For years, the manual process of collaborating with clients and designing custom jewelry might as well have been set in stone. But Pietra, a start-up from ex-Uber and Moda Operandi veterans and funded by the likes of Will Smith, Robert Downey Jr. and others, wants to change all of that.
On Monday, the company launched a new rendering technology for hyper-realistic 3-D visuals with exclusive partner CVC Stones by Charlie De Viel Castel.
Fundamentally, the tool streamlines the typically labor-intensive and costly process of designing, crafting samples and selling fine custom jewelry. In video, the virtual 3-D representation of the design even turns and rotates to offer various views of the piece.
It seems like a simple concept, but its value is hard to overestimate. The process nixes sketches or cartoonish vector drawings — or worse, a verbal description leaving aesthetics to the imagination of the customer. Instead, clients get a much more precise idea of what their piece will look like.
Designers can also more easily render a virtual collection that plugs into their online stores. The options can feature the same design in rose gold, yellow gold and other variations, including different gemstones.
Relying on both automated steps and human intervention at various points, the platform works with CAD (computer-assisted design) software that jewelry designers already tend to use.
“For Charlie [De Viel Castel, founder of CVC Stones] and his interaction with the platform and the product, it’s so simple. ‘Let me just upload this CAD of this base model’,” Pietra founder and chief executive officer Ronak Trivedi explained. “This platform will then spit out all the different variants and 3-D renderings of this item. And then he can go and create one sample for size scaling…and sell an infinite number of permutations.”
For designers like De Viel Castel, the tool is invaluable for facilitating client-designer ideation.
“This technology and platform enables our customers to insert themselves in the creative process,” said De Viel Castel. “They get to make a unique piece to their exact liking. CVC Stones is about being unique and different, and we are happy for the customers to have an input on design, so we can make the perfect stone for them.”
The rendering tool is the latest step forward for Pietra, which has been on a whirlwind ride since the business was conceived last year. Its roots go back to Uber, specifically the ride-sharing company’s cafeteria where Trivedi — then an employee working on Uber Pool — and an engaged friend discussed the tricky search for a one-of-a-kind engagement ring.
Silicon Valley engineers and developers are often driven by the desire to solve problems, and the custom jewelry space, which hadn’t changed much in years, looked like it was ripe for innovation. Trivedi, who was looking for a new challenge, was keen to jump in.
“I wanted some time off, and the way I decompress is by building something,” he said. “…I saw this problem. And literally on a Friday, I talked about it. On a Sunday, I moved to New York and got an apartment. I was like, ‘I’m gonna start building an iOS app,’ just as a self-healing thing. And then it exploded.”
Pietra — Italian for “stone” — just raised its seed round in March. Its investor list looks like a veritable who’s who: Andreessen Horowitz, Green Bay Ventures, Third Kind Venture Capital, and Abstract Ventures, as well as Will Smith’s The Dreamers Fund, Robert Downey Jr. through Downey Ventures, Joan Smalls, Scooter Braun and Michael Ovitz.
Today, the company has 157 designers on the platform and 72 designers on the wait list. Pietra counts CVC Stones, Diane Kordas, Stephen Webster and Brent Neale as partners, among others.