For Mejuri, an online jewelry startup founded in 2015, a big part of the playbook is always offering consumers something new. The brand averages nearly one drop per week, ranging from $25 earrings to $4,900 diamond necklaces.
This approach was once more commonly applied to sneakers than to studs. Traditional jewelry retailers typically release a handful of collections each year, although, as in fashion, the pace has picked up in recent years.
Constant new releases encourage repeat visits to the Mejuri site and its growing network of stores (it currently has 13, with at least one more in the works). It’s also a great source of new content for the brand’s 1.1 million Instagram followers.
“We’re all sitting on Instagram consuming content very quickly and I think the idea of dropping one launch per year in fine jewelry is very dated,” said Noura Sakkijha, co-founder and CEO of Mejuri.
Mejuri, with brands such as M Jewelers, Aurate and Linjer, is part of a wave of direct-to-consumer jewelry companies that have swept their way into the market by promising consumers stylish designs at a fraction Cost. Like startups selling sneakers, t-shirts, luggage, and countless other products, the logos and general aesthetic tend to be minimalist, while the marketing slogans they put out on social media are anything but (Mejuri’s slogan is “fine jewelry to be your fucking self”, while Aurate tells its customers that its products are “designed to be worthy of the women who wear them”).
While these e-commerce brands have been around for most of the past decade, their competition with category incumbents is heating up, analysts say. Across the board, jewelry brands have thrived during the pandemic as consumers search for ways to spend the cash they’ve been saving when they can’t travel. But airports are busy again and a global economic slowdown is likely to further reduce spending on non-essential goods, including gold bracelets.
“Now we’re starting to see travel reopening, so the numbers are going down,” said Megan Crabtree, founder and CEO of Crabtree Consulting, a jewelry consulting firm.
Those terms set up a battle for market share between direct-to-consumer newcomers and mid-tier brands wedged between low-cost mall jewelers and luxury brands like Cartier, she added.
The rise of DTC jewelry brands has upset incumbents, even ending up in court in at least one case. In December 2021, David Yurman, a 40-year-old brand known for cuff bracelets and mixed metals, sued Mejuri, accusing the upstart of being a “serial copyist” of his iconic designs. Mejuri has denied those claims and filed a countersuit against Yurman in March, saying the twisting motive at the center of the dispute dates back to ancient Rome.
“In recent years, we’ve seen new entrants into the jewelry business who don’t share the industry’s long-standing core values,” Evan Yurman, chairman of David Yurman, said in a statement to BoF.
Digital-first brands aren’t slowing down: Mejuri has sent 3.1 million shipments since its 2015 debut, has 1.5 million unique customers and expects triple-digit year-over-year growth , the company said. Monica Vinader, a British brand founded online in 2008, has also seen growth. The brand’s sales rose 38% to £80 million ($91.76 million) in the financial year to July 31, according to the company.
The shrinking middle
Brands like David Yurman, John Hardy and Mikimoto built large businesses selling fine jewelry – 18-karat gold and gemstones of varying quality – to consumers at lower prices than luxury brands such as Cartier or Tiffany, which have moved upmarket by offering more choice. aimed at luxury customers in recent years.
The entry-middle niche is also targeted by DTC brands, which sell both fine jewelry and “semi-fine” pieces, which typically contain precious metals, but of lower quality or mixed with cheaper materials. Mejuri gold vermeil, for example, is gold-plated sterling silver.
The price gap can be stark: Mejuri sells vermeil rings for as little as $68. David Yurman does not offer vermeil; 18k solid gold rings start at $650 on her website.
The question facing the industry is whether it’s the price or the materials that matter most to young buyers.
Roli Egbejule, a digital designer and stylist, said she buys herself Mejuri and other demi-fine brands because her relationship with consumers is more personal than traditional jewelry brands.
“If I speak for my demographics, we don’t care about quality as much as we do about looks and trends,” said Egbejule, who has both purchased jewelry from Mejuri, Monica Vinader and Aurate and received awards. free items from them. .
The DTC formula
DTC brands were quick to understand the shift in who bought jewelry: where traditional marketing portrayed diamond bracelets and gold cuffs as items a husband or boyfriend could buy for their partner, women are increasingly more likely to initiate the purchase.
Shoppers are also more likely to search for a specific brand: a 2022 De Beers survey found that 65% of respondents had purchased branded diamond jewelry, up from 42% two years earlier. Gen Z and millennials were much more likely to buy from a specific brand, as were shoppers looking to make a purchase for themselves, as opposed to an engagement ring or gift.
Emerging brands appeal to young female consumers by emphasizing diversity, sustainability and accessibility.
Dorsey, a direct-to-consumer lab-grown gemstone brand founded in 2019, has become popular with younger consumers by positioning itself as an ethical alternative to brands that seek out materials. Worn by Hailey Beiber, Bella Hadid and Taylor Swift, Dorsey describes her designs as “heritage inspired”.
Studs, a self-proclaimed “ear piercing experience and next-gen jewelry brand,” posts videos of its products tuned to popular TikTok sounds and sells earrings designed to match star signs.
Mejuri’s recent #BeYourDamnSelf campaign showcased a diverse range of designs and messaging focused on celebrating individuality and independence.
“It’s easier for me to trust smaller brands like Mejuri because they try to back up everything they’ve said in their interactions with their consumer,” Egbejule said.
Some historical brands also play with their image. Tiffany launched its “Not Your Mother’s” campaign in the summer of 2021 and in August 2022 sold NFTs that could be made into personalized pendants.
As for the products themselves, the simple hoops and signet rings offered by Mejuri and his peers are aimed at younger consumers who prefer a more casual style. These shoppers may even be able to purchase more expensive, purer jewelry or branded staples like the Love de Cartier bracelet. As they would with their wardrobes, they will mix the top with the bottom.
Neri Kerra, an entrepreneurship expert at Said Business School, said she gravitates towards semi-fine jewelry brands because their styles are often more interchangeable and interesting than traditional brand offerings.
Ultimately, consumers like Kerra may prioritize price and style over the durability and prestige of old-line jewelers. Fine jewelry brands will either have to compete on price or move upmarket and lean into storytelling to attract customers, said Flur Roberts, head of luxury goods at Euromonitor.
“A lot of brands make vermeil jewelry… and [consumers] feel like they’re still getting quality,” Roberts said. “It’s a way of still being able to have something that they deem somewhat luxurious without the exorbitant price tag.”
In other words, the allure of solid 18k gold isn’t what it used to be.