Need to Find Your Beloved Just the Right Engagement Ring? Here's a New Way How.
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It's probably too late for Harry and Meghan. But for the hundreds of thousands of couples slated to march down the aisle in June, traditionally the biggest wedding month, there's a new option out there for buying your beloved an engagement or wedding ring. Call it the "Warby Parker effect."
Warby Parker disrupted the eyeglass industry by offering customers "home try-on" boxes of up to five frames, with free shipping both ways.
Now, the try-on model has spread to other shopping categories as well, including bras, furniture, clothing -- and jewelry. Jeweler Mendel Laine, whose family owns the brick-and-mortar store in Brooklyn, N.Y., said he's started a spinoff business called Hayden Cudworth. The spinoff has been sending out "try-on kits" for engagement rings and wedding bands for just under a year.
"We give customers the opportunity to log on to our website, browse the site, choose up to five rings they're interested in and add them to the cart with free shipping, free return," Laine told Entrepreneur.
Lest jewel thieves get any ideas, Laine explained that what customers receive is a replica of the glittery final product. "They're filled with cz's [cubic zirconium] and made of silver alloy," he said of his try-on model rings. "They're rhodium coated, which is the same thing used in white gold.
"They get them at home, together with the ring-sizer. They have five days to try them on, get opinions. Then they ship them back ... they can choose the metal they want, and in many cases they can choose the stone size," he says.
Interestingly, replicas in the jewelry trade -- unlike the eyewear industry, for example -- are nothing new. "Many jewelry stores, in order to offer a wide variety of bridal engagement rings, have replica rings with [simulated] diamonds that the customers view," Laine said. That way, he said, jewelers "are not stocking hundreds of thousands of dollars' [worth of valuable jewelry pieces]," sending insurance costs skyrocketing.
The jeweler said his initial inspiration came from, no surprise, Warby Parker: "100 percent," he said. Considering the fact that he and his five siblings all wear glasses, he realized that the concept could also work for rings. "It was like a lightbulb flashed," he said.
In particular, it would work for his family business, whose jewelry pieces' price points range from just over $1,000 up to $10,000 (with materials options added in). "The reason we like this is because sometimes people feel like they're being judged if they come into a jewelry store," Laine pointed out. He said such catty judgments might include "Oh, that's your price point!'" or perhaps a raised eyebrow about whom a buyer has chosen for a future spouse.
"Also, nowadays we live in a time with Instacart, Blue Apron," Laine pointed out. "We've mentioned Warby Parker. Everything is concierge service. People are much busier; they don't have time to make it to the store and get everyone's opinion. We felt that all those things combined to make this a good project."
Try at home seems to be working. Demand for the kits, Laine said, has increased an average 15 percent month over month ever since; the ratio for number of kits to final sale is about 10-to-1.
As for the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, there's always a chance that the royals could still get in on the try-at-home game: "People reset their rings all the time; people increase the size of it," Laine said, jokingly.
Of course: "I don't know if that works for them, because our price point goes to $10,000, and I'm very sure their ring is above that."