New York-based AUrate believes that fine jewellery can be both affordable and ethically sourced; that there’s no need “to choose between high quality, fair pricing and doing good.”
The startup’s jewellery items range from $50 to $3,000, with a focus on the “new market sweet spot” of $300 to $500. As AUrate sells jewellery direct to customers—without a middleman, wholesale or retail markups, or pricey ad campaigns — the startup mostly relies on word-of-mouth recommendations as their means of advertising.
AUrate’s “try on styling” Curate programme has proven to be quite popular with its US customers. After choosing between two different surveys, one with a few simple questions and another that’s more extensive to further elaborate on their style, a “personal stylist” will put together a set of five AUrate jewellery pieces to fit customers’ style, preferences and budget. Users can try the pieces for a week and send back the ones they don’t want.
Founders Sophie Kahn and Bouchra Ezzahraoui believe the jewellery industry “is full of smoke and mirrors.” As a result, they knew that there was a niche that had not yet been filled in the sector.
“The reason we started this is that we saw a gap in the market, in the fact that ourselves, being women around 30, were not happy with just costume jewelry anymore,” co-founder Sophie Kahn told Marie Claire magazine. “And when we wanted to get fine jewelry, we realized we were always overpaying. And that’s why we thought there should be a better solution out there. When we started analyzing, we saw that nobody carries jewelry in that middle segment.”
The duo met at Princeton while studying finance. Before founding AUrate, Sophie went into fashion as the director of Strategy at Marc Jacobs, while Bouchra became a trader with Goldman Sachs.
The company uses 100 percent recycled gold that from “verified conflict-free suppliers.” AUrate also tracks all its diamonds to ensure they come from verified ethical, environmentally-sound sources.
“We also insist that the mines we deal with have decent working conditions, offer fair pay, respect local indigenous communities and protect the environment,” as stated on the company’s website.
AUrate’s pearls are sustainably farmed and sensitively harvested to protect the biodiversity of the marine environments. The pearl farms that company uses are also family-run and provide job opportunities for their local communities.
“We’d never sell something that’s not 100 percent ethically sustainable,” Sophie told Marie Claire.
The company’s commitment to the environment is not the only way that AUrate tries to make the world a better place—for every piece of jewellery sold, AUrate donates a book to a child in need. Through its partnership with Mastery Charter, AUrate has given thousands of books to students and schools throughout New York City.
According to TechCrunch, the company’s online revenue has been increasing by 400 percent every year. Its two brick-and-mortar stores—with a third on the way in Washington, DC—are also successful. Furthermore, 40 percent of its customers return for additional purchases.