Local Jewelers See Rise in Engagement Numbers

more Chippewa Valley couples are getting ready to say ‘I do’ amid pandemic

Rebecca Mennecke

I DO? More Chippewa Valley couples are saying
 More Chippewa Valley couples are saying "yes" to saying "I do" – a trend in engagement numbers that jewelers are seeing nationwide. (Photo courtesy of Casual Ore Formal) 

In the past six months, my Facebook and Instagram feed has been clogged full of delightfully thrilled couples flashing sparkly stones with some (not very) witty caption: “The easiest ‘Yes’ I’ve ever said,” or “I can’t dance to Beyonce’s ‘Single Ladies’ anymore!” – or worse, “We did a thing.” (What thing? Got new shoes? A haircut?)  

What started as a few friends taking the leap into marriage-dom quickly became a bandwagon that it seemed like everyone was hopping on. In fact, couples across the Chippewa Valley (and beyond) are seemingly quick to pop the question amid the pandemic. It’s a trend local jewelers can attest to.  

“People go back to their heart and their roots, and are like, OK, I want to tell that person I love them,” metalsmith Liz Stingl explained. “We can’t go on a vacation to spend time together. I can’t take them out to a fancy dinner right now. Let’s give them something that holds its value that sends that message.” And that item is, you guessed it: an engagement ring.  

Amid the pandemic, the Midwest has led the U.S. as second in overall jewelry sales, with bridal jewelry taking the lead, according to In Store magazine. This surge could be explained by engagement season – marked from Thanksgiving through Valentine’s Day – in which many couples, surrounded by close family, find it the perfect time to share news of engagement, according to local officiant Rev. Ronnie Roll. Quarantining may have contributed to the rise as well, as many couples realize their pandemic buddy is really their life partner.  

Although tracking precise trends in engagements can be tricky, The Washington Post reports that there’s increasing evidence that engagement ring sales almost doubled as compared to the same period in 2019. From March through April, jewelry stores were hit hard by the pandemic. Recovery began in August, with Christmas jacking up sales.  

Amid the pandemic, the Midwest has led the U.S. as second in overall jewelry sales, with bridal jewelry taking the lead, according to In Store magazine. This surge could be explained by engagement season – marked from Thanksgiving through Valentine’s Day – in which many couples, surrounded by close family, find it the perfect time to share news of engagement.

The pandemic hasn’t only boosted engagement sales; it’s changed how couples choose their bling. According to Eric Pulver of Eric’s Diamonds in Chippewa Falls, many couples look at rings extensively online before finalizing decisions in-person. And, according to multiple jewelry store owners and metalsmiths, couples are looking at more custom rings in general – not just the ones you find in-store.  

Stingl identified two basic trends: couples are either opting for immensely traditional solitaire-style engagement rings, or they are seeking out unique rings.  

According to Pulver, couples are opting for thinner bands, generally with either a diamond or lab-grown diamond in the halo-style setting (smaller diamonds surrounding a single larger one), or divergent-colored stones. Couples may often opt for morganite and moissanite as an alternative, slightly off-white, option.  

Couples are also more cognizant of how practical their rings are. Stingl says many couples find their stone setting can get caught in things easily. Robert Giede of Robert Giede Design in Menomonie says the halo setting’s small prongs can allow diamonds to loosen and fall out. “As goldsmiths, we see it as how much force does it take to knock one of the stones out,” he said. And, as a metalsmith, it’s his job to make sure the setting is more secure.  

Stingl takes an alternative route, creating alternative rings for more practical use. She creates rings without the stones poking out, which can make them a more practical fit. Or, she says many people are opting for durable, flexible options such as a simple silicone band. “They all have their place,” Stingl says. The biggest thing is: It’s totally OK to have multiple wedding bands. You can swap them out as needed.   

Band type (or color!) has also changed in popularity. “Before the price of gold went up really high, it was yellow-gold,” Pulver said, “and then so many of the styles of jewelry switched over to sterling silver just to make them more affordable, so (women) had a collection of silver started. And then I think when they went to pick out an engagement ring, they wanted things to match. So then the white-gold became popular.”  

A runner-up in popularity is the unique rose-gold metal, which Giede affirms was popular in the ’40s and ’50s and is now making a comeback.  

If there’s one thing this industry is good about staying on top of, it’s trends. “This industry is all about trends,” Pulver said, “and things change.”