June 13, 2022
Creating a unique piece of jewelry for an anniversary or a milestone is a lovely idea—but traditionally, ordering custom rings or necklaces has been expensive and exclusive.
A new startup called Silent Opus wants to modernize the process by letting you choose the metal, type, and cut of the gemstone, and personalize the engravings, charms, and even the packaging. While there are more than 50,000 customization options, Silent Opus has created a platform that makes the design process feel intuitive rather than overwhelming.
Silent Opus is the brainchild of Vanessa Stofenmacher who, in 2014, founded the direct-to-consumer jewelry brand Vrai, which focused on price transparency. She famously launched that business with only $8,000 and managed to generate millions in annual sales before being acquired in 2017 by the lab-grown diamond company Diamond Foundry.
Over the past eight years, many direct-to-consumer fine jewelry brands have popped up, including Aurate and Mejuri. But Stofenmacher thought there was plenty of room left to innovate. “People have always bought jewelry to celebrate important moments in life beyond just an engagement or wedding ring,” she says. “These pieces are meant to tell a story. But creating custom pieces seemed unnecessarily complicated and expensive.”
Stofenmacher was inspired by her mother, who created a custom ring when each of her three daughters was born, and wore them stacked on top of one another. She eventually passed them to each daughter on her wedding day. When Stofenmacher gave birth to her own baby girl, she wanted to continue this tradition. “My mother [had gone] to our local jeweler and worked with him to create pieces with the gemstones she wanted,” she says. “I realized that nothing had really changed over the decades. I would also have to search for a small jeweler and see if they could create something from scratch.”
Stofenmacher hired a team of 10 developers in Ukraine who built the customization platform. (The war disrupted their work, but Stofenmacher says the team wanted to stay on the project and she’s committed to keeping them employed.) The interface is designed to be as simple as possible. Users can pick from a selection of minimalist jewelry—like simple rings and bracelets set with gemstones—then customize the metals and stones. Prices range from $375 to $3,200, which is cheaper than most custom jewelers.
I tried my hand at designing the Duo Ring, which is based on the rings that Stofenmacher’s mother designed for each daughter. It’s a thin band that features two different types of stones. I interspersed diamonds with rubies, and then sapphires; I played around with the cut of the stones, sampling squares and ovals. Each change totally transformed the look of the ring. By the end, I found a design that really reflected my personal aesthetic.
Silent Opus partners with a family-owned jewelry maker in India to manufacture the products. A digital file of the customer’s design is sent to their studio, and an expert jeweler casts the piece in gold, adds the stones, and uses a laser machine to engrave it. The pieces are then shipped to New York, before getting sent to the customer, a process that takes less than two weeks. Traditionally, making jewelry is a fragmented process that involves sourcing stones from vendors and working with separate craftspeople who do the casting and stone setting. By doing it all under one roof, Stofenmacher says Silent Opus is able to sell the pieces more affordably and with a quicker turnaround time.