Borrowed diamonds are a girl’s best friend
Monika Wojtal’s jewelry collection began with an aquamarine ring, an heirloom from her grandmother, who lived between post-war Paris and Warsaw and instilled in Wojtal a deep appreciation for classic jewelry. For her, the ring was indicative of opulence, luxury and splendour; to wear it was to discover “the power of accessories”.
Today, Wojtal presides over a growing vault of over 500 vintage gems – many of them one-of-a-kind – whose opulence she shares through her rental platform, 4element. The average item in his collection is worth £1,000; Wojtal lends each piece from around £30 for four days. “Big fashion belongs to everyone,” says the former journalist, who started lending her collection to friends before the idea snowballed into a business in 2019. “I just want people to like them. jewelry.”
Wojtal’s most popular items include Dior chandelier earrings, an early 2000s Miu Miu choker and Chanel clip-on beads. More recently, she launched a collection of Balenciaga pieces, including a colossal crystal necklace with teardrop-shaped gemstones. “Vintage jewelry lovers are very adventurous,” says Wojtal.
The success of 4element – whose revenues have increased 560% year-on-year – reflects a change in consumers’ propensity to rent luxury goods. According to Altiant market research, just under a quarter of high net worth individuals in the US (compared to 31% in China and 19% in the UK) are now interested in renting jewelry and watches. Although it has yet to reach the heights of the resale market – which is expected to double to $77 billion by 2025 – the clothing rental market is thriving; it is currently valued at $5.87 billion and is expected to increase by more than a quarter by 2026.
Vintage jewelry dealer Susan Caplan also looked into rental. In 2021, she started storing her wares on a fashion rental site HURR; turnover increased by 30% year-on-year. Her items start at £22 for four days, with the most expensive piece, a £2,500 Chanel logo necklace, available for £207. Like Wojtal, Caplan wants to make vintage jewelry accessible to everyone. “We realized that renting was a good option for people who couldn’t afford luxury,” she says.
But what about those who can? If, as Euromonitor reports, the global fine jewelry sector is currently worth $251 billion (and is expected to grow another 8.6% this year), why choose to rent instead of invest in a growing market? For Cynthia Morrow, Founder of Condominium Jewelry Service Covet, leasing is only an alternative method of capital distribution. “If you don’t wear it every day, why would you buy it? she retorts. “You can take that money and invest it in stocks or go on holiday – instead of spending £12,000 and leaving it in the safe.”
Morrow, whose small but growing selection of vintage jewelery includes a £14,750 Charles Krypell diamond and sapphire bracelet, allows customers to split ownership of pieces in five ways. Covett keeps the fifth share to cover the insurance, and the remaining four owners can borrow the product at least five days a month. Plus, she says, if a piece of jewelry goes up in value, customers can reap that percentage increase if and when they decide to sell their share.
A similar incentive is offered by New York-based subscription service Vivrelle, where customers can apply a portion of their monthly membership fee (starting at $39), plus a member discount, to buy coins they’ve signed up for. attached. Meanwhile, Switch, another US subscription site, is giving its members a credit each month that they can use to buy a discounted product. “They appreciate the opportunity to try something before committing,” says co-founder Adriel Darvish. Both platforms stock a number of vintage pieces, from Chanel 31 Rue Cambon medallions to Cartier Love bracelets.
Practically speaking, jewelry is a fairly easy commodity to rent. There are no issues with storage or size tags, and wear is usually minimal, especially if the pieces are vintage.
London jeweler Suzanne Lovis says the joy of the vintage tiaras, rings and brooches she rents is in their craftsmanship. “These days, diamonds are laser cut to perfect proportions,” she adds, “whereas in the past, pieces were hand cut specifically to sparkle in candlelight.”
And they shine, take a look at the vintage jewelry on display at this year’s Met Gala, including Maude Apatow’s Cartier brooch, Paloma Elsesser’s Galliano pearl choker and the À La Vieille Russie set worn by Kate Moss . “It’s about preserving history,” concludes Wojtal, whose collection includes pieces first seen in the 1980s vogue blankets. Think of it as a way to time travel, she says. Don’t forget to return your treasure in the morning.