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What do Chinese millennials want? De Beers hopes to boost market for N.W.T. diamonds

With slower economic growth in China and millennials marrying later in life, the diamond industry is looking closer at what millennials want, how they purchase, and why.

Young Chinese buy diamond jewelry more often for personal achievement, celebration than for love: report

Tom Ormsby, head of external and corporate affairs for De Beers Canada, talks trends in the diamond industry, at the 44th Annual Geoscience Forum in Yellowknife. (CBC)

With slower economic growth in China and millennials marrying later in life, the diamond industry is looking closer at what millennials want, how they purchase, and why.

According to the 2016 Diamond Insight Report from De Beers, total global diamond jewelry sales fell from $81 billion US in 2014, to $79 billion US in 2015.

The report defines millennials as people born between 1981 and 2000. Chinese millennials represented 68 per cent of that country's total diamond jewelry purchases. There are 421 million millennials living in China. 

The De Beers Diamond Insight Report, 2016, defines millennials as the generation born between 1981 and 2000. (De Beers)

Tom Ormsby, head of external and corporate affairs for De Beers Canada, highlighted findings of the report in Yellowknife on Tuesday, at the 44th Annual Geoscience Forum.

De Beers operates the Gahcho Kue diamond mine 280 kilometres northeast of Yellowknife.

"In the last number of years when the Chinese economy was moving like a machine, everyone was feeding it whatever it could take, but then of course it contracted. It slowed down… Everyone's pipeline backed up," Ormsby said.

"Understanding how people in China and India will be purchasing diamonds really is important."

'There is a new middle class consumer coming through in China,' says Tom Ormsby, De Beers Canada. (CBC)

According to the report, millennials in China and India have come of age in a more dynamic economic environment than previous generations, and generally aspire to achieve greater wealth, but also value self-expression and individualism, similar to the same generation in the United States.

"What we are learning with millennials is they really value the experience of their purchase," Ormsby said.

"They want to understand where it comes from. Is it making a contribution in the economy where it was produced? They are also more knowledge savvy."

The report found that 92 per cent of female millennials in the United States go online to research a diamond purchase. In China, that figure is just 25 per cent.

"We are learning people are going online, even in the emerging markets like China for example, and doing the research, but we are learning they still want to come into the store. They still want to see it, hold it, understand it," Ormsby said.

The report also highlighted that diamond jewelry purchases by millennials in China for personal achievement and celebration (49 per cent) outnumbered items purchased for love (43 per cent).

According to the De Beers report, 90 per cent of Chinese millennials believe the best measure of achievement is having an enjoyable job.

The report suggests the diamond industry could better reach this generation by tying in symbols of self-expression and individualization into designs.

"There is a new middle class consumer coming through in China," Ormsby said.

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