In mid-July, Gemist, a 1-year-old startup that lets consumers design their own jewelry and test-drive a prototype, secured an undisclosed investment from diamond giant De Beers Group. Here, Madeline Fraser talks with JCK about why she founded Gemist, why it’s different, and how she plans to go retail.
Why did you introduce Gemist?
I experienced a big problem trying to design my own engagement ring. I thought I could design a ring, try it on, and then buy it. When I dove into it, I realized the industry was really fragmented. You had mass-produced brands like your Blue Niles, your big jewelry retailers like Kay Jewelers and Jared. Then you had these mom-and-pop people. Then you had Tiffany. I needed something that was easy to execute but also affordable.
I found that no real version of try-on was available. I was super shocked by that. I went around to retail places in Los Angeles, and everything felt expensive. I ended up going downtown to this little shoebox office where I literally drew the ring on a piece of paper and gave the guy cash and left. I was like, “Will I even get a ring?”
The ring came out beautifully, and it’s totally me. I love to say that I designed it, and it was affordable by the measure of what I saw everywhere else. I thought, there is a viable product here, we just have to change the process.
What makes Gemist different from its online competitors?
We’re demystifying the Four Cs. On other sites, their pitch is that you can design a ring. I would argue you can’t. Guess what happens when you try to choose a diamond? You’re presented with what amounts to an Excel spreadsheet showing all the diamonds available. You would have to be an expert to pick a stone wisely. You need years and years of education.
Try pulling up all the online retailers—if you delete the scribbly logo in the corner, you can’t tell the difference. I did this myself. I spent hours and weeks trying to do this. We need to make things easier, simpler, and fun.
Are you planning for brick-and-mortar retailing?
I’m a believer in digital-meets-reality, so I built a really experiential retail model to run alongside the digital platform. It will take the digital platform and put it into a physical space. It’s going to be a Build-a-Bear model—colorful, experiential, and bold.