Shopping impulses can strike hard, especially when you’re craving a mood-boosting pick-me-up or planning a particular outfit. You might quickly drop some cash on a new dress, trendy workout set, or comfy loungewear, but probably think a bit harder about a diamond ring. Still, restraint is more challenging when you’re constantly influenced by friends, celebrities, and those annoyingly apt ads when scrolling through social media, even when it comes to jewelry. But lately, shopping for antique and recycled engagement rings on Instagram is the latest purchasing trend on the rise, both in stories and the grid posts populating your feed. Meaning? Daily indulgences just got a lot tougher to resist if you’re partial to rare adornment. Though in terms of convenience, it’s pretty sweet and a more sustainable way to consume.
In tandem with the rise of ethical consumption is a current flood of nostalgia, sparking vintage jewelry trends from centuries-old designs to ’80s styles. Jennie Yoon, CEO and founder of the Los Angeles-based jewelry label, Kinn, says the specific rise in vintage diamonds falls in line with the surging resale economy that only intensified over the last year, from selling used cars to listing old clothes on Poshmark. “People were home and selling things [they] no longer needed in their daily lives,” Yoon tells TZR. “In our case, we received a huge increase in people bringing in their old jewelry to repurpose.” From inquiries surrounding family heirlooms to resetting precious gemstones, Yoon’s customers wanted to modernize pieces and create something that they’d wear while maintaining a piece’s integrity and significance.
Similarly, Kristina Buckley Kayel, managing director of the Natural Diamond Council, says a sentimentality sparked by the pandemic coupled with increasing consumer interest in sustainability led to a diamond market surge. “Diamond jewelry sales as a whole have seen record-breaking industry growth throughout 2020 and 2021,” she explains of the 30-percent-plus increase in 2021 over 2019. “We’re also seeing consumers becoming more experimental with their style — there’s an excitement around getting dressed up again and making new memories right now.” Adding, “Diamonds have become a must-have of the fashion zeitgeist emerging from the pandemic. Sharing individual style on social media again has an energy around it now, even if you’re staying in.”
New York-based designer and owner of her namesake jewelry label, Ashley Zhang, says the vintage diamond rise is also likely due to the influx of lab-grown diamonds on the market. “I think many consumers are not certain about investing in lab-grown diamonds, even though they have risen in [popularity],” she tells TZR. “For customers looking for the most ethical and environmentally conscious choice, a recycled or antique diamond is by far the best option.” It’s also about wanting to support the brands that consumers connect with, Yoon says. “More shoppers are becoming educated on the impact of fashion, beauty, jewelry, and everything that they use daily. Consumers are speaking with their dollars and supporting brands that they can feel good about.”
For more on the latest diamond shopping trend, keep reading to discover the differences between antique and recycled diamonds to the most popular pieces sold on the ‘gram and tips for buying fine jewelry (including an engagement ring) on social media.
The Difference Between Antique, Vintage, & Recycled Stones
Knowing the difference between antique, vintage, and recycled stones is an essential first step when shopping for old diamonds on Instagram. “Antique diamonds are 100-plus years old, vintage diamonds are less than 100 but more than 40 years old, and recycled are any diamonds mined and set in the last 40 years, also called secondhand,” Zhang explains.
Since vintage pieces can be defined as anything old and previously loved, Yoon notes how subjective the term can be. [The word ‘vintage’ is] often interchangeable with antique,” she tells TZR.
The Vintage Diamond Sales Surge
Like rare vintage clothing or furniture, Buckley Kayel attributes the upswing in the popularity of vintage and antique diamonds to older cutting techniques that produced what is now considered unique-looking diamonds. “Consumers are attracted to the charm of antique cuts like old mine cuts, old European cuts, and rose cuts,” she tells TZR. “Rose cuts were invented before electricity and were specifically created to sparkle by candlelight, for example.”
The rise of alternative engagement rings over the last decade is another factor. “Consumers who are considering an engagement ring are naturally drawn to vintage and antique stones to set their engagement ring style apart and to own a stone that is particularly unique,” Buckley Kayel says. “Other types of gemstones do not have the same durability that natural diamonds do, and therefore they are less often reused.”
Zhang says her most popular eras for vintage diamond pieces are Georgian, Victorian, Edwardian, and Art Deco, while Yoon notices a developing interest in marquise-shaped diamonds. “The solitaire style also seems to be the most popular as it’s simple and classic, which offers the versatility to layer with other pieces to create a different look,” she says.
“Diamond earrings and diamond tennis bracelets also sell well,” Buckley Kayel says, as well as chains with diamond pendants and rare diamond tennis necklaces. “Diamonds, given their value and versatility, seem to subsequently lead the pack in the current vintage market, especially when set in yellow gold or mixed metals. If it’s not antique, it’s that ’90s or early 2000’s vintage ‘eleganza’ style that younger millennials and Gen-Z are bringing back.”
The Rise Of Shopping Vintage Diamonds On Instagram
For Zhang and Yoon, selling on Instagram was a natural business progression after posting images and videos to their stories and feed. “When I was taking photos of Kinn pieces on my hand, I was also layering them with my personal vintage pieces,” Yoon tells TZR. “Customers kept asking if I was selling them,” which the designer began to do. Then, naturally, friends started asking for help in selling some of their time-honored designs. “Over time, we built a platform where people can send in their vintage pieces on a consignment basis for us to sell,” Yoon explains of her Instagram business. “At the same time, we didn’t want to be a platform where we accept everything — we always kept the Kinn customer top of mind and wanted to ensure we were selecting pieces that make sense with our core collection, including the fact that they had to be precious metal and gemstones.”
