Commitment-shy millennials are buying themselves fine jewellery in lieu of engagement rings

Jewellers are seeing an increasing number of single people purchasing expensive rings and 'proposing to themselves'

Sex And The City's Samantha (Kim Cattrall) bids for her ring at a Christie’s auction

Are you waiting for someone to get down on one knee and pop the question with a giant rock? Really, there’s no need for all that.

Commitment shy and not enamoured with the idea of marriage, young people are investing in fine jewellery and “proposing to themselves” instead.

No longer the domain of the hapless groom to be, jewellers say they are seeing an increasing number of single people purchasing expensive rings to celebrate themselves. Genevive Schwartz, an independent bespoke designer who previously worked at Astley Clarke , said her clients were increasingly dominated by women making one-off purchases for their 30th birthdays.

Women buying for themselves. That’s the biggest market for high price point jewellery outside of engagement rings,” she said. “I’ve had quite a few 30th birthday commissions. Sometimes people collect a pool of money from parents or friends for a big birthday and put it towards a ring.”

Larger retailers have also spotted the shift. John Lewis said its self-purchase ring sales have increased by 40 per cent, compared to last year, and 300 per cent since 2019. It is expanding its range of high-end jewellery to cater to growing demand.

It comes at a time when young people are waiting for longer before getting married. Official figures show that marriage rates for opposite-sex couples have fallen to their lowest levels on record, with statisticians attributing this to delayed marriages as couples are choosing to co-habit for longer instead.

Celebrities have espoused the benefits of staying single for longer

In a 2019 British Vogue interview, Emma Watson described herself as happily “self-partnered" Credit: JOHANNES EISELE

In recent years a slew of celebrities have espoused the benefits of staying single for longer. 

In a 2019 British Vogue interview, Emma Watson described herself as happily “self-partnered,” adding that she was once “stressed and anxious" about turning 30 because "if you do not have a husband, if you do not have a baby… there's just this incredible amount of anxiety."

The American pop stars Ariana Grande and Lizzo have also celebrated singledom in their music.

Men are also embracing the trend. Tristan Sava, founder of SAVA jewellery in Brighton, said a growing number of men were approaching him for bespoke bands, a trend that accelerated during the pandemic. 

“During lockdown it seemed as though many people were looking after themselves a lot more and spending time and money on self love. Some customers are buying one two or even three rings which can total to quite a sum,” he said.

Self-partnered shoppers want to remind themselves of their worth

Self-partnered shoppers said their decision to buy themselves fine jewellery was driven by the desire to remind themselves everyday that they are “worth it.” 

“I thought, well, no one else is buying me a solid gold and diamond ring, so it was about time I bought myself one,” said one 31-year-old woman from north London after a long stint of being single. 

“My 30th birthday was the perfect excuse. I have a good job, a good salary, but no partner. Some people, including my parents, have been quite judgemental about my present to myself, but I wear it everyday, and think, I’m worth it.”

Katre Baxter, a jewellery designer and founder of The Cut London, which helps people with bespoke ring purchases, said the idea of buying jewellery and diamonds for yourself had become far more acceptable.

“It’s this mindset that you don’t need to wait around and wait to be bought for. It’s often for no reason at all but sometimes people hang it on their 30th or 40th birthday. It’s definitely a break from tradition, the feeling that this kind of high end purchase can only be a gift. 

"Actually you don’t need a reason if you can afford it. It’s definitely something I've considered. These are items that will last forever. They are special and personal.”