The e-commerce jewelry destination, founded by Sophie Kahn and Bouchra Ezzahraoui, aims to create a new market of affordable fine jewelry by cutting out the middle man and going straight to the customer. “We were analyzing jewelry and realized you either have jewelry that turns your finger green — it looks good, but you have to throw it away after six months — or you have real gold, real diamonds that are super overpriced and you are paying for the brand,” Kahn said. “I saw a gap in the contemporary jewelry market, where no one else is there because other businesses go through distribution channels.”
Looking to the business models of companies like Warby Parker and Everlane, the two friends, who met while working on their masters in finance at Princeton University, decided to bring the concept to fine jewelry. The venture, which had its soft launch late last year, is completely self-funded, thanks largely to the founders “day jobs.” Kahn works in strategy and marketing at Marc Jacobs, while Ezzahraoui is still full time at Goldman Sachs in the trading department. “We wanted to do something for ourselves, and as soon as we thought of the idea, I wanted to get started,” Kahn said. I didn’t want to fall into the trap of pitching and overthinking — I just wanted to do it.”
Kahn, who cites a lifelong interest in fashion, then enrolled in a jewelry design class at The New School’s Parsons School of Design to “figure out how it works.” The brand’s initial collection, available on their Web site, Auratenewyork.com, is completely self-designed, with the actual production done by an outside production manager, also based in New York. “The inspiration for the look is cleanness,” she said. “I’m from Holland, so I love the Scandinavian look, like Acne or Sacai, or in the U.S., Philip Lim. In the U.S., I feel like a lot of the jewelry is very scream-y. I wanted to do something super clean, super minimalist, and let the beauty of gold speak for itself.”
The first collection includes rings, bracelets, earrings and necklaces done in 14- and 18-karat gold, as well as 18-karat gold-plated sterling silver. Prices range from $80 for a 14-karat stackable ring, to $2,450 for a 14-karat bracelet, with several styles including diamond accents. The site offers free shipping and returns within the U.S., with an additional cost for shipments outside the country. “The next step might be setting up a European shipping center,’ said Kahn, citing a desire to keep costs down.
The brand additionally launched with a philanthropic aspect, which Kahn refers to as “a book for your look,” where for each piece sold, the company donates a book to an underprivileged child in partnership with the non-profit organization Master Charter.
In addition to the co-founders, the team consists of a production manager and assistant, a social media manager, and someone in IT; additionally, they recently took on an outside firm to handle public relations.The company sold out of its core collection within the first month, and now, six months in, cites mid six figure sales with monthly sales more than tripling since the initial launch. Still, growth is in sight. “We’re trying to get more eyes on the brand,” said Kahn, noting that a majority of sales come from New York, with middle America following.
A potential route to do so: opening a brick-and-mortar location. “The ultimate dream would be to have our own store,” Kahn said. “E-commerce is our main thing — we don’t want to be in department stores, because that’s where the mark-up comes, but I do think it would make sense to have a couple flagships where people can go and try on the jewelry. The idea of brick-and-click is important.”