Tech and jewelry seem like a bad pairing, but plenty of stylish makers are proving they’re not
There’s no fighting it. The wearable is the reigning prom queen of consumer goods. She inspires equal parts love and wariness—but even her haters are preoccupied with what makes her tick.
And now that so many wearables look less like rubber wrist shackles and more like real jewelry, the idea of shopping for smart devices in a fine jewelry store feels more synergistic than ever.
Granted, the category is still in its infancy; many companies and individuals producing these next-generation devices—including watches, bracelets, rings, and pendants—don’t yet have the infrastructure to handle wholesale orders. More than a few upstart brands don’t even answer their phones.
But established jewelry and watch companies have jumped into the fray as well. Montblanc debuted its e-Strap—a smart band that pairs with traditional watches—in January. And Swarovski and Guess recently released smart jewelry and watches, respectively, in partnership with tech companies.
The influx of new and more wearable devices could be credited to the Apple Watch. Due to be released next month, the smart arm candy has certainly given developers a sharp nudge forward by adding an air of legitimacy to the wearables category.
On the retail front, many fine jewelers say they’re ready to stock wearables—but are either waiting for prototypes to come to market, or are working out the logistics of carrying technology in a non-tech retail environment.
Tapper’s Diamonds & Fine Jewelry, with three stores in the Detroit area, already carries G-Shock Bluetooth watches. Mark Tapper, president of the family-owned business, says there will soon be more wearables that “fit our merchandising criteria and philosophy.”
Tapper’s criterion for stocking a wearable is less about price point than “its being the best product in its category.” He adds, “If it’s pure technology, I don’t know if I’m the best player. But if it’s a piece of jewelry that has a tech component to it, that’s very interesting. The Fitbit is a very cool craze, but a rubberized bracelet isn’t going to be enough. I’m looking for something that’s more of a 50-50 hybrid.”
Jennifer Gandia, co-owner of Greenwich Jewelers in New York City, has her eye on fashion-forward wearables like the Opening Ceremony–designed MICA smart bracelet. She even called about carrying the super-chic Ringly, but found that it’s not yet being wholesaled. She said she would “absolutely” stock wearables because as an “it” product, “it would make total sense.”
Still, Gandia is being cautious. “I think we’re in the very early stages of this kind of tech accessory,” she notes, “and I won’t seriously consider anything until it’s more developed and I watch how the marketplace responds.”
Susan Eisen, owner of Susan Eisen Fine Jewelry & Watches in El Paso, Texas, agrees that it may be slightly premature to jump on the wearables bandwagon as a fine jeweler. She’s been trying to pin down devices to bring into the shop, but says “it’s been difficult because [the products] don’t have the same kind of distribution methods that normal jewelry does.” Eisen also worries about “the repair side of things—who’s going to fix these devices?”
Ultimately, however, Eisen says she’s all for stocking wearables: “I think it will open up the doors for creative design. I’m very excited about it all.”