Little wonder that Bulgari, which has more than a dozen stores in the United States, has opened in Chevy Chase.
One reason for the trend: younger buyers with money. “There is no correlation between age and wealth anymore,” says Matt Rosenheim of DC’s Tiny Jewel Box.
Younger buyers aren’t interested in Mother’s tasteful lapel pin or Father’s subtle gold cuff links. The sameness of popular clothing styles—jeans, blazers, sweaters—has buyers looking for more unusual pieces that stand out, Rosenheim says. He’s selling chunkier rings and bracelets as well as larger gold hoop earrings that are often accented with diamonds. Pearls in unusual colors are also popular.
“Edgier designs sell well here,” says Adam Gorman, whose downtown-DC store, I. Gorman Jewelers, specializes in contemporary styles.
“Organic” jewelry featuring a mix of polished and rough surfaces and multiple metals is showing up in wide cuff bracelets and chunky necklaces and rings. Large rough-cut diamonds are being used in all kinds of settings, such as an I. Gorman collection made with uncut diamonds set in oxidized silver and 18-karat gold.
Tiffany’s Fairfax and Chevy Chase stores sell a good number of sculptural pieces designed by architect Frank Gehry in yellow gold, black gold, and silver—many set with unusual stones.
“We thought this would be exclusively a new audience,” says Tiffany’s Diane Brown, “but a lot of our existing customers are looking for something new.”
Jewelry is also coming out of the closet. The new mantra among women of all ages in Washington social circles is “If you’ve got it, wear it.”
“Women are wearing jewelry more,” says Brown. “I’ve been in this market for ten years, and I’m seeing women wearing larger, bolder watches and more diamond jewelry. They are layering necklaces, adding charms to their handbags and cell phones, and wearing a lot of gold.”
As for other trends, Brown is seeing more interest in colored diamonds. “Yellow is the most popular,” she says, “but there’s also interest in pink, blue, and green stones.” Chocolate-brown diamonds are the newest entry into the jewelry market.
Despite the diamond industry’s ad campaigns, women still don’t buy expensive diamonds for themselves, says Matt Sember at Liljenquist & Beckstead in Tysons Galleria. When they want to treat themselves, Washington women go for the gold.