Colored gemstones such as these have become more popular as Valentine’s Day gifts.
Colored gemstones such as these have become more popular as Valentine’s Day gifts.

Diamonds may be forever, but they’re not necessarily for Valentine’s Day.

Big-ticket bling isn’t commonplace in February, area jewelers say. Gentlemen typically rush into stores and snap up some gemstones for their sweethearts the week of the big day.

“It’s totally a last-minute holiday,” said Robin Johannes, who owns Johannes Hunter Jewelers at University Village. “It’s kind of Monday through Thursday for us.”

That’s true all over town.

“Typically, the guys come in to shop around the 13th,” said Charles Zerbe, who owns 41-year-old downtown Zerbe’s Jewelers.

Jennifer Farnes, master facetter at the Gilded Artisan at 9205 N. Union Blvd., says men have come in to buy custom-crafted and one-of-a-kind pieces for their Valentines. While the shop is a custom-jewelry design studio, Farnes said the artisans can turn pieces around in about a week and there are display cases filled with ready-to-buy unique designs.

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Valentine’s Day, even for a shop like the Gilded Artisan, is a last-minute holiday.

Men have been poking around a little earlier this year, which Zerbe said he took as a good omen for the season. Nationally, retailers expect jewelry sales to increase 7 percent, according to a National Retail Federation report.

While Valentine’s Day is certainly not bad for jewelry sales, it’s hardly the most important holiday, said Luisa Graff, who owns Luisa Graff Jewelers at 5901 N. Nevada Ave. The love-soaked week accounts for about 7 percent of the store’s annual revenue, she said.

“That’s not small, by any means,” she said. “But a lot of people are surprised to hear Mother’s Day is actually much bigger.”

Mother’s Day is a common jewelry holiday, but men most frequently give jewelry for anniversaries, which are spread throughout the year.

Women don’t tend to buy jewels for their lovers as often.

What sells

Graff says she’s seen the infinity symbol become popular this year. Zerbe says he sells a lot of heart-shaped pendants and gold-plated roses. They’re all slightly lower-ticket items.

Instead of high-priced engagement diamonds, Johannes says the average ticket in her store during Valentine’s Day is about $200 to $500.

Johannes adds that colored gemstones are particularly popular at Valentine’s Day, which makes it a good holiday since that’s her store’s specialty. Colored gems make up about 40 percent of Johannes Hunter’s business.

“That’s pretty unusual,” Johannes said. “It’s very rare for a jewelry store of our caliber.”

While Valentine’s makes people think of pinks and reds, Johannes said, the color doesn’t matter. Partners usually buy whatever color gems they think their valentines will like best.

Red spinel has been incredibly popular lately and has gone up dramatically in price. Red stones, in general, have been in high demand, driving up the price of rubies.

A 1- to 2-carat ruby now ranges from $5,000 to $15,000, Johannes said. Ten years ago, it would have started at about today’s equivalent of $3,500.

Earrings, pendants and bracelets are common Valentine’s gifts. Most steer clear of rings.

“If you’re ready to commit, you’ll buy a ring,” Graff said. “If you’re not ready to commit, you won’t buy a ring because you don’t want there to be any chance it could be misinterpreted.”

Who buys

Most jewelry customers during the Valentine’s season are men, Graff said.

“Why is that?” she asked. “It must be a cultural thing: When we’re little girls we expect chocolates and flowers, but we didn’t reciprocate.”

She does see women shopping for their men around Father’s Day.

Johannes says there are more men, but all kinds of people shopping for their lovers during the time leading up to Valentine’s Day.

“Don’t forget, we get men shopping for men and women shopping for women, too,” Johannes said. “Love is love.”

One demographic that does shift for Valentine’s Day is age. Johannes says her regular customers tend be 35 to 65.

“That shifts much younger,” she said.

During Valentine’s season younger lovers are shopping for jewelry and she sees a lot of 15-year-olds who come in for a first piece.

While most Valentine’s sales are spur-of-the-moment affairs, some are plotted and planned well in advance. Customers who plan to pop the question on Valentine’s Day usually order the ring a couple months ahead of the holiday.

Area jewelers see plenty of men who plan to propose on Valentine’s Day, but it’s not nearly as popular as other holidays.

Johannes says she cautions men against tying an engagement to a holiday. But if they’re going to do it, she says to make it special in its own right and not an extension of the holiday.

“It still happens,” Johannes said. “It’s just not as popular as it was even a generation ago.”