Net-a-Porter is tapping into the flourishing market for collectable, stackable jewelry that doesn't cost the earth with the launch this week of a new category called demi-fine. Meant to bridge fashion and fine jewelry, the pieces are made from solid gold and silver, all with a contemporary design. The category will launch with five jewelry brands: Catbird NYC, Sarah & Sebastian; Wwake; Saskia Diez, and I and I. The launch is set for Wednesday.
Lisa Aiken, retail fashion director at Net-a-Porter, said the project is special because it unites elements of both fashion and fine jewelry, which have historically been very separate categories. She noted that Net-a-porter has seen "a notable increase in women investing in luxury jewelry for themselves," so the e-tailer decided to launch the demi-couture offer.
Aiken said the idea behind demi-couture is to allow the customer to build her collection at a more affordable price point than fine jewelry. "The demi-fine category taps into a market that has not yet been explored by our competition, and being able to offer this to customers is truly exciting," she said.
Indeed, the in-between category has seen an explosion over the past few years, due chiefly to the Internet and the rise of gold vermeil casings for sterling silver that allow designers and entrepreneurs to create expensive-looking jewelry for a fraction of the price.
Brands such as Monica Vinader, Astley Clarke, Stella & Dot and Pandora are all building businesses on the back of what is commonly known as affordable fine jewelry, working with silver, gold plating and semiprecious stones as well as solid gold and diamonds.
London-based fine jeweler Solange Azagury-Partridge has also embraced the trend, selling a selection of items on Amazon.co.uk, such as colored silver lacquer charms on chains and a silver-filled version of her Hot Lips rings, which are usually lined in gold.
In August, American jeweler and piercing specialist Maria Tash opened a 1,320-square-foot studio within Liberty's jewelry room offering a trove of dainty diamond and 18-karat gold earrings, septum and navel rings.
According to a report last month from Euromonitor, the overall jewelry market is set to reach $316 billion in 2016. Asia-Pacific has the largest share, followed by North America and Western Europe. In the report, Euromonitor pointed to a "surge" in fashion retailers gaining ground in jewelry and expanding their presence in Western Europe and the rise of "affordable luxury" in the jewelry category.
"Consumers are getting more cautious in terms of spending; however, they still want to indulge," the report said.
Most of the brands launching with Net-a-porter have a handmade element and environmentally conscious spin.
Catbird NYC makes its jewelry by hand in a Brooklyn, New York, studio, using recycled or fair trade gold and conflict-free stones. Its focus is on delicate rings, earrings and chains that are meant to be stacked or layered. Wwake is also handmade in New York and uses gems such as opal, sapphire, tanzanite and diamonds.
Sarah & Sebastian, which is handmade in Australia, also works with reclaimed gold and silver as well as ethically sourced semiprecious stones. The emphasis is also on delicate, stackable pieces.
The other brands are Saskia Diez, a Munich-based jeweler that focuses on contemporary shapes done in silver, and the London-based I and I, which works with precious stones in gold and gold-plated silver. Net-a-porter will be the latter's global exclusive wholesale partner.
Prices range from 30 pounds, or $38, to 1,500 pounds, or $1,900, with a Catbird NYC classic silver hammered ring costing 30 pounds; an I and I crescent diamond necklace priced at 290 pounds, or $368, and a Wwake 10-karat gold multistone necklace at 1,500 pounds.
Net-a-porter also carries high-end fine jewelry on its site from brands including Fred Leighton, Repossi, Stephen Webster, Pippa Small and Tiffany & Co.
Last year, the e-tailer created a digital shop-in-shop for Chanel for a capsule collection of jewelry called Coco Crush. Overall, fine jewelry is a fast-growing category on the site, and the company said the trend is for women to buy for themselves rather than wait to receive it as a gift.