Jewelry Adorns the Metaverse – The New York Times

Last Christmas Lorena Bello was at home filming a video for social media to promote a new pair of earrings she designed. “My mom was behind me just looking at my phone,” said Ms. Bello, a graphic and 3D designer from Viana do Bolo, Spain, in a recent video interview.

When Ms. Bello turned around, her mother asked, “When did you take off the earring?”

“No!” Ms. Bello remembered saying. “They aren’t real!” Using an augmented reality (AR) filter, she had “worn” a virtual pair of mismatched earrings, a triangular stud, and a long teardrop design — one of 300 NFTs, or non-fungible tokens, that she had created for Jevels, a digital, jewelry marketplace had been created.

Founded in March 2021 by Zuzana Bastian, it is one of several platforms and companies bringing jewelry to the emerging NFT space. Developed by the art world (remember Beeple and his $69.3 million March 2021 auction?), it was explored by the fashion world. British jeweler Asprey recently announced a partnership with Bugatti to unveil its first NFTs, with plans for customers to commission sculptures and one-offs “fused with NFT technology,” according to a press release.

During the pandemic, Ms Bastian, 33, who lives in Vienna and is a trained pharmacist, thought “there must be another way” to dress and be stylish during the hour-long Zoom meetings every day. After discovering digital fashion in 2020, she started talking to designers and thinking about the possibilities of blockchain, the metaverse and the benefits it could offer. She said she’s started working on “the concept of a platform or marketplace where you can find virtual jewelry and fashion accessories that can be worn in AR, mixed reality and virtual space.”

Jevels (the “v” stands for “virtual”) debuted three designs on October 18: a mask, a pearl necklace and a pair of earrings. It was self-financed and managed by Ms. Bastian while her sister works as a management consultant. Now it features the work of nine designers and a total of 21 pieces: a mix of digital and phygital, meaning the piece exists in real life as well as digitally. Prices range from $10, including Ms. Bello’s work, to $495, and purchases can be made using traditional methods (credit card or PayPal) or select cryptocurrencies.

The designs are limited edition and upon purchase, owners will receive digital images of their pieces, the format required to share 3D data, and a link to a filter on Snapchat to allow them to “wear” their newly purchased accessories. Ms. Bastian said that augmented reality works well with Snapchat, but the process is also compatible with programs like Zoom, Google Meet, and others.

There’s also “The Metaverse Starter Set for Style Lovers” for $398, which comes with detailed instructions on how to claim and use virtual jewelry, as well as what the brand calls its “physical twins,” pieces worn in real life can be delivered.

“For our customers,” Ms. Bastian said, “they often buy the first NFTs because they see the ease of use.”

In a recent Zoom interview, she alternated between eight designs: five pairs of earrings, a necklace, a mask, and a headpiece. Some of them glowed and others changed color, all moved like them and looked surprisingly realistic. She said the designs are made for “the people who spend their time on Zoom and want to wear something special.”

Flavia Bon is a Jevels customer. “I just loved the idea,” she said. “I thought, OK, I mean, we talk about utility all the time when it comes to NFTs, and then she comes up with it. OK, we make jewelry to wear in everyday life and on Zoom calls. I was like, ‘Okay, now let’s talk.’” She noted the release date and when the first drop appeared, she bought the Crystalline Circuit Pendant Earrings from Alterrage, a digital and physical fashion brand.

Ms Bon, 37, a freelance design developer based in the Netherlands, has been interested and active in the crypto space for some time, excited by the opportunities she saw within it. She followed Alterrage when she heard about Jevels and now owns more than 200 NFTs, a combination of fashion and art.

In the real world, she said, her style is very minimal, but now “I can awaken my inner fashionista” — with different styles for different meetings.

With NFTs, there is often speculation as to whether the value of the creations could increase in the resale market. Ms Bon said she thinks Jevels is too new to his designs to have that kind of appeal. Also, when you buy an NFT, you “get stuck with it,” she said. “Our brain perceives it as an object that we own and we associate with it.”

