Jewelers ring up sales as gay couples tie the knot

Written By By George Slefo Sun-Times Media Posted: 07/23/2014, 06:03am
Array John Rogers, left, and husband Tye Radcliffe pose at the Chicago Cultural Center. The Chicagoans married May 21. | Noelle Adams Photography

When John Rogers was looking for a wedding ring, he was very specific about what he wanted.

“Men are so picky when it comes to rings,” Rogers said. “Mine is almost two carats, round, brilliant-cut diamond with a white-gold gypsy mount.”

Rogers and his husband, Tye Radcliffe, represent a growing trend for jewelers, who are selling more engagement and wedding rings to same-sex couples. Most jewelers attribute their growing customer base to Illinois’ same-sex marriage law, which took effect statewide June 1 and had been in effect in Cook County since Feb. 21.

For Chicagoans Rogers and Radcliffe, choosing their wedding rings was a six-week process that involved emails and several trips to Christopher Duquet’s Fine Jewelry in Evanston before their May 21 ceremony, which was 21 years to the day after they met.

While Rogers went with something “more edgy,” Radcliffe chose a more conservative look.

Their jeweler, Christopher Duquet, said his store has always been open to anyone, but serving same-sex couples has been more “frequent” in the last year.

“Same-sex couples doing rings to celebrate has increased dramatically,” said Duquet, who has owned his business for more than 20 years. “It has been a steady increase over the last year, and it has gone up significantly — maybe doing 10 times the volume — when compared to before.

“Sometimes, there is more collaboration with same-sex couples, and many come in together. . . . I think the legal situation has made [same-sex] couples discuss the idea of rings more openly,” Duquet said.

Amanda Gizzi, a spokeswoman for New York-based Jewelers of America, a national organization with more than 3,200 members, said the trend is nationwide, but the association does not track numbers or details about sales to same-sex couples.

“The biggest part of it is more states are passing same-sex marriage laws,” she said. “The man engagement ring has become popular. That’s something we didn’t see a lot of in the past.”

Duquet said the sales spike also may have to do with “pent-up demand.”

“People have been wanting to do this legally for some time,” he said.

Same-sex marriage is permitted in 19 states and the District of Columbia.

In Cook County, more than 2,300 marriage licenses have been issued to same-sex couples since the law went into effect.

“From a jeweler’s standpoint, we’re getting a more diverse clientele, and I think the trend is only going to get higher,” said Farzad Hakimian, owner of A-List Diamonds in the South Loop.

Same-sex couples tend to use nontraditional materials when designing engagement or wedding rings, Hakimian said — “materials like black ceramic or cobalt, stuff like that.”

“I never thought we would ever be able to get legally married and choose a ring,” Rogers said. “But when it is staring you in the face you’re like, ‘Oh, wow, we can do this.’”


Twitter: @GeorgeSlefo

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