Jan 26, 2018 BY Diamond Foundry IN In The Media,
When 30-year-old Vanessa Stofenmacher’s boyfriend popped the question six years ago, she had no idea it was coming. Nevertheless, the answer was yes, and the couple have since been living their happily-ever-after.
Stofenmacher’s relationship with her engagement ring is more complicated. “I don’t wear it,” says the founder and creative director of online jeweler Vrai & Oro, based in Los Angeles. “It’s a beautiful ring, opulent, but not my style,” she explains.
Today, her left hand sports a “very simple” emerald diamond, the first creation from Vrai & Oro Wedding (VOW), which launched last January. Like all diamonds from the curated and customizable minimalist collection, her conflict-free gemstone was grown in a lab at the headquarters of Diamond Foundry in San Francisco.
While the new sparkler continues to symbolize the love between Stofenmacher and her spouse, it also marks a commitment with Diamond Foundry, which is backed by Leonardo DiCaprio: A year ago, Vrai & Oro was acquired by Diamond Foundry.
Unsurprisingly, Stofenmacher’s own proposal story laid the groundwork for VOW. “At the time, I remember feeling sorry for my boyfriend for all the stress he must have felt trying to pick the right ring, trying to surprise me,” she says. “The whole thing was a little weird.” And “tricky” since the ring didn’t reflect her style.
This makes perfect sense to Shelly Brown, the Knot website’s fashion and beauty editor: “We’re living in a post-surprise world where engagement-ring aesthetics are concerned. Women know what they like, and they are more comfortable than ever voicing it. After all, no one wants to wear a ring they don’t exactly love for the rest of their life.”
In 2016, after two successful years leading her direct-to-consumer brand (notable for its sweet stackable rings, delicate earrings and minimalist necklaces in every shade of gold), Stofenmacher was poised to take on the traditional wedding- ring industry. She knew it wouldn’t be easy, but the fearless Millennial relished her role as would-be disrupter.
First up, of course, was finding a diamond supplier. Using conflict- and cartel-free gemstones was a must. “I dug deep and did my homework, and it was crazy scary what a lack of (diamond) traceability and transparency there was. That’s when I decided to look for alternative sources and stumbled upon Diamond Foundry on Instagram. It was a light-bulb moment,” she says.
After “stalking” the revolutionary company, which grows diamonds atom by atom by re-creating the environment in which they naturally develop via plasma reactor, Stofenmacher was in love. “Both our companies were trying to change a traditional system. I needed the diamonds, and they needed the vessels to put them in — it was a perfect marriage,” she says.
Although initially unsure how buyers would react to lab-grown diamonds, Stofenmacher’s worry was quickly washed away. “No one seemed to be bothered,” she says.
According to the Knot’s Brown, however, there is a bit of a stigma surrounding these diamonds. “But I think it’s changing as Millennial consumers become more focused on reducing their carbon footprint and choosing ethically sourced products. There’s a misconception that lab-grown stones aren’t ‘real’ or that they’re the ‘cheaper’ diamond or somehow less sentimental because they were created in a lab and not mined from the earth,” she says.
“I think Vrai & Oro has done a great job at curating an engagement-ring collection that feels fresh and modern, while also being affordable. Their rings have a sophisticated, luxe feel,” Brown adds.
Indeed, Stofenmacher takes pride in the rings’ minimalist designs, which radiate easy elegance. “They’re simple and meant to be worn every day; we take every detail into consideration,” she says. Signature design elements include low gem settings, small unobtrusive prongs and thin bands. Each ring is made to order with a three-week delivery. Prices range from $2,000 to $25,000, with the average price around $5,500.
Stofenmacher’s next step in an operation to disrupt: Market directly to women: “We were already doing that for our everyday jewelry, so we just needed to extend that to wedding. Traditional jewelers are so focused on men, and we had to figure out how to change this one-sided system.”
The answer? Create a Millennial-friendly home try-on service. VOW’s complimentary “mock box” allows shoppers to select three sample ring designs (made with cubic zirconia stones) and keep them for a week before returning. This gives couples a chance to collaborate, which is becoming much more common. According to the Knot 2017 Jewelry & Engagement Study, 33 percent of couples shopped for rings together.
Brown sees the appeal of the try-on concept: “There are lots of things to consider about the way a ring looks on your hand that go far beyond your ring size and the carat weight of the center stone. Does the shape of the center stone flatter your hand? Does the metal work with your skin tone? Is the setting too high? Does it rub anywhere? Can you stack it easily with a band? Does it feel sturdy and secure? These questions are all nearly impossible to answer via a basic e-comm experience.”
The mock boxes are also used as conversation starters for couples who aren’t yet engaged. “About 90 percent of our boxes are ordered by women who may use the rings to show their (maybe) future husbands what styles they like, or don’t,” says a knowing Stofenmacher.
Original article at San Francisco Chronicle
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