How Startup BriteCo Is Streamlining Jewelry Appraisals and Insurance

Dustin Lemick, a third-generation jeweler and gemologist based in Evanston, Ill., has done his fair share of appraisals and insurance-based replacements. The twin services once comprised a sizable slice of his business.

But at some point, his frustrations with the appraisal process, which he viewed as unnecessarily cumbersome for both jewelers and consumers, began to build.

“The appraisal process can be so manual,” he tells JCK. “And customers don’t know much about appraisals, so the policyholder ends up paying too much for insurance.”

The lack of transparency even led to the occasional nasty customer exchange. Lemick remembers a customer sent to his business by a major insurance company with a piece she wanted to replace. She felt she should get get the full value, but the replacement quote fell far short of that. “She was furious!” Lemick recalls. “She left us a bad Yelp review and the whole thing—and there was nothing we could do about what her insurance allowed for.”

The entire appraisal system, in Lemick’s estimation, was broken—or at the very least deeply ailing. And he felt compelled to fix it.

BriteCo founders
The BriteCo team, from left: cofounder and chief insurance officer Conor Redmond; founder and CEO Dustin Lemick; cofounder and chief technology officer Ben Mautner; cofounder and chief marketing officer John Ortbal 

Partnering with veteran marketer Jon Ortbal, insurance expert Conor Redmond, and tech whiz Ben Mautner, Lemick founded BriteCo, a cloud-based appraisal management platform that allows jewelry retailers to offer customers a verified appraisal and insurance quote during the checkout process.

The coverage—through insurance carrier HDI Global—has no deductible and automatically updates protection each year using price analytics and predictive models.

“I wanted to streamline and digitize the whole process,” Lemick says. “I felt like as an industry we were getting left in the dark on this, [lagging] behind other industries on this.”

On the retailer end, BriteCo provides stores with the software system where all information and data on appraisals is input and stored. The system boasts more than 100,000 data points that give jewelers guidelines for assessing value.

Once the appraisal is complete and “published” in the system, BriteCo provides an insurance quote—typically within 60–90 seconds, Lemick says. “We condense appraisal and insurance, and by tying those together, you know you’re getting an accurate appraisal. Customers always say, ‘I should get this piece insured, how do I do that?’ This makes it super easy.”

The company, which launched early this year, raised a seed round of $2 million in venture capital in March. The round’s investors include Brian Spaly, founder of Trunk Club, and Jeff Taylor, former chairman and CEO at Cole Taylor Bank.

Top: Jeweler with loupe (all photos courtesy of BriteCo)

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JCK Magazine Editor