Last summer, Yasmina Benazzou launched Haute Victoire, her fine jewelry collection of 18-karat gold and one-of-a-kind pieces, via her web site Hautevictoire.com. The collection is divided into various ranges. Oud D’or, done in collaboration with Moroccan actress Ghita Tazi, is designed from gold-cast actual Oud, the wood used in perfume and set with Tahitian pearls. Blanc Nocturne features braided gold and large South Sea pearls. Nacre Des Lunes is the line’s most playful and accessible range, featuring buoy-shaped charms in gold and with pave diamonds that add movement to rings, bracelets and necklaces. The shape of the charms were inspired by a vintage piece Benazzou found. “It was more like a half a sphere, and the top was in coral and onyx,” she says. “It was static, not moving. And it triggered the idea that an element like this could have a top that I could have with diamond, onyx, mother-of-pearl, turquoise, you know. And if it moves, it’s more interesting.”
The pieces are distinctive and clearly luxurious, and because they’re sold through Haute Victoire directly, the prices are good: $500 to $3,500. “Usually when you think of fine jewelry, you need a husband, a banker, or a lover. Or maybe the three of them,” says Celine Kaplan, the owner of public relations agency Celine Kaplan PR, who is also a creative consultant on Haute Victoire. “I think there’s a new category of jewelry and woman who is successful,” said Benazzou. “Up to $3,500, you can do it on your own. You don’t need the approval of your banker or your lover or your husband.”
Born in Morocco, Benazzou lived in Indonesia and Paris for many years before moving to New York where she’s based now. She studied at Ecole de la Chambre Syndicale de la Couture Parisienne and had a career as a rug designer at Tai Ping before she decided at age 45 that she wanted to change directions. Benazzou studied gemology at Fashion Institute of Technology in preparation of launching Haute Victoire, which means High Victory in French. “I wanted something that can also be inspiring in a way ,” says Benazzou. “You know, at 45 I changed career I found creativity. It celebrates creativity, women and life.”
Wholesaling is not part of the strategy for Benazzou and Kaplan. They work with a dealer in Paris, otherwise the plan is to sell Haute Victoire through the web site and private appointments in order to keep the prices relatively low and the margins high. Through word-of-mouth and paid digital marketing, traction is starting to pick up, although the idea is not to scale up immensely and go global. Benazzou says Haute Victoire is not targeting a mass millennial customer. “It’s 35-plus,” she says. “It’s for women who have already experienced luxury and realize it’s a rarity. It’s the thing that is not sold everywhere.”
Unlike Haute Victoire, Ceremony is a new don’t-call-it-an-engagement-ring label that seems tailor-made for the Millennial consumer. Founders Jess Hannah Révész and business partner Chelsea Nicholson want their rings to celebrate love in all forms, whether it’s marriage, commitment, friendship. “We saw a gap in the way engagement ring companies were talking to their consumers,” says Nicholson, noting that Ceremony doesn’t use the term “engagement ring” at all in its verbiage. “There was such a shift in a modern relationship and no one was speaking to that.”
Launching May 10 at shop.ceremony.us, the collection includes 19 customizable styles made with ethically sourced stones, including diamonds that are either recycled or from traceable conflict-free Canadian diamonds, sapphires from two U.S.-based suppliers and emeralds from South America. Stone sizes range from .5 to 1.5 carats. Bands are made from solid 18-karat yellow, rose or white gold. The rings are handmade in Los Angeles, where Ceremony is based. Prices range from $500 to $17,000.
Révész, who designs the collection and her own separate line called J. Hannah (Nicholson manages Ceremony’s business side), described the collection’s aesthetic as vintage-inspired with very modern lines. “I don’t want someone to look back 10 years from now and be like, ‘Oh wow, that ring is so 2018,’” says Révész. “You’ll see a lot of rounded edges and more unisex styles in general, which I think is really cool. They’re not overly feminine or overly embellished in any way.”
Révész and Nicholson chose to go the direct-to-consumer route to maintain control and keep prices attainable, but they want to make clear Ceremony is a luxury player. “In general a lot of direct-to-consumer is really about, ‘Oh, we’re cutting out the middle man to get you the best possible price,’” says Révész. “For us, direct-to-consumer is just the default. It’s not like, ‘discount rings for you.’ What’s important to us is that they’re sustainable, they’re design forward, and then the overall ethos of the brand is really representing inclusivity.”