When I received a press release about Vrai & Oro, a new line of trendy, familiar-looking modern jewelry (think bar styles and simple stacking pieces), I thought it had potential for editorial use until I learned that it did not wholesale. Since JCK is a trade publication, we commonly showcase jewelry that is available for wholesale purchase only, since our readers are store owners looking for inventory to stock. Showing pieces that they couldn’t buy seemed illogical—until I realized that there was another story here that could be useful to jewelers.
Vrai & Oro is a newly debuted firm started by two young women, Chelsea Nicholson and Vanessa Hansford Stofenmacher. What struck me about them were their entrepreneurial backgrounds and straightforward presentations outlined in their media kit. Both have design, marketing, and their own proprietary business start-up experience, in addition to working abroad to learn different business methods. Both also have a thorough understanding of user experience thanks to instruction acquired at the Los Angeles–based computer programming school, General Assembly, where they met. These women appear smart and analytical in their approach to debuting a jewelry firm.
The pair plainly state that they offer “simple, fine jewelry essentials made from real ingredients (solid gold and top-grade diamonds), offered direct-to-consumer without the traditional retail markups.” How brutally honest and intriguing! I think the time for this idea is great considering that demand for transparency—particularly by millennials, a group that these cofounders appear to belong—is ramping up. Nicholson and Stofenmacher also talk about how the jewelry industry is outdated, “traditional and mostly offline” and mention “fast fashion clutter designer-style jewelry made from cheap, disposable materials.” Blunt, but again, I like it (there’s some truth to it). An arguable point: They say fine jewelry is overpriced with markups of 8–10 percent. I don’t agree with this. Perhaps from the point of raw material to the time a piece reaches retail, items could be marked up quite a bit, but it’s not unwarranted. Jewelry store turn can be s-l-o-w, and having a store with educated employees and great services is not an inexpensive proposition. Anyway, they are suggesting that there are savings to be had from basic items (no unique signature styles here) through an online-only outfit, and there could be some truth to this.
Vrai & Oro suggests that in traditional retail, designs are “produced overseas.” Though this is a sweeping generalization, there are many big brands that consumers love that manufacture lines overseas. There are also a ton of independent artists who make jewels on small scales in studios nationwide and are sold with pride in many stores. Vrai & Oro says that its pieces are made in Los Angeles, where it is based, and cuts out the middleman and retail stores by selling items directly to consumers at wholesale prices.
This completely transparent idea of selling jewelry at wholesale prices to consumers will certainly have appeal among those who discover it. I’ve already recommended it to two different friends, and I could see myself buying a piece here. Again, these are not knockoffs of someone’s work, they are basics you could buy just about anywhere.
I think the takeaway from this is that we could be seeing more of this model, so start thinking about how you can compete with it—perhaps further honing your own niche to offer pieces that consumers can get only from you. This is part of jewelry’s continued business evolution.
Bar pendant necklace in 14k gold with a diamond accent with a wholesale price of $280 being offered online, direct to consumer
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