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What This Jewelry Designer Wants You to Consider Before Getting Engaged

Have you ever really *thought* about the proposal process? In collaboration with Vrai & Oro.

By: Jodi Taylor
Photography: Tristan Kallas

In the scheme of major decisions you might make during your lifetime, buying jewelry—or, more specifically, an engagement ring—isn’t nearly as heavy as, say, choosing a life partner, or picking a career. However, when you’re choosing something you’re likely going to wear every day for the rest of your life, you probably want to gather as much information as possible before making a selection. Decisions, friends. They ain’t easy.

In the interest of gathering information and being aware of all available options, we sought out Los Angeles-based jewelry brand Vrai & Oro, which specializes in minimalist jewelry and engagement rings that use California-grown diamonds. And what exactly is a California-grown diamond? So glad you asked! It's a process they've perfected where each grown diamond starts with a tiny piece of a previously grown diamond—a "seed" if you will. It's a completely self-sustaining cycle perfected by Diamond Foundry engineers in California. Then the science happens. Each diamond sliver is placed inside a plasma reactor that replicates the energy and intensity of the sun's outer core, and in a nutshell, grows the diamond atom by atom, using solar energy. After that, a master cutter removes the rough outer layer to reveal (ta-da!) a super sparkly diamond, ready to be set in one of the brand's minimalist designs.

We got together with the brand's founder, Vanessa Stofenmacher, (who, by the way, was on this year’s Forbes 30 Under 30 Forbes list), and she explained that Vrai & Oro “means ‘truth’ and ‘gold.’ ‘Truth’ in French, and ‘gold’ in Spanish.” Every piece the brand creates is made from solid gold, whether it be white, yellow, or rose, and while the brand originally began with only simple, everyday pieces, they have since branched out into engagement rings. The kicker? They’ll happily send three mock rings to your home for you and your partner-to-be to play with and try on before you make your selection.

Here’s how she’s hoping to shift the jewelry industry, and what she thinks you should consider before getting engaged.

 

It all began when she realized that men don’t typically know how to purchase jewelry:

“Coming from a design background, I’ve always had this urge to live through the life cycle of a company, creating the brand identity from the ground up. Before launching Vrai & Oro, my older sister and I realized we both shared a similar pain point, our husbands were terrible at buying us gifts and we figured other women must have this issue. Being very inspired by technology, we created a learning algorithm that helped match men using shopping behaviors and personalized questions with gifts for their significant other. During this process we realized two things– first, that fine jewelry is traditionally the number one gift that men give women, and second that traditions are changing quickly.”

Then she quickly realized the true value of jewelry:

“I didn’t know anything about jewelry, so I entered the industry with an open mind. At the time, we were working with mass jewelers across the U.S.—they would send us their jewelry designs, I would photograph it, create marketing materials and add it to our marketplace. I was touching all of it, and I started to see behind the curtain of the jewelry industry. Some of the mass jewelers were selling at a large markup, and selecting pre-made designs from catalogs overseas. The company [I was working to create] with my sister didn’t work out, and we went our separate ways, but this crazy urge to change the industry stuck with me. Being in Los Angeles with the jewelry district around the corner,  it seemed like an amazing opportunity to see what could happen.”

 

The company started with only ten designs (all made-to-order) and no marketing dollars:

“I launched Vrai & Oro with $8,000, and ten essential designs. I was able to find a manufacturer to create a one-off of each piece, I photoshopped the gold colors, put it on our website, and our designs were made-to-order for the entire first year. When a customer placed an order, our manufacturer would have it made and ready to be shipped within three days. The concept really hit right time, right place with Instagram—I didn’t put any money into marketing.”

They’re mission-based, rather than trend-focused:

“Since day one it’s been part of our ethos and DNA to be completely transparent about [what we do]. We’ll tell people what our margins are; we've even heard some customers say, ‘That’s too much information. You should keep that to yourself.’”

And make pieces you can wear everywhere:

“Our jewelry isn’t meant to be something you’ve never seen before; it’s meant to be something you can put on and never take off. I want jewelry to be effortless and easy, not so much of a fashion statement. Our thing is doing the essentials the right way.”

 

Which is why they went into engagement rings:

“The next area that I saw a lot of opportunity for was engagement rings. The way that the engagement ring process works is so backwards in my opinion. It’s like wait, why does the guy still choose when, where, how, and the ring to propose with, and the girl has nothing to do with it? Why are we not questioning these things? Maybe these traditions work for some people, but maybe it’s not for others. I wanted to create a collaborative experience, bringing together women and men and opening up the conversation around engagement. Now couples can go to our website, choose three rings, and we’ll send mock versions to try-on at home for free.”

What’s next?

"We have some really exciting digital technologies in the works. In 2018 we're focusing 100% of our efforts on our online experience and thinking creatively on how to solve customer pain points." 

 

Want more stories like this?

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An Antique Jewelry Collection That Broke Our Brains
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