Get zapped: The trend sparking interest among customers of all ages.
Permanent jewelry is the hottest trend to hit the retail space since multiple ear piercings. It spans demographics, just like the rage for mix-and-match and mismatched earrings did a few years back. And it’s not just a New York- or Los Angeles-based fad; it’s been spreading across the US as fast as you can say “zapped,” which is how stores refer to the welding process that keeps these pieces in place.
As the name suggests, customers wear their permanent jewelry 24/7 — predominantly bracelets at present, featuring charms or diamond and gemstone accents. The popularity of these pieces often makes for multiple sales, since jewelers say their clients can’t stop at just one. The process involves fusing the ends of the chain together around the wrist, securing the bracelet so it can’t slide off or be removed easily. If the wearer does need to take it off — say, for a medical procedure or a major event — they can do so with just a pair of scissors or a jewelry cutter. The chain can later be welded back together.
It’s a keeper
Plenty of women own jewelry they never want to take off — the sentimental pieces they’ve worn so long that they’ve become like a second skin or a tattoo, or the styles that go with everything else in their jewelry rotation. The permanent-jewelry trend taps into the appeal of these meaningful everyday pieces. It also assuages the fear of losing a beloved jewel, as it won’t come undone or fall off while you’re changing your clothes or going about your day. You can even shower without worrying it will fall down the drain.
Of course, the concept isn’t entirely new. Consumers and retailers alike view permanent jewelry as a modern — albeit more delicate and link-style — version of the classic Cartier Love bracelet, which designer Aldo Cipullo created in 1969. Screw mechanisms secure this iconic piece around the wrist — though unlike the current permanent designs, it comes with a screwdriver to uncuff the wearer. Originally intended to show the enduring commitment and romance a couple shares, the Love bracelet has also become a self-purchase item in the past 10 years and remains one of the most commonly worn bracelets today.
Better with friends
Permanent jewelry is often about bonding with loved ones, and the retail experience of getting zapped together has been driving sales since before the pandemic. Catbird, which has two stores in New York, was one of the first retailers to offer what it trademarked as Forever Bracelets, creating personalized styles from a range of chains and charms. It began by hosting events, then added pop-ups in different cities, and then shifted mainly to an appointment-based system.
The For Keeps line is available at several stores throughout the country and offers a range of ways to customize bracelets with different chains, charms and gemstones. This year will mark the collection’s foray into anklets, rings and necklaces.
“Getting jewels welded on tends to be a group experience,” observes Whitacre. “Mothers and daughters, romantic couples, BFFs, and entire bridal parties are coming into stores to share the experience together. It is a one-time event with a lasting and tangible emotional impact.”
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Main image: Permanent bracelets by Stuller. (Stuller)