The Right Cut: Lab Diamonds Brand Kimai Open First Store on Chiltern Street

LONDON Lab-grown diamond brand Kimai has just celebrated its fourth anniversary and it’s celebrating the moment by opening its first store in London, on the affluent Chiltern Street.

The opening means that Kimai is now neighbors with Andre Balazs’ luxury hotel and restaurant, Chiltern Firehouse, and fashion label Casely-Hayford.

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“For the past two years, we’ve wanted to get more into retail because as a digital brand, retail was a thing of the past, but we sell high-end fine jewelry and engagement rings, we do a lot of consultations online and videos calls with customers to really understand and guide them through their purchase, so it made sense for us to have a physical presence,” said Jessica Warch, cofounder of the brand with Sidney Neuhaus.

The permanent residency will be open seven days a week and the duo are looking to bring more life to the store by way of piercing parties, engraving and embroidery, private events and one-to-one consultations in the store’s back room.

Kimai
Inside Kimai’s first store in London.

“Fine jewelry online is still a new purchase and a lot of people are uncomfortable making it online, so we’re missing out on that customer base,” Warch said.

The brand gained wide public recognition in 2019 when Meghan Markle, Duchess of Sussex wore the Felicity earrings, a diamond-encrusted curved bar that sits horizontally across the lobe of the ear.

“It completely skyrocketed the brand in the early days because press really picked it up and lab-diamond were new and we were new, so it enabled us to educate the customer for more than just a second on Instagram and to build on that trust and credibility,” Warch said of the success of Kimai by having that royal association early on.

The brand is constantly communicating with customers via social media channels and video calls, which has accelerated the purchasing volumes of engagement rings and led to an organic increase in direct-to-consumer sales online.

Men’s jewelry sales have been growing, and Kimai is expanding more in that category in 2023.

The brand first launched with men’s bracelets in discreet styles that feature gold connected links held together by recycled and fully traceable plastic cords, with prices starting at 445 pounds.

Warch and Neuhaus have been focusing on developing their fine jewelry and engagement ring categories before jumping into anything else.
Warch and Neuhaus have been focusing on developing their fine jewelry and engagement ring categories before jumping into anything else.

“There’s a lack of jewelry for men out there, it’s either super expensive or super cheap,” Neuhaus said.

Warch and Neuhaus had been focusing on developing their fine jewelry and engagement ring categories before jumping into anything else.

A big challenge for the pair has been carving out a space in the diamond industry, even though they both come from diamond-trading families.

“The diamond industry has a lot of power and they control everything around the market, from marketing, communication to pricing,” said Warch, explaining that in the early days they found it difficult to gain press because many glossy magazines have traditionally aligned themselves with diamond brands where the stones are mined.

“The industry has always been talking to men, while women are the end customers to a certain extent,” Warch added.

In 2019, Kimai brought on investors to lead its next stage of growth, and completed a seed investment round of 1.2 million dollars.

The round was led by Talis Capital, whose portfolio also includes the chat-based commerce platform Threads, as well as a number of high-profile investors including designer Rebecca Minkoff, head of the Facebook app Fidji Simo, Cartier France’s former managing director Coralie De Fontenay, and billionaire businessman Xavier Niel.

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