Jackson Bridges, 21, a college student in Alabama, is also a Jevels customer. Late last year he started thinking about NFTs and jewelry. “I was like, ‘I wonder if anyone has done this before?'” he said — and then found Jevels on Instagram.

The first piece he bought (he can’t remember the exact price, but estimates it cost “about $50”) was a pair of Alterrage Crystalline Circuit Pendant Earrings: “I think it’s so cool what you can do with it and express yourself in a whole new medium.”

Mr Bridges said the appeal is to wear the pieces via augmented reality or on avatars. “I’m not really interested in making a profit from it,” he said. “I buy for me and what I like and what I want to wear.” While studying finance in college, he is also a consultant and plans to pursue a career in NFTs.

For Jacob Bamdas, 22, who said he has been in the crypto space since 2017, a personal interest in jewelry coupled with his desire to bring something of real value to the NFT space spawned Chains, which has a website and operates an Instagram feed.

The company debuted 10,000 NFT chains in January, designed by Michael Gauthier of blockchain jewelry brand Cryptojeweler, which appear very realistic and, Mr. Bamdas said, could be 3D printed. Each is sold for 0.1 Ether (about $300 on Tuesday).

Customers are also offered hospitality and concierge perks, such as discounts, exclusive access and travel, depending on their chain ownership. “I was like, ‘Hey, how can you really sell these things and expect people to invest in your product, invest in your artwork, without offering that real value proposition?'” said Mr. Bamdas.

A 24-year-old Chains customer in Los Angeles said he doesn’t buy expensive jewelry in the physical world, but bought 10 chains in a week and thought he spent more than the equivalent of $2,000.

While chains might be the equivalent of fine jewelry in the virtual world, Icecap, a diamond NFT marketplace founded by Jacques Voorhees in 2020, is more of an upscale jewelry category.

He said he founded the company — backed by his son Erik, an entrepreneur who was a Bitcoin proponent — to solve what he described as a decades-old problem: that diamonds were “a valid choice for hard asset diversification for Hard asset investors should be.”

“If you’re trying to go upstream – if you’re taking a diamond, you as a consumer, and trying to sell it back to industry, it’s a nightmare,” said Mr Voorhees, 70. “It’s extremely problematic. Where are you going? A pawn shop?” He said a diamond could lose about half its value “in the round-trip journey between buying, holding and selling, regardless of the value of the underlying asset.”

Icecap buys newly cut diamonds from manufacturers, stores them in an insured vault and makes them available for sale as NFTs, with prices in ether reaching a 10 percent margin. “So it creates a level of security, a level of authentication,” Mr Voorhees said, “that makes it easy for buyers and sellers to trade that back and forth.

“Just like in the gold industry, if you put your gold in a vault, you don’t want to be carrying your gold around,” he added. “You put it in a vault, you take a warehouse receipt, and then that warehouse receipt itself becomes a trading instrument that you can buy and sell with others — everyone knows the gold is safe and happy in a vault somewhere.”

An investor can keep the NFT to trade or redeem it for the actual diamond.

Prices range from $3,000 to $250,000. “We’re not saying you have to spend $100,000,” Mr. Voorhees said, but he noted that most of his clients are interested in investing.

In the first quarter, Mr. Voorhees said, Icecap had sales of $2,000; in the second $39,000; the third $186,000 and the fourth $935,000. For the first quarter of 2022, he said it’s on track to hit $3 million.

And Icecap plans to expand. Recently, Mr. Voorhees announced a partnership with the Miss Universe pageant organization and Mouawad, the Swiss-Emirati jewelry and watch brand that created the Power of Unity crown of choice.

Set with 1,725 ​​white diamonds and three gold canary-colored diamonds, the crown is being offered as an NFT with fractional ownership – allowing a range of buyers to be partial owners of sparkling gems.

Comments are closed.