Authenticated luxury consignment Web site The Real Real has opened its second fine jewelry and watch valuation office in Los Angeles. The concept, which was successfully tested in Manhattan last year, had a material impact on The Real Real’s business, said Mike Groffenberger, senior director of fine jewelry and watches.
“Last year was a great year, particularly for fine jewelry and watches,” Groffenberger said. “It was our fastest-growing category. The growth was driven by the concept we unveiled in New York.”
The 2,500-square-foot office in Century City looks like the lobby of a boutique hotel, replete with antique Oriental carpets, contemporary leather sofas and chairs, photographs and sculptures.
“We’re defining and refining what our retail concept is,” Groffenberger said. “It’s a luxury experience that’s comfortable for the caliber of people using the setting. Now that we know [the offices] are successful, we’ll use L.A. as the model for branding the design concept.”
The Real Real plans to open valuation offices in Chicago and San Francisco in the first half of this year. “We’re looking into other markets,” Groffenberger said. “We’re interested in any densely populated city where we have a large number of consigners. We’ll eventually bring the new iteration of the concept back to New York.”
At the valuation offices, female gemologists wear quilted, white lab coats and Manolo Blahnik shoes, a twist on the popular perception of jewelry appraisers as geeky men.
“We want people to understand that being a gemologist is a science, it’s a subset of geology,” Groffenberger said. “By giving them a lab coat like scientist, we’re showcasing the knowledge and process that goes into the scientific discovery of the value of a gem.”
The Real Real’s “priority is to maximize the value of a person’s items and honestly share with them what they’re worth,” he said. That often requires research, especially when dealing with unbranded jewelry. Groffenberger cited the example of a 3.3-carate ruby that “had every indication of coming from Burma, making it one of the rarest gems in the world. It had no certificate, so we paid to have it certified by a color gemologist. It turned out to indeed be a Burmese ruby, and was valued at $29,000.”
While the top-selling brands on The Real Real include Cartier, Van Cleef & Arpels and Rolex, Groffenberger said that unbranded jewelry, such as a diamond tennis bracelet from a local brick-and-mortar jeweler, “can be just as expensive or more expensive than Cartier, etc. No other e-commerce site is set up to handle unbranded jewelry.”
Groffenberger said the New York and L.A. offices are extensions of The Real Real’s emphasis on service with its free, white-glove in-home pickup for fashion available in more than 20 cities.
“We’re an e-commerce site with an element of high touch,” he added. “The fine jewelry and watch valuation office is providing a needed service. From a luxury standpoint, we realized that for jewelry and watches, we needed to go one step further. People want to have a one-to-one experience. We provide transparency and value.”