Paragon Lake, Out to Ring in a New Era of Jewelry Customization, Changes Name to Gemvara and Shifts Focus to the Web

2/12/10Follow @xconomy

Paragon Lake, a jewelry virtualization and customization company, is looking to add a new layer of sparkle to its business. It’s renaming itself Gemvara and revamping its business model to to focus on allowing customers to personalize jewelry pieces directly from their own computers and not from computer stations inside retail stores as it had done originally.

The new Gemvara website (set to launch later today) looks to enhance the company’s “the-world-is-your-oyster” approach to jewelry design and customization. Customers will be able to browse designs from roughly 30 designers worldwide, and personalize their selections on the spot by swapping out a different gemstone or changing the metal.

“The focus for us is really about providing a consumer experience where shoppers have fun and get exactly what they want,” says Matt Lauzon, founder and president, who helps CEO Deborah Besemer run the company out of incubator space at Lexington, MA’s Highland Capital Partners.

Paragon Lake’s previous model hinged on the Virtual Display Case, an interface installed on computers in jewelry stores that allows customers to browse and customize inventory from different designers. They would then order their selection through the retailer, and Paragon Lake would take a cut. The company’s virtual display cases, launched with the first retail partner last March, were intended to lessen the physical inventory burden on jewelry stores and also allowed retailers to feature up-and-coming designers more prominently. The company had hoped to get its system into 50 retailers by the end of 2009, a target it hit by fall, Lauzon says. Now about 45 stores still have the computerized display cases, as some of the retailer partners are looking to adopt the online model that Gemvara will offer, he explained.

The new model pursued by Gemvara, a name that combines “gem” with the Sanskrit word for wish, furthers the customization concept, and adds a greater bit of convenience. Customers can do all their shopping and modifications directly on the Gemvara website. “It allows us to speak directly with the consumer,” Lauzon says.

Customers looking for advice as they’re about to personalize a certain piece of jewelry can contact Gemvara’s version of personal shoppers for feedback on their customization ideas. Initially this will be done on the phone, but future plans are to offer chat windows, and bring licensed gemologists into the mix to offer their perspectives. In the coming months, Gemvara plans to enlist more designers to showcase on the website, and even connect those designers with customers in the same way it seeks to connect them with the personal shoppers, Lauzon says.

Reflecting its enhanced focus on customer service, direct retail sales, and the Web, Gemvara has hired heads of merchandising, product management, and online marketing, bringing the office staff to just over 20. When Bob spoke with Lauzon and Besemer in May, they had already been planning to eventually shift the business model to Internet-based customizations for jewelry shoppers (what Besemer referred to as the Web 2.0 of online jewelry shopping), but they’ve actually done it sooner than their original target (which at that time was Mother’s Day of this year). The new site will also feature more affordable pieces than Paragon Lake’s store-based virtual display cases did. Jewelry in the previous model usually ran upwards of $1,000, but Gemvara will feature some designs as low as $250, Lauzon says.

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