An online platform that aims to be what one of its founders calls a “360 home” for fine jewellery is due to launch in the US today.
The expansion of Finematter — a showcase for independent jewellers that is already available to customers in the UK and Europe — comes ahead of its planned rollout of technology that will enable jewellers to issue digital certificates with sales from their own sites, not just those made through Finematter.
Big brands increasingly are creating tamper-proof digital certificates on the blockchain to provide authentication for jewellery and transparency on production. Finematter hopes its hybrid-blockchain solution will be used more widely across the industry.
The start-up has been issuing digital certificates of provenance, detailing the maker, along with the origin of precious metals and stones, with pieces sold via the platform since July. It is working with five jewellers to test further integration of the technology with their sales systems ahead of allowing partner makers to use the certificates free of charge for sales through their own websites, later this financial quarter.
“As a small designer, I didn’t anticipate when I started my line eight years ago that I would be running into the amount of copyright infringement, trademark theft, and design theft that I have,” says Leigh Miller Newman, owner of Los-Angeles based Leigh Miller, which is part of the trial. “I love the idea of a digital certificate because it adds another layer of authenticity to the product that is challenging to offer otherwise.
“I don’t know that it’ll reduce [copies], but I do have hope that it would give customers that purchase through myself or through Finematter peace of mind that they do have an authentic piece.”
Caroline Chalmer, a former chief operating officer at Global Fashion Agenda, a Copenhagen-based non-profit organisation focused on sustainability in fashion, launched Finematter in late 2020 with co-founder Mie Ejdrup. Financial backers include angel investor Henrik Holmark, a former chief financial officer at Danish jewellery brand Pandora.
Finematter’s aim was to “take a tech approach to the jewellery industry” and establish a platform to connect independent jewellers directly with customers, says Chalmer, the company’s chief executive. The platform takes a commission on sales made through its website, although she declines to disclose the percentage.
The site launched with 20 jewellers and now showcases more than 100. Of these, 32 per cent are based in the US, 32 per cent in the UK, and the remainder elsewhere in Europe. However, until today’s expansion, only customers in the UK and Europe have been able to use the site.
“We have quite a few partners that are based in the US and we’ve seen how we’ve been able to help them generate sales and new connections in Europe,” says Chalmer. “We want to do the same the other way round and, of course, the US is one of the largest jewellery markets.
“We’ve been seeing a steady increase in our organic traffic [ie through search engines] from the US over the last few months [to about 20 per cent], despite not having launched there yet, so it’s already a significant share. That to us indicates a tremendous appetite.”
Finematter introduced replating, repairing, resizing and refreshing services in the UK at the start of last year in response to customer demand, with jobs allocated to participating partner jewellers. These services will also be offered in the US.
This side of the business accounts for only a small percentage of sales by value (the average spend on services is £60, compared with an approximate average order value of £700 for new jewellery) but it is 35 per cent of order volume. Finematter recycles unwanted jewellery in the UK.
There is an 800-strong waiting list to use the platform, according to Chalmer. Not all these jewellers will be allowed on to it; to date, about 20 per cent of applications processed have been accepted. Makers must meet selection criteria related to design, durability, value and sustainability. These include being a designer-led business and having supply chain transparency.
London-based ethical jeweller Pippa Small joined in June, giving her brand exposure in Scandinavia for the first time (as she had not had a wholesaler there). She was encouraged by the fact that Finematter is “pursuing this route of improving transparency”, takes care to explain jewellery terms to customers and has clear labelling about material sourcing.
She says that, whereas jewellery sold in department stores in the past was “separated from its story straightaway”, because salespeople did not know its history, having a certificate means this information will always “stick”.
It also reinforces the idea that jewellery’s value continues beyond its owner. “It is the way it was always throughout time thought about . . . [and] passed down the generations but, increasingly, it’s become trend-driven and something more temporary,” she says.
Chalmer agrees that, as well as helping jewellers “get new sales across the line”, digital certificates encourage longevity in jewellery, by making it easier for owners to insure, repair or resell pieces. She says a “smart contract” will be incorporated into the certificate before it is rolled out to jewellers so that, if a piece is later sold on the secondary market, a percentage of that sales fee, which she declines to disclose, kicks back to the original maker.
“We have ambitions for the industry to work in a more circular way and the certificate is really the main building block for that mission,” says Chalmer.