There’s no doubt about it, social media has changed our lives irrevocably. Whether for better or worse is a matter of debate, but it has certainly caused seismic shifts within the fashion industry: from the rise of street-style stars to the introduction of ‘see now wear now’ collections. And the advent of likes, hashtags and shares has also changed the way we buy, sell and wear fine jewellery.
“Social media has been a game-changer for fine jewellery,” says Sophie Quy, Senior Buyer at Net-a-Porter. “Platforms like Instagram give customers access into the world of a brand, while designers can showcase their pieces to a global audience regardless of their size.”
With a wealth of information and designs at their fingertips, customers are more knowledgable and opinionated than ever. “I think social media has helped people understand fine jewellery as a whole,” says Quy. “It’s no longer for ‘special occasions’; it’s something they can buy for themselves and wear every day.”
Net-a-Porter’s Instagram feed works as a social shop front for its digitally-savvy customers. “When we post about fine jewellery we immediately see interest,” Quy continues. “I once posted an arm full of Brooke Gregson bracelets and a customer bought the whole stack, that day.”
Anissa Kermiche on Instagram
Great news for fledgling brands who don’t have huge marketing budgets. A single post from an influencer can have more impact than a year’s worth of advertising. “We can’t underestimate the power of social media; it’s such an empowering tool for small brands,” says Anissa Kermiche, who launched her eponymous label in 2015.
But there’s no simple correlation between followers and sales. “I once worked with a blogger who had millions of followers and the impact was almost unnoticeable,” she says. “But fashion icons with committed followings of 20k will trigger sales.”
Boodles on Instagram
Success in social media marketing is something of a dark art. Nevertheless, global brands have invested hugely in it. Given that the 90% of Instagram users are below 35, and only a tiny proportion of those who see a post will be able to afford to buy, do ‘likes’ always lead to sales?
“Rather than necessarily leading directly to sales, Instagram is an invaluable brand awareness tool,” says James Amos, marketing director at Boodles. Like most established fine jewellers, for Boodles it’s an essential ‘in’ to the much-coveted millennial market. “We hope that many of our young followers may turn into future clients.”
De Grisogono on Instagram
Other brands delve a little deeper. Alongside working with influencers, De Grisogono communicates with its customers via an Artificial Intelligence ‘Chat-Bot’ on Facebook Messenger. “Social media is replacing ‘traditional’ channels for a younger audience who start a conversation on Instagram, follow it on Messenger and Snapchat and end on WhatsApp,” says Gianluca Maina, marketing director.
But what about the human touch? In a world of AI and endless scrolling, aren’t customers missing out on some of the magic of buying fine jewellery? “Instagram has actually increased personal contact,” says jeweller Jessica McCormack. “Clients will message about a piece and I can respond immediately.”
While some clients buy directly from Instagram without ever setting foot in her store, many are inspired to book an appointment. And social media provides a valuable source of feedback for McCormack. “If we see a positive reaction to a piece and it results in a sale, we are naturally encouraged to create more.” Never before has the relationship between high-end jewellers and their clients been so open.
Jessica McCormack on Instagram
But is there a risk of oversharing? Instagram allows anyone with an iPhone an inside look at what was once an ultra-exclusive club, and not everyone is happy about it. At High Jewellery presentations in Paris, houses have strict rules about what can be shared on Instagram: clients who’ve spent six or seven figures on a piece want it to remain their private passion – for security as much as vanity reasons.
‘Jeweller’s jewellers’ such as JAR have no social media presence whatsoever, knowing that their clients prize discretion over digital bragging rights. In an era when handbags, holidays and even husbands are flaunted as Insta-bait, perhaps the ultimate #luxury is owning something that’s not shared at all…