The “try before you buy” premise of eyewear company Warby Parker makes it possible for you to try on frames in your home—without having to visit a store in person. Applying that approach to engagement ring shopping requires zero interaction with a traditional jeweler, and that’s something that’s got to nettle you at best, terrify you at worst.
The Warby Parker–esque experience is the heartbeat of Gemist, a new digital platform that puts consumers in charge of designing their ring with the opportunity to try on a silver-and-Swarovski prototype before green-lighting it for production.
Founder and CEO Madeline Fraser is banking on the convenience and efficiency of Gemist’s streamlined, tech-forward, and minimalist (read: uncomplicated) reimagining of custom engagement ring design transactions. The self-described “serial entrepreneur” has unique, data-driven insights into consumer behaviors and preferences from the last two companies she launched, Hutch and Zoom Interiors, both in the home furnishings/interior design space.
“We live in a digital world—that is expected when it comes to the millennial demographic,” says Fraser. “The consumer feedback I got from this demo from my last two companies was a desire for an easier digital experience, where the tools to create and design were not beholden to the singular option of working with another person (i.e., an interior designer).”
Fraser believes this will also hold true for engagement ring shoppers stymied by the amount of correspondence and picture-attaching, plus the number of people—and seemingly endless decisions—involved in finding an engagement ring. Articulating and conveying their design needs, tracking down jewelers and designers who “get it” and have ideas and solutions at the ready, can be cumbersome and time-consuming.
Gemist, says Fraser, “gives users the tools to create the ring design they want on their own terms, but they can also see and feel their custom designs in person through our home-try-on experience.”
Actual humans are there to help if needed—online stylists who support the consumer with any guidance, questions, or education they may need. Customers also have the option to work one-on-one with a Gemist stylist to customize a bespoke ring design, or at least something that’s more complex and nuanced than the ready-to-ship options currently on offer, with the site’s On the Hunt program.
And actual humans, of course, produce the designs in downtown L.A. through a small network of jewelers.
“Just like traditional jewelers, we are experts at what we do,” says Fraser. “We nurture our consumer relationships and allow [consumers] to touch and feel their custom designs before making a purchase. We are just doing it all digitally.”
The initial selection relies on classic options that feel akin to purchasing furniture that isn’t built from scratch but allows for easy fabric and silhouette customization, including metal color, stone types and shapes, and band width.
“We are starting with the basics at first but are learning from our consumers and will be growing other style options very quickly,” says Fraser. “That includes working with talented, up-and-coming designers to create exclusive capsule collections. The goal is always rooted in the power of design, where we provide the consumer with inspiration and guidance but give them choices when it comes to creating rings that are right for them.”
Former Elle editor-in-chief Robbie Myers acts as an official adviser to the Gemist team and, further lending the platform credibility, financial backing from a nationally recognized jewelry company that cannot yet be named is imminent.
Top: Gemist is a new, Warby Parker–esque digital platform for custom engagement ring transactions. “We come from the tech space, where we strive to fix problems and make life easier,” says founder and CEO Madeline Fraser. “Jewelry buying patterns have evolved, but the industry has not kept up. We want to offer a solution so consumers can easily and quickly customize any ring, all from the comfort and convenience of their phones.”
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