By Michelle Graff

Last week, I went to see the stage version of “Pee Wee’s Playhouse,” the 1980s TV series that was a mainstay at my house on Saturday mornings. For those that missed it, either voluntarily or otherwise, each episode of the show featured a “Secret Word,” and viewers were asked to “scream real loud” every time one of the show’s characters uttered it (not my mother’s favorite aspect of the show). The “Secret Word” last Thursday was...“fun.”

Ahh, yes, fun, that thing that jewelry shopping is constantly criticized for not being. In a jewelry store, the merchandise is locked up under glass (for good reason), preventing customers from “playing” with the pieces while the stores themselves are often maligned for being stuffy and intimidating.

This criticism is one I’ve heard time and again over the years and it’s not one with which I necessarily disagree. But in the interest of giving credit where it is most definitely due, I have to point out a few examples of industry players that seem to be having some fun these days.

In the spirit of my still-lingering love for the Playhouse, feel free to scream real loud at every “fun” in this blog. I don’t mind.
Earlier this fall, I had the pleasure of sitting down with California designer Lori Bonn and a few members of her staff to build my very own Bon Bonns bracelet. These Bon Bonns are not of the edible “she-sat-around-eating-them-all-day-while-her-husband-was-at-work” variety. Rather, they are Lori’s clever take on the interchangeable bead craze. A person, such as myself, comes in to a retail store, chooses the beads they like and builds a bracelet that is entirely reflective of their personality and tastes, such as this one below.

Lori Bonn 1

After the bracelet is constructed, the wearer has the ability to move their beads around, take some off or add new ones into the mix. And retailers can feel free to put Lori’s clever display on top of the counter and let the customer play. Yes, I know this is not revolutionary—these types of bracelets have been around for a while—but that didn’t stop my Bon Bonn bracelet-building experience from being any less enjoyable.

More recently, National Jeweler did a story on jewelry design and manufacturing house Tacori holding a virtual “try-it-on” event for its 18k925 Collection at Bloomingdale’s. Using technology from London-based Holition, shoppers were able to virtually put on a piece of Tacori jewelry to get an idea of Tacori try it on how it would look on them. There was no having to ask someone to take it out of the case and, thus, no feeling bad on the customers’ part if they tried on 20 rings and didn’t buy a single one. On the employees’ side, there was no need to hawk-eye customers while they played around with the jewelry. 

Tacori isn’t the first to use virtual try-it-on technology—Macy’s launched a  “Magic Fitting Room” earlier in the fall—but I was so happy to hear of someone in the jewelry industry taking the shopping experience to the next level. I think virtual experiences are going to be part of the retail landscape going forward. It’s nice to see an industry player out ahead of the pack, instead of lagging 10 years behind.

So will independent retailers that carry Tacori get a chance to see virtual reality at work in their store? Tacori spokeswoman Michelle Adorjan said, “Yes, we would hope to make this installation into a traveling experience. Ideally it would be for future rollouts with more Bloomingdale’s stores, as well as bringing this to our independent retailers to help them with innovative ways to interact with potential customers in their markets.”

Virtual try-it-on technology is a now a permanent part of Tacori’s Web site; you can “try” on some pieces from the 18k925 Collection yourself by clicking here. (Webcam required.) While the virtual experience is currently just limited to this one collection, Tacori plans to add the option of virtually trying on bridal very soon, which will have “lots of legs and potential applications for Tacori and our retailer partners,” Adorjan notes.

How fun.

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Since 1906, National Jeweler has been the must-read news source for smart jewelry professionals--jewelry retailers, designers, buyers, manufacturers, and suppliers. From market analysis to emerging jewelry trends, we cover the important industry topics vital to the everyday success of jewelry professionals worldwide. National Jeweler delivers the most urgent jewelry news necessary for running your day-to-day jewelry business here, and via our daily e-newsletter, website and other specialty publications, such as "The State of the Majors." National Jeweler is published by Jewelers of America, the leading nonprofit jewelry association in the United States.