At a time when digital versus analog accessories are a hot topic, Warren Buffett is giving wearables a green light.Jewelry manufacturer Richline Group, a wholly owned subsidiary of Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc., is making its foray into wearables with Ela Jewelry, out this spring.Ela stands for Elegant Lifestyle Accessories, and it joins the more than 50 brands that are part of the Richline offering, including private-label lines for Amazon, Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and Kay Jewelers.The first offering is bracelets made of metal or leather, with a marble quartz that lights up and buzzes. Wearers can customize the types of alerts that the bracelet receives by linking to the user’s smartphone. Options include functionality that is familiar for many wrist-worn wearables, such as alerts from important contacts and step tracking.What’s different is that the device is designed to be given as a gift, and the giver can deliver special “memories” in the form of an image or voice recording to the recipient through an app on the recipient’s phone. When the wearer receives a new “memory,” the stone lights up.Think of it like a modern message in a bottle.Cliff Ulrich, product innovation manager at Richline Group, said that when the company set out to make a smart device, they threw out everything they thought of wearables to evaluate what’s at the core of the jewelry experience. “We kept coming back to the same thing — sharing special moments with important people in our lives,” he said.Thus, the concept is rooted in a design that fits that mold by storing personalized moments in the jewelry, and by streamlining the notifications to a limited number of people; the stone lights up in various colors, depending on a user’s preferences.Richline worked with software designers to create something that was simple and understandable to the nontechie, with the understanding that many recipients might not have grown up using a smartphone and that the technology should be hidden.The “memories” are viewed through Ela’s app, and when the person receives a bracelet, she also “unwraps” the memories that are waiting in the app. When a new memory is uploaded, the bracelet lights up.There are 12 styles that will cost from $195 to $300. They will be available starting in April at Macy’s, Amazon and other independent jewelers. The line works with iPhones or Android and has a rechargeable battery that lasts up to three days.Ulrich said the hope is that the bracelets will build on the sentimentality of giving jewelry at a time when devices have become a treasured possession.“A lot of discretionary dollars are taken from jewelry and put into other categories like electronics or experiences,” he said. “We found a great medium between the two with Ela — a great intersection between electronics and experiences, and encapsulated that in the jewelry experience.”
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