The average cost of an engagement ring in 2011 was $5,200, according to XO Group Inc., which released the results of its Engagement & Jewelry Study on Aug. 30, 2011.
A survey of more than 10,000 U.S. brides and 1,000 U.S. grooms engaged or married in the past year was conducted by the group to learn interesting statistics about the trending buying patterns of people shopping for jewelry.
For example, did you know that the round brilliant-cut was the diamond of choice for 53 percent of the surveyed, with the princess-cut coming in second at 30 percent, or that white gold was the metal of choice for 73 percent of them?
Even if you're not a jewelry retailer, this is very valuable information to have, especially if you are planning on surprising that special someone with an engagement ring anytime soon.
But here is some data you might want to pay closer attention to: An increasing number of brides (65 percent) are at least somewhat involved in the ring selection, with nearly a third (31 percent) "very involved," meaning they shopped for and/or purchased the ring with their groom. So are brides helping pick their own rings? Definitely yes!
Another interesting fact is that approximately two out of five couples (41 percent) are customizing their engagement rings, whether by completely designing the ring on their own with a jeweler or by adding custom elements to an existing design.
This number increases to 59 percent of couples who customize their engagement rings when the cost of the ring is more than $8,000.
Why is custom jewelry becoming increasingly popular? Over the past few years, several factors have made this once unfamiliar, distrusted jewelry option become a popular choice among buyers.
It started out with popular designers such as Tiffany and Tacori, which dominated the engagement ring market and created designs that won the hearts of women worldwide. But as these brands saturated the market, women started noticing that the engagement rings worn during this era all looked similar.
In an ever-present need for "uniqueness," some women began requesting their rings be custom made. After all, a woman's worst nightmare is to proudly show off her new, expensive engagement ring, only to realize that her best friend is wearing the same one.
The economic recession helped generate more interest in custom jewelry design over recent years. As the price of gold skyrocketed, gold jewelry prices in retail stores become too expensive to purchase.
Then it was discovered that people could take jewelry they already owned to a jewelry designer who could use the elements to remake a brand-new piece of jewelry for just the price of labor.
With the help of technology, you can expect the number of couples deciding to customize their engagement rings to rise drastically this next year. Advances in computer-aided design (CAD) and digital sculpting tools now enable jewelers to custom design jewelry according to your precise specifications.
If you decide you want to make changes to the design, higher-end CAD software allows you to step through the history of the file, make the desired changes and then automatically regenerate the design with the updated changes.
New rendering software can then generate a realistic, three-dimensional image of the computerized design, so you can actually see how your custom piece will look before the model is ever made.
Designing your jewelry using CAD not only assures greater precision in your design, but the end product is of greater quality. It is also a faster, more convenient and often less expensive way to create the jewelry piece of your dreams.
Just as the customs have started to change in that women are now more involved in the decision-making process of their engagement rings, so will the shopping experience for engagement rings soon drastically change.
As younger jewelers emerge and embrace technology, more custom jewelry studios will emerge, and more jewelry retail stores will close.
But with it comes a superior product, greater customer service and a one-of-a-kind engagement ring that you can claim as your own. You can hardly argue with that!
Adam Hinojosa is the executive VP/GM of Fine Jewelry Office Studio, located at One Shoreline Plaza, 800 N. Shoreline Blvd., Ste. 340 (South Tower), Corpus Christi, Texas 78401. For more information, call 361-500-4433 (store) or 361-726-2800 (cell). You may also visit www.fjostudio.com or www.facebook.com/fjostudio.