It's hardly a secret that those blindingly brilliant diamond necklaces and multi-carat cocktail rings that celebrities wear on the red carpet are often loaners from major jewelry houses such as Cartier and Chopard.
Now it's no longer just celebrities who get to step out in borrowed high-end baubles. A new website called Haute Vault (www.hautevault.com) will rent you a gold and diamond Rolex watch or Stephen Webster chandelier earrings for a fraction of the sales price, making mostly unattainable items available to wear out and about for a week or more.
The website and rental service was founded by Miami-based jewelers Jono and Taylor King, a husband-and-wife team who own a brick and mortar jewelry store in the city and were inspired to create the service after clients' requests to borrow big ticket items for weddings and other monumental occasions. Launched in November, Haute Vault not only aims to lend high-priced pieces to those who qualify but to also change how people think about luxury.
"This is another way to look at luxury," says Jono King, a fifth-generation jeweler. "You don't constantly have to go out and acquire. Luxury is also about the experience."
This experience gives those who pass a background and credit check the chance to wear a vast selection of watches, bracelets and even tiaras for a limited time.
For instance, an 18-karat white gold and white diamond Sophia necklace on the site is valued at $19,800 but can be rented for $792 a week or $2,852 a month. A men's Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Off Shore watch with a retail price of $23,130 can be rented for $600 a week or $2,160 a month.
Haute Vault is a membership-based program, for which a monthly fee is charged on top of the cost of the rental. There are four levels of membership, each of which designates the maximum value and number of items that may be rented at one time.
It starts with the Sterling level, which has a $15 monthly fee and access to rent items that have no more than a $5,000 retail value. The Diamond level membership is the highest and costs $250 a month. At this level, a member has access to the entire Haute Vault collection and can rent items up to $100,000 in value.
Once a person qualifies as a member, the entire Haute Vault rental experience is insured by the company. A security deposit in the amount of 30% of the retail value of the item being rented is held in case the piece is returned in beyond-repair condition — meaning anything other than normal wear and tear or light scratches.
Haute Vault sees the service as not just a high-end jewelry rental website but a "try before you buy" process for anyone toying with making a major investment. The rental fee charged on each item counts as equity toward a purchase.
"We were very much inspired by services like Rent the Runway," says Taylor King. "But with more valuable items."