Zhang’s journey as a vintage seller began at the start of her jewelry career when collecting art deco rings for her personal collection. “I loved these diamonds so much I turned to them for my own engagement ring search,” she shares. Then, after founding her design business in 2018, right after her wedding, she noticed a space in the market for a brand that was mixing antique elements with modern design. “I think with the rise of jewelry popularity on Instagram, everyone is tired of seeing the same ring designs everywhere,” the designer explains. “Antique diamonds are each unique, so they have become more desirable.”
Selling on Instagram later happened casually. “When I found a diamond that was beautiful, but I didn’t have any customers at that moment in search for that exact stone or style, I would post them on Instagram,” Zhang shares. “During the stay-at-home orders posting diamonds and jewelry to stories became a huge platform for our business. Now, I try to share as many pretty stones as I can. We post videos and images in natural light, and customers are welcome to DM us for the certificate or any other details on the stone. At this point, we have sold many $30,000+ diamonds just through Instagram alone.”
As an observer of vintage diamond sales on Instagram, Buckley Kayel says individual sellers are tapping into the classic pillars of social media by creating a safe space for a transaction to occur for a community of loyal followers who trust them enough to purchase. As customers engage with brands, sellers, and influencers on their platforms, their confidence seems to deepen. “When someone they trust and admire is posting a beautiful piece of diamond jewelry, showcasing how they wear it, and tagging the brand, that strongly inspires and influences a purchase even though they have not physically tried it on yet,” Buckley Kayel says.
Technological advances are also proving helpful to increase Instagram sales and strengthen trust. “Social media is the perfect vehicle to show off the design and sparkle of diamond jewelry,” Buckley Kayel says. “Diamonds are notoriously difficult to photograph. However, social media video is raw and real, giving consumers a clear idea of how the piece will look on them before purchasing.”
The Instagram Customer
While social media is native to a younger clientele, Yoon has primarily worked with clients 30-plus, while Zhang says her Instagram customer base spans all generations. “We even get many men purchasing either for themselves or their significant others,” she says, which is not only a nod to their comfort in buying an engagement ring online, but also in line with the acceleration of men’s and unisex jewelry.
“We’ve noticed a surge of Millennials and Gen-Z purchasing diamonds in this way because their introduction and experience with brands often starts on Instagram or the like, and they have a strong comfort level conversing and transacting on social media,” says Buckley Kayel. “The price points vary, but what is accessible about the vintage market is that melee stones, which are less than .5 carats, are a much more affordable entry price point for a younger consumer to own their first diamond and build a collection from there.”
The Instagram Shopping Process
There are different approaches to selling vintage diamonds on Instagram, but the “drop model” is particularly buzzy. “Vintage diamond jewelry sellers like noahnoahnoah, Big Oh Bijoux, chronos curios, estatejewelrymama, and Zachary’s Jewelry communicate that they will post new finds on a certain date or later that evening or that they’ll have a live sale later in the week and start a countdown,” Buckley Kayel explains. Continuing, “There’s a lot of room for creativity in methods on Instagram where sellers can engage their audience in a personal way. We’ve noticed the jewelry sells extremely fast on Instagram, especially the diamonds.”
Zhang offers first-look Instagram pricing before her antique stones and vintage pieces hit her website, if at all. “Some items sell within minutes, and some take a few days or months. Whatever doesn’t sell through Instagram gets added online,” she explains. Adding, “I always feel bad when customers feel bummed that they missed out because they were not fast enough to respond. So I am very conscious of posting a mix of items at every price point. I always say there will always be more beautiful jewelry another day for you.”
Yoon has sold via the drop approach six times by posting available pieces to let customers know that they’re available, then linking to her website where the details of each piece are listed. Thus far, each drop has sold out in less than three to four days. “We try to do [drops] once a quarter or depending on the number of pieces we receive,” she tells TZR. “Sometimes, I’m shocked how quickly some of these pieces have sold through.”
Tips For Buying Vintage Diamonds On Instagram
Though shopping via Instagram is becoming the norm, fine jewelry is customarily more stressful whether you’re buying a piece in-person, on a website, or through social media. To ensure you’re making a sound investment on IG, Buckley Kayel suggests becoming conversational with a seller or brand as you would in a store as a first step. “Ask questions about the return policy and authentication to feel secure in your purchase,” she advises. You can also request authentication, which some sellers will offer for an extra fee. “It’s in their best interest to do so,” Buckley Kayel explains. “Reputation is everything so, should an inauthentic piece ever be sold, that would squander the seller’s business within seconds given the power of social media.”
If you can, Yoon recommends seeing a piece IRL, noting, “A lot of times, the diamonds do look different in person.” She also urges finding out what the post-purchase program looks like, including insurance coverage and the return policy, as does Zhang.
“We’re transparent about the details about the piece, and that the pieces get verified by a lapidary within Kinn to test that the solid 14k is solid 14k, etc.,” Yoon adds. “We also get down to the smallest details to the count of the stones, size, and weight,” she adds. “So far, we’ve had zero returns on our vintage pieces.”