Hong Kong leads global trend of women buying diamonds for themselves, says De Beers

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 19 September, 2017, 12:54pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 19 September, 2017, 12:59pm

More than half of all diamonds sold in Hong Kong last year were bought by women for themselves, the highest proportion among the top four diamond markets, according to a study by De Beers, one of the world’s biggest jewellery companies.

This reflects a changing trend in the business, which has long been dominated by men buying precious stones for women on occasions like weddings or engagements, according to Bruce Cleaver, CEO of De Beers.

“Women are more economically empowered than ever before,” said Cleaver. “They also have a more equal partnership with men in relationships compared to 20 years ago.”

Women accounted for around 25 per cent of all diamond purchases in 2016, almost equal to US$20 billion in the four major markets of the US, China, Japan and India, according to De Beers’ annual insight report on the sector. While it is mostly married women buying diamonds for themselves in the US and Japan, single and mature women are the major force behind the new consumer trend in the greater China region. However, a common feature among the self buying woman from these three markets is that they are mostly aged over 35, said the report.

The percentage of women who buy diamonds for themselves is especially high in Hong Kong – at 55 per cent – as the city has a high non marriage rate.

Hong Kong has around 1.9 million residents who have never been married, accounting for almost one-third of the city’s 7.3 million population in 2017. Among the 1.9 million Hong Kong citizens who have never tied the knot, 921,200 are women, while 963,700 are men.

“Hong Kong women are more economically independent than men,” said Tang Xiaotang, founder of luxury retail consultancy Nofashion.

“The reason for women to shop for diamonds has changed,” he said. “Now it is more like ‘I love myself’ rather than ‘a man loves me’.”

In a city that has cramped flats and hectic working hours, staying single seems a natural choice for many, with a huge increase in the number of divorces and a considerable uptick in the number of Hongkongers who were not married between 1991 and 2013, according to the Census and Statistics Department.

Similarly, mainland China and the US, two major markets for diamonds, have seen a shift in attitude towards marriage over the years, with women getting married later in life.

“As marriage comes later, women are buying or receiving diamonds for other occasions before marriage,” said Cleaver.

When it comes to buying motivations, Chinese women are more easily influenced by their emotions, with celebration of relationships and personal milestones topping the list of reasons behind their self purchases, while Japanese women buy more on impulse, the study found.

Rings are the most popular types of jewellery across all markets while in the US, earrings are a close second.

DeBeers, owned by Anglo American, said growth in 2016 was relatively slow as demand from China and India declined in US dollar terms, but it expects to see “moderately positive growth” this year amid a rebound in consumer confidence.

DeBeers said wealthy consumers in India are leading a shift in traditional values, from a preference for gold to an increasing demand for diamonds, and consumer sentiment has improved in the first half.