold.
The current diamond market is exhibiting a change in consumer demand trends, but this not just against a fantastic 2021. Demand for diamond jewelry was driven by a growing demand for larger diamonds, as well as by delayed weddings and proposals.
We are presently returning to typical wedding and engagement levels. It’s not fun seeing a year-over-year decline in business, but the long-term view tells a different story. While must industries took a beating, the international diamond market had a wild ride.
Currently, US consumer demand is shifting to higher-priced diamonds. Spend per diamond has increased so far this year, while the number of sold diamonds has decreased.
This is possibly affirming something about how Americans view natural diamonds. They are revered by those with deeper pockets, while many of the rest simply turn to lab-grown, which is continuing to rise.
One final comment, this one about MasterCard’s SpendingPulse figures. It again reported double-digit jewelry sales growth. I don’t want to call these imaginary, but someone has their figures very wrong.
It is possible they are catching up to their mistakes. After reporting high jewelry sales figures since the beginning of the year, it now says that holiday sales are expected to rise just 2.2% this year.
That does not bode with the 17-19% increase reported to date, but just as those figures were erroneous, so are the low holiday figures. They are expected to be higher.
On the sunny side of the street, they are readjusting their monthly sales, slicing the September figures to 7%.
If you are interested in US jewelry sales and diamond statistics, including expanded data not included in the article, then by all means, please get in touch.
For more details on the specific data behind these trends, please contact us.
About the Author:
Photo: Adam Nir