Byline: Peter Braunstein

NEW YORK — “For many centuries, the possession of gems and the wearing of jewels was the privilege of the rich and powerful. If you had to ask, as they say, you couldn’t afford it. With gems becoming so popular and real jewelry a fashion accessory to be indulged in, a dramatically democratic initiative is called for.”
With this proclamation resembling the text crawl that precedes each “Star Wars” episode, Gem.net, a content-commerce-community gem Web site, announced it went live online Jan. 15.
“We want Gem.net to be a gathering place for anyone who has a passion for gems, jewelry collectors, style aficionados and those who want to learn more about them,” said Klaus Hammer, chief executive officer of Gem.net. With an eye to becoming the first gem lovers’ watering hole on the Internet, Gem.net resembles Polo.com in its seamless melding of e-commerce, information and entertainment. Highlights of the Web site include lifestyle magazine-like features such as “A peek into the private jewelry boxes of today’s divas,” a paparazzi photo album by portrait photographer Christophe von Hohenburg and, most intriguingly, a weekly gem-power horoscope by astrologer Cheryl Lee Terry. The current Leo forecast, for instance, reads: “Wear amber for protection against the negativity of others and to project your own self-confidence.”
“Astrology is important because a gem is a mystical thing,” said Hammer. “There’s really no astrology site out there with this concept.” The Web site also includes a monthly gem style-advice column by fashion gadfly Lauren Ezersky.
On the e-commerce front, Gem.net’s strategy is gradualist. Currently, the e-store’s only product is an innovative, decorative Body Gem — topaz, amethyst, garnet and other stones that are mounted on adhesive and meant to be worn on the body, individually or in teardrop streams. The Body Gems will initially serve as the primary item for sale at Gem.net, but by summer, the Web site aims to offer a limited selection of high-quality jewelry, probably no more than 100 to 150 units at once. “Most sites are mercenary; they push thousands of products on consumers, just like low-end retailers do,” said Hammer. “By contrast, we will offer a smaller selection, with price points ranging from inexpensive to $1,000 items. We want to be a democratic luxury site.”
Gem.net, based in Horgen, Switzerland, about 250 miles outside of Zurich, is backed by the Signity Group, where Hammer concurrently serves as chief executive officer. Signity, a company specializing in natural and synthetic gemstones, with 16 international branch offices, represents a joint venture and merger of the Swarovski Group and the Golay-Buchel Group, each of which holds a 50 percent stake in Gem.net. Hammer told WWD that Signity’s initial financing of Gem.net is “beyond the $10 million range.”
To build cachet off-line, Gem.net is also launching a sleek Gem magazine, a gem-lover’s style, travel and shopping guide.

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