“We’ll be frank, darling,” writes new e-commerce bridal brand Frank Darling on its website. “The diamond industry benefits from confused customers. From the low-rent retailers to the high-end boutiques, the lack of clarity is positively appalling. High-quality diamonds with scandalous markups, low-quality diamonds with scandalous markups; an industry that buys and sells carat and clarity this opaque? You can almost smell the irony. And online retailers? All that can really be said is…good luck.
“Shocking? Perhaps not. But still, the industry ought to be ashamed, capitalizing on love-sick individuals and their life-partners-to-be. Who can you trust, darling? How are you, dear reader, meant to know if you’re getting ripped off?”
Bold words from a brand new brand, eh?
But the message just might resonate with millennial buyers, who have come to expect full transparency and the fulfillment of the feeling that they’re buying with a brand that’s disrupting—correcting, really—an entire category of consumer goods. (See Warby Parker’s markup-mitigating effects on the eyewear industry and Everlane’s truth-telling about what it really costs to make designer clothes and accessories.)
Company founders Kegan Fisher and Jeff Ethan Smith come from outside the diamond and jewelry industry. Fisher, according to her LinkedIn page, is a three-time founder of brands with 11 years of experience in mass-customization and 3-D printing at Shapeways and SOLS. Smith’s background includes being an operations leader at “rapid growth, high-tech, consumer product startups,” including SOLS and Shapeways, according to his LinkedIn.
The pair launched the brand last year with investors and a board of advisers, and brought on Elise Coleman, former designer of Tiffany & Co.’s masterpieces collection and design director at Eddie Borgo, to design the wedding rings.
The retailer’s vision, according to company messaging, “is to transform the diamond jewelry industry with a delightful, ethical, and highly personalized shopping experience.”
But does Frank Darling have the goods to position itself as the savior of the fed-up engagement ring shopper?
Time will tell. But the brand is, indeed, doing something different. Shoppers on the site can order high-quality replicas of rings to try on at home, for free. It’s a bid to boost transparency and customer comfort—and it’s a good one.
“How are you supposed to decide if you want to wear something for the rest of your life inside a store or looking at a picture of it?” Smith says. “We really wanted to put the power back in the hands of the couple. To do that, we developed a home try-on kit with replica rings that shoppers can try in the comfort of their home, for free.”
Additionally, when it comes to finding a diamond—lab-grown or mined—to put in a chosen ring, Frank Darling uses an algorithm method that Smith says is more sophisticated than other e-commerce players’.
“We take a scientific approach to sparkle,” he explains. “It’s a lot more robust than the 4Cs. Our algorithm evaluates 22 different factors that all work together to make a diamond sparkle. Once we find the best-looking diamonds, we also consider price and curate our short list of the best diamonds available at the best prices.”
But if Frank Darling soars, it may be as much due to its designs—which are chic and unconventional in their detailing—than how easy and/or comfortable it is to shop the site. (And it must be said that though the site functions beautifully, it could be served by shedding some of its visual distractions, such as a colorized landing page video that’s hard to discern, anyway.)
Designer Coleman’s created so many covetable rings for the brand—from classic, beautiful solitaire styles (see Harper No. 2) to ultra-daring styles for fashion-forward brides, including the Mason No. 4 model (at top), which features two brilliant triangle-cut diamonds with pavé accents.
“We’re passionate about making design and technology work together to create really beautiful custom products, so diamond jewelry is a perfect fit for us,” says Smith. “[Kegen and I] are also a couple, so we had the customer’s perspective at heart. We wanted the design and craft you expect from the best luxury brands, but in a customer-oriented way— without the traditional up-sells and markups.”
Top: Frank Darling Mason No. 4 ring (all photos courtesy of Frank Darling)