PITTSBURGH — After a long run-up in the stock market, Joe Biondo felt the time was right in the fall of 2021 to cash out and use some of the money he made to buy his girlfriend of four years an engagement ring.
The 28-year-old Lawrenceville man had a budget of $20,000 to spend, which meant he didn't need the credit card financing his jeweler offered and he didn't need to buy the less expensive laboratory-grown diamonds that have become more popular.
"I love it. I never take it off," said Jillian Marzo, 27, referring to her engagement ring, which features a 2-carat natural diamond center stone. The elementary school counselor said she helped Biondo pick it out.
The diamond jewelry industry has rebounded in a big way since the early days of the pandemic, when business practically dried up overnight.
Consumer demand for diamond jewelry is sky-high, which is why prices for natural mined diamonds rose 11 times in 2021, according to Instore, a New Orleans-based trade publication for the jewelry industry.
Even as diamond producers have imposed one hike after another on the price of mined stones, jewelry sellers have been ringing their cash registers nonstop for more than a year as couples in love are willing to pay higher prices.
With the average engagement ring costing between $4,000 and $8,000, it is one of the biggest investments couples make when starting their lives together. As the nation recovers from the pandemic, Pittsburgh area jewelers say consumer purchases for diamond jewelry has never been more robust.
"When the pandemic first started everything came to a grinding halt, of course. There was so much uncertainty," said James Douglas, owner of James Douglas Jewelers in Monroeville.
"But once things reopened in 2020 up until now, its been the best of times for the engagement ring and wedding ring market in my career. And this month we're celebrating our 25th year anniversary."
While diamonds continue to be the most popular type of center stone in engagement rings, a growing number of consumers [particularly younger people] are opting for a different type of diamond — lab-grown.