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Summer 2008

In a shaky economy, jewelry designers sometimes reign in the creativity and retreat to basic, tried-and-true designs.

This year, however, they are taking a new approach and, instead, letting their creative talent flow into new designs that offer lower price points. Among the favorites: silver, lighter gold creations and lower-quality gemstones and colored stones.

In diamond jewelry, the trend is the same. Stones that may have been discarded a few years ago are finding their way into interesting designs. Among the favorite looks are a trend launched by the Diamond Registry in the 1970s: rough diamonds. (We still sell rough stones to designers, and we also give rough stones as a bonus to customers who buy polished diamonds.)

This year, that concept only grows. Yellow and brownish stones, largely uncut and featuring inclusions and other flaws are suddenly chic. Frequently, these stones are off-set by a sprinkling of polished diamonds for sparkle.

The romantic concept being “the piece is one of a kind because these no two stones are alike to the eye.” The realistic concept being “the piece offers a much lower price to consumers who have tightened the purse strings.” Other designers are using unusual cuts—like diamond slices—that, again, allow for the use of lower-quality gems.

Another way manufacturers are cutting corners yet still offering “diamond” jewelry lies in more traditional designs within the fashion category.

Pieces—such as openwork cuffs that hold small diamonds in pave or burnished settings—often now feature lower-quality stones. In this category, unlike bridal—where customers want the diamonds but are more often shopping for the look, rather than the gem quality—manufacturers are substituting in gems that feature good color and cut, but lower-end clarity. Because the diamonds are small accent stones, the impact on overall look, manufacturers claim, is minimal except to the trained eye.

Not that demand for high-quality diamonds in general is waning. In the bridal category, the average size of diamonds continues to rise, with retailers informally reporting that it is becoming “rare” to sell an engagement ring bearing a stone smaller than one carat. At the Diamond Registry, we have found that people have been using bigger stones, but lesser qualities.

Among cuts, the square cuts continue to be popular—with princess and cushion shapes maintaining their popularity. Pears, meanwhile, are a favorite for earrings.

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