Lab Grown Diamond Brand VRAI to Open 1st Canadian Store [Interview]


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Lab-grown diamond brand VRAI plans to open four new stores this year including one in Toronto.

Diamond Foundry, owner of VRAI, was founded in 2012 when the proprietary technology was created to allow it to grow diamonds without the environmental and human toll of mining.

VRAI was founded in 2014 and acquired in 2016.

Today, the company has 13 stores globally with several in China as well as in Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, London and Madrid.

VRAI Los Angeles (Image: VRAI)

“Toronto will be the first store in Canada,” said Mona Akhavi, President and CEO of the company. The store will open June 1.

Mona Akhavi

“It’s been a dream of mine to bring the brand back to Canada. To home.”

The Toronto store will open at 111 Yorkville Avenue.

“We’ve taken a very specific approach in picking the locations even in the U.S. For instance in L.A., we’re on Melrose Place – the iconic shopping street. We’re on Hayes Street which was named one of the most trendy streets in San Francisco and in New York of course we’re in Soho,” said Akhavi.

“In Toronto, Yorkville makes sense to me for a number of reasons. It’s just an incredible fusion of culture and art and fashion and dining and wellness in that little community there. And the 19th Century architecture, the historic look, but also combined with such a modern and vibrant vibe is exactly where we want to be as a brand.

Brandon Gorman of JLL negotiated the lease deal on behalf of VRAI.

111 Yorkville Avenue (Image: Craig Patterson)

“We’re breaking traditions in the diamond jewelry industry. We’re liberating the way diamonds can be grown, the way diamonds can be designed and polished and the styles.”

Even the store design has a modern twist to it while giving great homage and attention to the traditional ways of what jewelry is used for – as a symbol of an heirloom, a symbol of celebration, moments that matter in life.

“A lot of the things people are buying our jewelry for is because they value sustainability, they care about knowing where the diamond came from, they care about the impact of that diamond on the environment and the human community,” said Akhavi.

“So bringing that into the Yorkville neighbourhood made a lot of sense. There is a very future forward community there but has a beautiful history behind it.”

She said the concept for physical stores is to make it feel more like an art gallery where people can come in and linger with an elevated experience. There are also VIP rooms for customers – making the stores high end but also approachable and accessible. 

She said there are no future locations in Canada planned at this point but that could change in 2024.

“Canada’s our biggest market after the U.S. which is incredible. We’ve seen a huge demand in Canada when it comes to our virtual appointments,” said Akhavi, adding that pop-ups in Toronto and Vancouver were huge successes.

“People want to see the diamonds in person. Hence, the Toronto store. We’ve been offering the jewelry in Holt Renfrew in Toronto since the beginning of the year. For now, Toronto is our only location (in Canada). We will be doing pop-ups in Vancouver during the holidays and potentially in Quebec.

“In terms of other retail locations, we’re opening Boston in a few months and we’re looking at two more retail locations in the U.S. by the end of the year. I hope one day we bring it to Vancouver.”

VRAI Shanghai (Image: VRAI)

The company said it is the first certified true zero-emission diamond producer. 

“Our commitment to sustainability is reflected in every aspect of our business. Using advanced technology, VRAI diamonds are created in our zero-emission foundry in America’s beautiful Pacific Northwest with 100% hydropower from the majestic Columbia River. We only offer excellent quality cuts of our sustainable produced diamond,” says the company.

“We know the origin story of every diamond we offer. Our vertically integrated supply chain and long-term working relationships with expert diamond cutters allow us to follow our gems from the moment something is created to the moment it is received.

“This impeccable provenance sets our fine jewelry apart. We’re proud to offer the modern consumer an alternative to mined diamond. Just Diamond. No Mining.

“Diamond mining is devastating for the environment. This isn’t news. It’s been well-documented for centuries. We’re not the first ones to say it. But we are the first to do something about it on a global scale that makes a difference. Driving this change is the core ethos of our business. It matters more now than ever.”

The company said that every carat of VRAI created diamonds produced saves 143 lbs (65kg) of carbon dioxide; 2,011 ounces (57 kg) of air pollution; and 250 tons (227 tonnes) of earth.

Mario Toneguzzi
Mario Toneguzzi
Mario Toneguzzi, based in Calgary, has more than 40 years experience as a daily newspaper writer, columnist, and editor. He worked for 35 years at the Calgary Herald covering sports, crime, politics, health, faith, city and breaking news, and business. He is the Senior News Editor with Retail Insider in addition to working as a freelance writer and consultant in communications and media relations/training.


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