Soha Diamond Co. flips script on retail jewelry
New Madison startup takes shopping for diamond and gemstone jewelry in another direction by going completely online and lab-grown.
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Just because they say diamonds are forever, doesn’t mean the old way of selling jewelry can’t change with the times.
If we can shop for clothes, cars, and even houses from our smartphones, reasons Soha Javaherian, why not diamonds, as well?
That’s the thinking behind Soha Diamond Co., a Madison-based startup launched in September 2017 and co-founded by Javaherian and his wife, Aubree.
Selling jewelry isn’t a stretch for Javaherian, a 10th generation jeweler, but the method by which he’s doing it might make his ancestors’ heads spin. In an industry built on showrooms lined with glass cases, and hell-bent on selling primarily “natural” diamonds, Javaherian is taking an entirely different approach. Soha Diamond Co. operates almost entirely online without a storefront. And it’s jewelry? All lab-grown diamonds and gems and 100% recycled precious metals.
Javaherian acknowledges the risk in veering in the opposite direction from traditional jewelers, but says it makes perfect sense given the huge customer base of millennials and the younger generations that are completely at home with shopping online, not to mention the increased awareness and concern about purchasing conflict-free diamonds and gemstones.
It’s in the blood
Jewelry runs deep in Javaherian’s family. His last name literally translates from Farsi to “Family of Jewelers.”
Growing up seeing family members in the jewelry business, Javaherian always wanted to be a diamond dealer. After graduating from UW–Madison in 2010, Javaherian received a scholarship to attend the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) in Carlsbad, Calif., where he pursued courses to become a graduate gemologist and accredited jewelry professional.
After graduation, he started a position at Tiffany & Co. in southern California and learned about the jewelry retail environment. Then, wanting to pursue a more technical role within gemology, he took a position at the GIA laboratories as a diamond grader.
“The experience in these roles helped form a thorough gem and jewelry industry experience,” explains Javaherian. “Soha Diamond Co. takes bits and pieces of everything I’ve been exposed to and sheds light on a unique perspective of an age-old industry.”
While Aubree — who also owns and operates Frills & Finery Photobooth Co. — heads up marketing, social media, and web development for Soha Diamond Co., Javaherian is the guy behind the gemstones.
His parents immigrated to the United States in the early 1980s from Iran. Javaherian was the first member of his family born in the U.S., which also meant that his jewelry lineage immediately became far removed from his grandfather and other family members — eighth and ninth generation jewelers — who remained in Iran.
“However, throughout my life I was able to visit my grandfather’s store, where I would spend time behind the scenes and absorb an age-old trade in one of the largest cities in the world,” notes Javaherian. “This inspired me to consider jewelry as a career path”
Javaherian says the gemstone and jewelry industry is slow moving, and one that hasn’t experienced much change for centuries. One of the biggest changes has been in the past 15 years, as consumers have become increasingly aware of a mined diamond’s origin — specifically the human and environmental toll that it brings.
This has led consumers to seek out “conflict-free” gemstones.
“We take ‘conflict-free’ one step further,” explains Javaherian, “because the only way you can have a truly conflict-free diamond is to have one that is grown by man in a safe and controlled environment, where no human or environmental conflict was created.”
One thing people may not realize, notes Javaherian, is that lab-grown diamonds have been produced since the 1950s, when GE first pioneered the method and technology to produce industrial-quality diamonds used for manufacturing purposes. Only more recently have they attained gem quality, available to consumers to be used in fine jewelry.
There is certainly a growing interest in lab-grown diamonds, says Javaherian, but it is still something that has misconceptions, mainly due to the lack of education around them.
“The traditional brick and mortar stores sell mostly mined diamonds, and some are very clear about never selling lab-grown,” Javaherian states. “The largest fear in the jewelry industry is non-disclosure, in terms of selling lab-grown diamonds. Since they are nearly impossible to separate, there is a fear with jewelers that lab-grown might get mixed with mined diamond inventory. This is where some jewelers make a key decision to either never carry, or carry a limited selection of lab-grown diamonds.
“However, the lab-grown industry and community is very up front and clear about disclosure and makes it a priority to inform the consumer and empower them to make a decision based on facts,” Javaherian continues.
To that end, Soha Diamond Co. is a member of the International Grown Diamond Association (IGDA), which mandates strict adherence to proper disclosure.
“I was attracted to lab-grown diamonds because they had a lot of common misconceptions, and after doing research it seemed like there were few viable options when it came to purchasing them,” says Javaherian. “I was first intrigued in the classroom by what I was learning about lab-grown diamonds. When I went to my peers to share my enthusiasm, I was surprised that they didn’t feel the same way, and this is where I found I was in the minority when it came to lab-grown diamonds. The decision to exclusively offer lab-grown diamonds wasn’t easy, but to me it was clear what I needed to do.”