Online Retail Business of the Week: Gemvara


In a very short time, online sales have become a staple of the jewelry business.  Many of the options out there are brick-and-mortar jewelers who’ve expanded to the Web: Ross Simons, Zales, Blue Nile, and Tiffany & Co. to name a few. What’s rare, however, are fine jewelers developed specifically with online in mind.

Gemvara (the name is derived from “vara,” which is Sanskrit for “wish”) differs from its brethren in a few key ways. First, it sells only fine jewelry. Second, it has a unique platform that was designed for the Web –  users create their own customized high-end bijoux online, with the help of accessible customer service.

Gemvara pieces can be an investment (prices range up to the six figures) but the site works hard to make sure the buying experience isn’t nerve-wracking. Specifically, they look to offer Zappos-style customer service that goes above and beyond the usual experience.

Matt Lauzon, Gemvara’s 26-year-old CEO, was quoted by Mashable as saying: “What’s amazing is the number of interactions [our customer care representatives] have after a purchase.  It has nothing to do with the product; customers are just checking in because a friendship has been built with the customer care rep.”  The popular reps are nearly always available via phone, email, and live chat.

Just a few of Gemvara’s featured service representatives.

The site offers 1,500 different designs, which customers can customize with 26 types of gemstones and eight precious metals.  (Adjusting the gem size is possible some of the time.)  The jewelry itself hits every high note, politics-wise: it’s made in the U.S., by hand, from conflict-free gems and recycled or responsibly-mined precious metals. The site also features an education section that offers information like birthstones alongside more serious topics like gem care, quality, and tone.

The easy customization plus great customer service has so far been a recipe for success.  While an internal survey found that around 45% of Gemvara’s customers are first-time online jewelry buyers, the site’s average sale is about $1,000 — a high number for any site. At the moment, Gemvara has 40 staff members, and is based in Lexington, MA — though it’s sure to grow after receiving $15 million in Series C funding from Balderton Capital.  With the new cash, the company plans to expand its catalog and online shopping experience, open a second office (in New York, of course), and double the staff.  And if you’re not already intrigued, we’d like to point out that the Series C investment follows an initial $10.5 million that Lauzon secured before even graduating from college.