Sustainably grown, zero emissions diamond source VRAI recently opened its first California brick-and-mortar space on Los Angeles’ Melrose Place. Focused on reflecting the responsible mission represented by its diamond sourcing, VRAI sought a boutique design that evokes luxury yet also remains ecologically sound.
“We took inspiration from the minimalistic art galleries of the 1960s,” said Camilla Vendrame Tognetti, Store Manager of VRAI’s Melrose space. “Everything revolves around zero emissions and carbon-net zero. We wanted to create a showroom that was beautiful but had that minimalistic feel. Everything has a purpose but we are not really extending the use of our resources too much.”
Rather than the typical jewelry store layout with store associates behind locked cases, the 700-square-foot space features a gallery-style exhibition of sparkling designs encased in custom wood-framed, blackened-steel backed wall boxes with art-grade non-glare glass. Inspiration for these unique displays was taken from the 1970s work of artist Donald Judd.
This minimalistic gallery-style approach to jewelry-store design, creating an atmosphere of ‘California cool,’ was the work of Cass Calder Smith Architecture + Interiors, the firm sought after by companies such as Tesla and relied upon by Hollywood’s affluent.
“We wanted to have something very connected to our brand but connected with that feel of being in Los Angeles and California,” said Vendrame Tognetti.
All the materials used, including the American walnut, porcelain tile floors and high-recycled content steel, were recycled, or the company purchased carbon credits to offset their impact. A custom geometric-shaped lighting fixture hangs above a center table and a mirror placed above the light provides reflection and opens up the space. VRAI’s signature candles, which will eventually be available to clients, soften the atmosphere. The store’s lighting design was created by Theia Lighting Design and Kathryn Toth Interior.
Though all the pieces displayed within the shop, such as a $20,000 4.5-carat solitaire cross pendant blessed by Pope Francis and cut from a single 30-carat diamond, are available for purchase, much of VRAI’s business consists of custom work such as engagement and wedding rings. Within the space, iPads are mounted to the wall to afford customers access to all of VRAI’s jewelry design capabilities.
“The idea of iPads is that whenever you’re browsing, you come here and you have every single collection,” said Vendrame Tognetti. “You can browse and almost shop online but within the showroom and have the diamond expert’s suggestions as well. You have all pricing, everything. It’s an art installation that is slightly more inviting and interactive with visitors.”
VRAI plans to add a Diamond Bar feature that will replace the center table as a display for loose diamonds of varying shapes and carat weights. VRAI’s second California location is located on San Francisco’s Hayes Street. Other VRAI locations can be found in Beijing; Shanghai; Xi’an, China; and Chongqing, China.