Princess Miriam de Ungria: The luxury industry is changing like never before

The world-famous jeweler, gemologist, and wife of the late Prince Kardam - Princess Miriam de Ungria, shares her expert opinion on changes in the luxury industry and the consumer behaviour in an interview for Manager magazine, with the assistance of Maxim Behar, PR expert and longtime friend of the Bulgarian royal family.

The luxury industry is changing like never before.

-You have 25 years of experience in the luxury business. What are your impressions, how has this business changed, especially in recent months?

Businesses and markets in general have suffered quite badly since the coronavirus crisis, the world has changed beyond recognition. However, the luxury industry began to change three years ago. This process went in two directions.

First, the digitalization of the market began - from production to sales. And not only did it start, but it happened very quickly. What was expected to happen for three years happened just for three months. And this process has accelerated after coronavirus drove shop closures and online sales became completely dominant.

The second change is conceptual. Shops, as we knew them until a few years ago, especially those for very expensive jewelry, are now being transformed into completely different lifestyle places that offer much more - from bars to places for musical performances, gourmet restaurants and more. This is really a big change - jewelry is already becoming part of a pleasant evening or weekend. The purchase itself can happen in any way, including online. But the idea is to happen with pleasure and a memorable experience.

There is another clear trend of change - luxury brands from Asia are entering the market quite significantly and will do so at an even faster pace after the international partnership agreement signed a year ago and involving 15 Asian countries. This is great news for us Europeans, because we know that 70 percent of the world's luxury brands are European, but 70 percent of their customers are not Europeans, but mainly from Asia.

- Are there any generational differences in the attitude towards luxury brands and jewelry in particular?

The new generations are very sensitive to any change in the luxury business in the last decade. Millennials and Generation Z are big consumers and they have changed the luxury markets a lot. These generations were practically born and brought up in the years when the struggle for pure nature and ecology took a dominant role in social movements. Moreover, they already carry in their genes the symbols of this culture and struggle, and hold in their hands two very important tools - social media and the Internet, which they use literally every minute in order to impose their messages.

-How does the luxury business respond to these new needs and demands of the younger generation? Can we talk about forming a new ethic of luxury?

Absolutely! The new generations are very dedicated to the cause of making the planet a better place to live, and they are constantly looking for alternatives to preserve our lifestyle and improve it. Luxury markets understand this very well and are working hard to adapt to these requirements. As I have already said, these markets are already coming out of their elitism and shops will become more and more multifunctional cultural centers - places with new values, where people who profess these values and their positive view of a better world will meet. Jewelry will unite these people, but they will also be carriers of something new and pure. This process is not over at all, it is evolving, and one of the hallmarks of the great changes that accompany it is that luxury goods are now dominated by elements of corporate and social responsibility and care for the environment. We select such components that are certainly known to not harm nature or health. On the contrary, they meet the requirements of consumers to be connected with a clean and ecological way of life.

My estimate is that about 30 percent of luxury stores will close in the next year, but the new ones will be even bigger, more spacious and in themselves will carry strong cultural and emotional messages of a better, more open and less elitist world.

- How does the change in values in today’s society affect the value of jewelry? Does what we used to value in carats now pass into other values?

I immediately want to separate the two main concepts - cut and quality. They are equally important, but the most important thing is to be able to "live" together, and this actually creates the value of the final product. If it is an investment, then it is easier - the bigger the gemstone, the better. But if we are talking about jewelry of sentimental value or those that will be worn casually or only on special occasions, then the quality and design are decisive, not necessarily the size. Nevertheless, jewelry, gemstones and metals fall into many personal categories. One can count in carats, another in sentiments or colors. For some the brand is more essential. It is important to feel the jewelry as a part of you, as a mandatory addition to your character, mood and self-confidence.

- In times of crisis, gold is becoming the safest haven for investment. As a highly valued jewelry appraiser, what advice would you give to anyone looking for additional investment security?

Gold has always been the best opportunity for secure investment during crises, as well as, of course, the highest quality gemstones. Certainly the investment in precious stones always pays off no matter when we bought them, if they are real and really valuable. That is why my advice to all who want to invest their money in a safe place is to find the best consultant who will guide them professionally to the specific choice for this type of investment.

-What jewelry would you buy today? Will quality or brand determine your choice?

Not only these days, but always I will prefer the quality in which a long-term idea is embedded. Remember - high quality jewelry never gets old and never depreciates.

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