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The resale market for diamond engagement rings is booming, as the pandemic causes divorce rates to spike and has become a ‘make-or-break’ moment for couples

  • Both supply and demand for diamond engagement rings has been on the rise during the pandemic, according to resale companies like luxury consignment site The RealReal.
  • Experts say this is because the close-quarters of quarantining has prompted some married couples to call it quits, while pushing others to deepen their commitment.
  • According to an analysis conducted by Legal Templates — a company that allows users to create and track legal documents — the number of couples seeking divorce between March to June increased by 34% from the same period in 2019.
  • “Quarantine has meant make-or-break for many relationships,” said Trish Stevens, The RealReal’s director of fine watches and jewelry. “While we’re seeing an influx of people purchasing engagement rings, we’re also seeing more people consign them.”
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

As many aspects of the retail industry struggle to stay afloat amid the coronavirus, one sector is suddenly booming despite the economic recession: the diamond engagement ring resale market.

Supply and demand for engagement rings has been on the rise at luxury resale sites like The RealReal and online auction marketplaces like Worthy — a consumer-to-business service that connects high-end sellers to wholesale buyers.

According to data provided to Business Insider by The RealReal, engagement ring consignments rose by 47% in May and June compared to the prior two months, as the pandemic put couples to the test — prompting some to call it quits while others tied the knot.

“Quarantine has meant make-or-break for many relationships,” Trish Stevens, category director of fine watches and jewelry at The RealReal, wrote in a statement to Business Insider. “While we’re seeing an influx of people purchasing engagement rings, we’re also seeing more people consign them.”

According to an analysis conducted by Legal Templates — a company that allows users to create and track legal documents — the number of couples seeking divorce between March and June increased by 34% from the same period in 2019.

Steven Schneider, COO and chief revenue officer at Worthy, said that like The RealReal, his company has seen a rise in both supply and demand for diamond engagement rings in recent months as the pandemic drags on.

“What we’re seeing is items that came from broken relationships, whether that’s divorce or failed engagement, and those tend to be typically whatever was in style two or three years ago,” Schneider said, noting that the company has received an influx of princess cut diamonds and custom designs.

According to Schneider, luxury jewelry resale sites have also proved helpful in recent months to fill the dearth of new gemstones reaching the market — as a result of the coronavirus halting work at major mining sites around the world.

“A lot of the demand that might otherwise be filled with new diamonds out of the earth is being filled now with items from the secondary market, which we’re a primary source for,” he said. “The flow of new goods into the diamond market has definitely gone down, which makes secondhand that more important for our buyers.”

Engagement rings are not the only type of jewelry thriving in the luxury resale market. Luxury watches and statement pieces are also booming, as financially strapped Americans look to sell jewelry for a quick buck. Others, with disposable income to burn, are at the same time seeking out discounted high-value items like never before.

“We’re seeing this bifurcation where we’ve got people that are in deep financial duress that have a need to sell now and they’re liquidating some of their more valuable assets,” Schneider said. “Meanwhile, even for the folks that have jewelry and may not have a need to sell, they’re looking to switch out their collections.”

luxury jewelry covid

Miguel Medina/AFP via Getty Images

Beyond engagement rings, The RealReal found in its recent 2020 luxury resale report that sales of luxury watches like Rolex increased by 32% in 2020, nine times more than other watch brands. Further, it reported that the average resale value for high-end watches is currently 1.6 times stronger than its lower value watches in stock.

According to Sasha Skoda, head of women’s at The RealReal, as Americans stay home and buck traditional seasonal styles, they are turning away from high-end trendy pieces and are instead gravitating toward “high-value, timeless” items.

“Faced with economic uncertainty, shoppers are gravitating toward the safest bets in luxury: investment pieces,” Skoda wrote in the luxury resale report. “They’re spending on high-value, timeless styles with enduring resale value – knowing they can consign them in the future to recoup most of that investment or wear classic pieces for decades to come.”

Schneider said Worthy has also seen an uptick in inventory of high-end watches and timepieces, mirroring a larger trend across the industry. According to Bloomberg, the fastest growing category within Sotheby’s livestream auctions in June and July was wristwatches, with a 42% increase in new clients for the category.

“We have reached a lot of new clients with our smaller online sales and made our sales more accessible,” Sotheby’s Geneva Head of Sales Mikael Wallhagen told Bloomberg. “And to be honest, bidding in auctions can be an addiction.”

Schneider echoed Wallhagen’s sentiments, adding that though Worthy sells jewelry to wholesale businesses rather than directly to consumers, the strength of bids “are at the highest levels they’ve ever been.”

“The options are just becoming incredibly more competitive as the retail market is really starting to recover,” he said.

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