Online jewelry retailer Gemist announced it's received financial backing from De Beers Group Ventures, among other firms, to grow its "try-and-buy" model, which allows customers to design and test out pieces from home.
Founded in 2019 by CEO Madeline Fraser, the L.A.-based startup allows shoppers to customize rings and earrings on the website and wear them for up to two weeks before deciding to keep, tweak or send back their creations.
The recent seven-figure raise comes from both venture funds and strategic corporate partners like De Beers, a diamond company that shares Gemist's commitment to sustainability and ethically-sourced diamonds, Fraser said.
"We look at this as a corporate investment but really a partnership," she said. "We're going to be working together in more ways than just an investor-founder relationship as we grow."
Fraser got the idea for Gemist after designing her own engagement ring in 2018. At the time, jewelry seemed to her like one of the few industries that hadn't yet embraced customization options for online shoppers.
While the startup launched for bridal consumers, Fraser quickly realized the demand was broader. She introduced casual rings and earrings, and hinted to dot.LA that necklaces might be next.
The 29-year-old founder says her company will focus on scaling its digital platform and expanding the at-home try-on program. As COVID changes in-person shopping, Fraser hopes to bring customers a memorable retail experience from home. Retail isn't dead, she says. It just needs some reinvigorating.
"We're actually bringing the retail store to the consumer," Fraser said. "That's something I assume a ton of in-person retailers wish that they could do."
Since March, Gemist says they've seen an 80% jump in customers trying out their try-on plan.
"Retail isn't going to stay the same," Fraser said. "It's going to innovate, it's going to change. And that, I think, requires intimate connection with consumers — something people will actually come out of the house for."
With this deal, De Beers Group Executive Vice-President of Consumer and Brands Stephen Lussier will join the Gemist board.