The image of shiny metals and stones encased in a sprawling glass box, with a dutiful attendant keeping the precious pieces under lock and key, is very familiar to anyone who grew up visiting malls and department stores. But as malls have emptied and turned their lights off, those once gleaming jewelry counters have given way to a different model: the rise of affordable fine jewelry from online direct to consumer brands.
The shifts in how women consume jewelry — and who’s buying it for them — have been well documented over the past couple years. Fashion search platform Lyst found that between 2016 and 2017 there was a 14 percent increase in women buying jewelry compared to men. Furthermore, diamond brand DeBeer’s Insights Report shows that 31 percent of all diamond jewelry purchases in the U.S. in 2016 were made by women. The brand also shared that by 2015, 33 percent of non-bridal diamond jewelry was bought by women for themselves. Of course, for further indication of how fine jewelry shopping might look in the future, simply refer to the direct-to-consumer brands that have emerged in recent years and have presented a fresh way to find some of the most special items we own.
“Our consumers are predominantly women buying for themselves,” confirms Noura Sakkijha, cofounder of Toronto-based Mejuri, “either as a personal celebration or simply because they want to.” The brand’s approach to jewelry is one that makes it a bit more accessible — not only in price, as many pieces run well under $200, but in styling options, as the brand follows a drop model that debuts new styles each week. “We design for everyday, and create pieces that millennial women can buy for themselves...something you can add to your wardrobe seasonally, much like shoes or handbags.”
Though it was founded in 2015, Mejuri only opened its first U.S. store this past December on Spring Street in New York. According to its cofounder, an IRL experience isn't necessary, there can be the same personal touch when it comes to buying precious metals and stones online. An added bonus to shopping over the interwebs is a community of resources that can help shoppers with making a considered purchase, including access to consumer reviews and the ability to see the pieces styled on different people.
Vanessa Stofenmacher, founder and creative director of Vrai and Oro, a made-in-LA, direct-to-consumer brand with a clean, simplistic approach to design, echoes a similar sentiment. “We believe that buying jewelry online can actually be more personal as it removes the ‘glass-case’ from the products and gives you the opportunity to view items on your own terms,” says Stofenmacher. “You’re invited to look and explore with no one watching or pushing you to buy something you’re not passionate about.”
While Vrai and Oro offers gold jewelry starting as low as $45, that’s not to say these newer brands aren’t also appealing to the shopper who’s ready to make a bigger purchase. “We aim to be inclusive of all women,” says Stofenmacher. “For us, that means creating attainable designs at all levels, from entry, to core, to designer; but our sweet spot is right in the middle.” She highlights the brand’s solitaire diamond necklace, which retails at $355, as a favorite.
“More than anything, purchasing comes down to education,” explains Sakkijha, “ensuring consumers have all the information. They need to know what they’re buying, how it’s valued, and what traditional markups consist of.”
For a look at what these, as well as a more of our favorite direct-to-consumer (mainly online-only) fine jewelry brands stand for, see below.
Mejuri prides itself on being a destination for both the minimalist and maximalist, entry-level jewelry shopper and seasoned collector. And while its customers are 80 percent women, behind the scenes Mejuri is also run by an 80 percent female staff.
Vrai and Oro
With all designs made locally in Los Angeles, Vrai and Oro is a brand that values sustainability, says Stofenmacher. “We want to keep pioneering there, and hold onto our values of being a jewelry brand that invites everyone to the table.”
The Last Line
Shelley Gibbs Sanders has created one of the most playful and vast collections of fine jewelry that include everything from timeless huggie earrings and tennis bracelet to statement making personalized pieces and stacks of colorful gems. Consider these the start of your very own heirloom collection.
Made in New York, AUrate offers an array of modern and traditional designs, all with come with a lifetime guarantee to ensure your fine jewelry collection remains stocked with forever pieces. AUrate's business model also includes its Curate box, an at-home, multi-option, try-on experience that allows you to return or keep pieces once you've had the chance to test them out.
This LA-based brand offered a vintage take on 14K solid gold jewelry with pieces that include signet rings, lockets, and the addition of pearls. The prices of each piece are determined by weight of gold used with it, and most currently ring up $200 and under.