My lightbulb moment: Ethical jeweller Jessica Warch reveals the inspiration behind her business
Jessica Warch co-founded sustainable jewellery company Kimai with Sidney Neuhaus in November 2018. They are both 27, single and live in London.
I’ve known Sidney for more than 20 years. We grew up in Antwerp, Belgium, where our parents worked as diamond traders. I dreamt of one day working in this business.
However, at 18, Sidney and I moved to London. I studied business and finance at Cass Business School, and she trained to become a certified gemologist.
During this time we started to become more aware of the murkier impact of this industry. There is often zero transparency around working environments, and child labour still goes on.
Jessica Warch (pictured) co-founded sustainable jewellery company Kimai with Sidney Neuhaus in November 2018. They are both 27, single and live in London.
And that’s not to mention the environmental impact: more than 1,750 tons of earth must be extracted in order to dig up as little as one carat of rough diamond. We were horrified.
Yet we had no idea what the solution was. After graduating, I got a job at a start-up called Appear Here, and Sidney worked as a gemologist at Threads Styling.
Then, in autumn 2017, we went to visit our families and happened to speak to a local jeweller, who was complaining about the rise in ‘lab diamonds’ — gems made using carbon exposed to high heat. At the time, this concept was still new.
This was our lightbulb moment. We had been looking for a way to make the industry we loved more ethical and relevant for our generation, and we’d found it.
We got to work on our designs, then had one of each prototype made in a lab, using £10,000 of our savings.
We quit our jobs and launched a website in November 2018. It felt like a huge risk. But only two months later, in January 2019, Meghan Markle was pictured wearing our Felicity earrings on a visit to Smart Works in London.
They now have 40 designs on their website and a range of engagement rings. Pictured is one of the necklaces
Our sales skyrocketed overnight and, in 2019, we won £920,000 funding, mainly from female angel investors including designer Diane von Furstenberg.
Now we have more than 40 designs on our website. Plus, we launched a range of engagement rings, due to the rise in demand during lockdown.
I remember my dad warning me that this is an incredibly male-dominated industry.
But now here I am, running a diamond business with my best friend — and on a mission to shake things up.
Interview by FLORENCE SCORDOULIS