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Downtown Los Angeles-based sustainable jewelry brand Vrai & Oro is making a serious bid for Hollywood.
The direct-to-consumer line founded by Vanessa Stofenmacher in 2014 with 10 timeless pieces has been in rapid expansion mode since being acquired in November by San Francisco, Calif.-based Diamond Foundry. That Silicon Valley business, developed as a new outlet for solar technology and backed by actor-environmentalist Leonardo DiCaprio (who starred in Blood Diamond), Twitter co-founder Evan Williams and Russian fashion entrepreneur Miroslava Duma, among others, specializes in natural, jewelry-grade diamonds that are sustainably “grown” in a plasma reactor and guaranteed conflict-free.
The Vrai & Oro Wedding (VOW) line of 10 core styles — five wedding bands and five diamond engagement rings — launched in January, while July marked the debut of the 18-karat-gold-and-diamond Black Label collection, ranging from $2,080 to $8,460 (compared to the Essentials line pricing of $45 to $1,245). On Aug. 18, Vrai & Oro will open its first brick-and-mortar store at the Row DTLA shopping complex at 777 Alameda St. in downtown L.A.
Sustainability tends to be a Hollywood turn-on and the jewels are just starting to attract A-listers and stars. Actress Allison Williams personally ordered the Petite Black Diamond Band ring ($425), L.A. fashion designers Emily Current and Meritt Elliott of The Great each don a pair of Petite Diamond Band rings ($885 for two), and Diamond Foundry adviser Wendi Deng Murdoch wears the Trillion Diamond Necklace ($555).
“About a year ago, when I was searching for diamonds for the VOW collection and realized all of the ethical sourcing issues, I got in touch with Diamond Foundry and was blown away by what they are doing,” said the 30-year-old Stofenmacher, who also serves as Diamond Foundry’s creative director. “They start with a seed or sliver of an actual diamond — the first one they used was a mined diamond from Canada — and use solar energy similar to the sun in a plasma reactor to grow the diamond in two to three weeks, layer by layer, into a rough diamond that looks like a rock you would find outside. So they’ve just changed the environment in which the diamond grows, but each diamond has the same natural color variants and differences as a mined diamond. It’s not a perfect diamond that pops out of a machine.”
While the technology is constantly evolving, Diamond Foundry currently grows diamonds up to five carats ($100,000) with an average of one to two carats. For VOW engagement rings, customers can select a size from the ever-changing array of man-made diamonds on hand.
Up next? Styles for men. Stofenmacher hinted that she would love to collaborate with DiCaprio on a Vrai & Co. unisex jewelry line.
2:40 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 9: This post previously stated that Diamond Foundry was located in Santa Clara. It’s been updated to reflect that it’s based in San Francisco.
12:13 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 10. This post was updated to clarify the status of plans for the unisex jewelry line.
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