“I don’t think anyone my age is walking into De Beers,” says Emilie Nolan, the 27-year-old marketing expert-turned-fine jewellery entrepreneur. With her brand, Gemmie, Nolan joins a group of disruptors who are bridging the gap between high-priced, special-occasion jewellery and a generation of consumers who are looking for an accessible way to treat themselves.
Gemmie is certainly not the first company to shake up the part of the bauble market that focuses on luxe metals and precious stones. Fellow Canadian brand Mejuri raised $38-million in start-up investment on the promise that women, not men buying engagement rings, were fine jewellery’s new frontier. Mejuri’s direct-to-consumer model allows its pieces, which start at $88 for a solid white-gold ring, to be as accessible as shoes, purses and other accessories that are switched out on a seasonal basis.
“Mejuri was created to move away from the notion that fine jewellery is for occasions and towards the notion that fine jewellery is for whenever you want,” says its founder, Noura Sakkijha. “By focusing on establishing a brand that provides fairly priced, high-quality pieces, we have redefined fine jewellery as something within reach for both big milestones and everyday moments.” The brand also borrowed from the popular streetwear “drop” model and launches limited-edition products each Monday, while building an efficient and cost-effective supply chain for hand-crafted pieces.
With its punchy, Glossier-like branding, Gemmie feels right on the millennial money. “It’s about creating a world around your products,” Nolan says. Its tight assortment of responsibly produced gold and gemstone-finished earrings and rings are priced within reach for a first foray into the world of investment pieces. The line begins at $130 for a pair of hollow 10-karat gold hoop earrings and maxes out around $1,400 for a three-quarter-infinity diamond band. Gemmie can keep prices lower than traditional fine jewellery retailers because its pieces are made to order, mainly in Canada. Most are produced in the west end of Toronto, while hollow gold earrings are made in Italy.
“I think people forget that millennials are now entering their 30s and 40s,” Nolan says. “We now have this group of people that have grown up with fast fashion, has a little more disposable income and the power to shop with a designer they believe in.”
Here are three other options for shopping fine jewellery’s next wave:
Vrai and Oro
Vrai (vrai.com) was one of the first direct-to-consumer jewellery brands to pull back the curtain on fine-jewellery pricing with 14-karat and 18-karat solid-gold pieces that start at less than $100. Designed and made in Los Angeles with a timeless, minimal aesthetic, Vrai’s pieces take sustainability to the next level through the use of 90-per-cent recycled gold. What’s more, the brand recently acquired the Diamond Foundry, a company that grows above-ground diamonds using solar energy.
Partners Susan Shaw and Melissa Gobeil founded Attic Gold (atticgold.com) in 2016 after hearing friends complain about the dearth of elevated, everyday pieces on the market. Today, the Toronto brand comprises classics such as gold hoops, signet rings and bangles, which are created using locally sourced, recycled and new 14-karat gold. Natural, untreated gemstones adorn many of the pieces, and feature a softer, unique pigmentation than the often-heated stones used by mainstream jewellers.
“Our clients are interested in who is making their jewellery, where it is made, how it is made and what it is made from,” Shaw says. To wit, many of the duo’s pieces, especially engagement rings, are designed in concert with their clients.
The Last Line
This Los Angeles-based direct-to-consumer brand is fun, fashion-forward and has a sizable selection of colourful, mix-and-match 14-karat gold styles that use semi-precious stones and begin at less than $200. Launched in 2017 by fine jewellery vet Shelley Sanders, The Last Line (thisisthelast.com) uses the “drop” model of weekly releases, which ensures a frenzy from fans including celebrities Jessica Alba and Miley Cyrus.
Gold and diamonds, dot com
At any price point, shopping online for bauble gifts can have glittering results
Everyone loves a personalized gift and these Cuchara initial hoops are sold individually to allow for a custom combo.
Cuchara ‘Kate’ 14-karat gold-plated initial charm hoop earring, $75 each through cuchara.ca.
Whether the giftee is young or just young at heart, this minimal ring by Vancouver brand Foe & Dear is perfect for a first foray into diamonds.
Foe & Dear 14-karat gold baby 0.03ct diamond ring, $158 through foeanddear.com.
Pearls have always been an accessible way to enter precious stone territory. Here, they’re been given a high design spin.
Mejuri 18-karat gold vermeil organic pearl drop earrings, $98 through mejuri.com.
The spiral is a frequent motif for Toronto fashion and accessories label Beaufille, and here it has been hand cast in 10-karat gold and with a delicate inset 0.03ct diamond.
Beaufille 10-karat gold spiral necklace with inset diamond, $735 through beaufille.com.
Gemmie’s Three-quarter-infinity bands are deliciously appealing when stacked in rainbow formation, but if we were to start somewhere, we’d choose the pink Ruby.
Gemmie Ruby stackable 10-karat gold ring, $966 through shopgemmie.com.
Cadette’s pieces are often inspired by art. According to the brand, this necklace’s muse was the “ever-evolving woman – restless in her pursuit of purpose, fulfillment and growth.”
Cadette Petit Form 10-karat gold necklace, $665 through cadettejewelry.com.
For big spenders, this ring’s thick rounded bezel accentuates the oval-cut Sri Lankan sapphire in a way that nods to the 1970s.
Attic Gold 14-karat solid gold and sapphire Big Buoy ring, $3,990 through atticgold.com.
Toronto jeweller Laurie Fleming has made this style, which can be worn in four ways. That kind of versatility is her line’s signature.
Laurie Fleming 14- gold and diamond Versare earrings, $1,990 through laurieflemingjewellery.com.
Surely the glitziest treatment we’ve ever seen for the classic signet ring, the Jane style is handmade in Toronto and set with 50 0.03ct of diamonds.
Neophyte Jewels 14- white gold and diamond Jane signet ring, $1,825 through neophytejewels.com.