There was a time, not too long ago, when common wisdom among fine jewellers was that no customer in their right mind would drop thousands of pounds on a piece that they hadn't seen in person. E-commerce was for demi-fine jewellery at best – after all, isn’t part of the joy of buying a truly dazzling piece of jewellery the five-star retail experience?
Well, it would seem not. Just as Net-A-Porter upended the high fashion market when it launched in 2000, so a new wave of online platforms are changing the way we think about – and shop for – fine jewellery. The key to their success? Promising consumers confidence in high-value online purchases while offering a range and breadth of brands, style and stones physical stores could never hope to rival.
And while the trend was already emerging pre-pandemic, with online department stores such as Net-A-Porter and Matches Fashion having offered a selection of fine jewellery for some years, digital jewellery purchases have been accelerated by the pandemic. Even heritage sellers such as Christie’s have seen burgeoning interest, with visitors to its online jewellery auctions up 70 per cent between 2019 and 2020, with one particularly incredible diamond selling for a staggering $2.1 million in June last year. By anyone’s measure, that’s a lot of money to spend on a stone you’ve never seen.
So, if you're on the hunt for something sybaritic and sparkly ahead of the UK's forthcoming reopening, where should you be heading? Read on for our guide to the best online fine jewellery platforms bringing the world’s most beautiful jewels to your home.
Helmed by jewellery industry veterans Vivienne Becker and Joanna Hardy, Omnēque launched earlier this year to capitalise not only on the growth in online jewellery sales but also increased demand for vintage and pre-loved fine jewellery. Working on a system of curated ‘drops’, in which carefully chosen pieces sourced around a specific theme are added to the site every two weeks, Omnēque’s extensive range includes designs by the likes of Cartier, Boucheron, Van Cleef & Arpels and Fabergé.
The site also offers a concierge service which can help source a specific vintage piece, remodel existing jewellery, advise on buying at auction and even oversee the creation of bespoke commissions. In March 2021, Omnēque also launched The Stone Bar, offering customers the opportunity to purchase loose stones carefully vetted by a fellow of the Gemmological Association of Great Britain.
The brainchild of artist and designer Bibi Van Der Velden, Auverture is the destination of choice for those who regard jewellery not merely as aesthetic adornment, but as tiny works of art in their own right. Created with an anti-mass-production and anti-plagiarism ethos, Auverture’s brands are painstakingly selected for their commitment to putting artistry above commerce, with the aim being to provide a platform to nurture designers with a distinctive style, spirit and story.
The result is an eclectic mix in which new discoveries, such as Marie Mas’ playful, dynamic earrings and Elé Karela’s colourful geometric pendants, sit alongside pieces from more established names, including Pippa Small, Noor Fares, Delfina Delettrez and Carolina Bucci.
Once launched in November 2020 with an edit of 30 fine jewellery designers, including Messika, Amrapali and Boodles, on its roster. While based in London, the platform has a global focus, aiming to connect customers across the world with both independent designers and established brands that may otherwise get lost in the hard-to-compete-with fast fashion sphere. Not sure where to start? Once’s dedicated team of expert personal shoppers are on hand to guide you through its offering and help you find the perfect piece. Gents, if you’re on the hunt for an engagement ring, these are the professionals to call on.
While 1stDibs’ scope extends far beyond fine jewellery – it is the self-proclaimed online marketplace for ‘the most beautiful things on earth’ – its range of pre-owned fine jewellery is arguably the most extensive of any platform on this list. Founded in 2001, it is also the most established and, over the last two decades, has built up a network of prestigious dealers from around the world along with a reputation for trustworthiness and quality.
Spanning everything from Victorian and Edwardian pieces to contemporary jewels, current highlights include a Van Cleef & Arpels Alhambra limited-edition onyx necklace, a 1922 Cartier Art Deco diamond watch and a modern Harry Winston diamond, sapphire and platinum ring. The nature of 1stDibs, however, means almost all pieces on offer are one offs. If you’re interested, don’t delay.
This Old Thing
London-based vintage accessories specialist This Old Thing was founded by branding expert Charlotte Rogers in 2008 to bring a fashion-led approach to the online jewellery market. While the site’s range extends to hard-to-find handbags, belts and other accessories, it is in jewellery This Old Thing really comes into its own.
If you’re a Chanel fan, look no further: the platform offers pieces from almost every era of the brand’s history. Other favoured houses include Celine, Versace, Gucci, Dior and Hermes while, because of its focus on pre-owned fashion jewellery, prices are surprisingly affordable, making it the perfect destination for a special gift.