About a decade ago, delicate gold jewelry was the look. Open Instagram, and you were greeted by hands stacked with slim rings or ears dotted with little piercings. The tinier the jewelry, the more millennials wanted to buy it in bulk. But then, along came the Y2k trend, which brought back cheeky candy-colored accessories like giant Lucite rings and summer camp-style beaded bracelets—a sudden shift that arrived in concert with the global pandemic, throwing everything, including the jewelry business, into flux.
This might have posed a challenge for the direct-to-consumer brand Mejuri, which started out by selling little wisps of gold to people born in the ’80s. But the brand is more ubiquitous than ever. It currently has eight stores across the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom, with its most recent one opening in London last September. If you live in New York City, Mejuri’s latest campaign is inescapable, plastered on the subways and on billboards dotting lower Manhattan. On TikTok and Instagram, too, it’s hard to miss the ads. Recent imagery has included models Binx Walton and Christy Turlington, and photographer Shaniqwa Jarvis, all of whom are beloved by fashion insiders—a sign that the brand means business and an indication that it has money to spend. It feels, in short, like Mejuri faced down a changing jewelry landscape and decided to level up.
Noura Sakkijha cofounded Mejuri in 2015. It was an unlikely twist in her career path. Sakkijha was born and raised in Jordan, and immigrated to Canada at 23, where she pursued her MBA in industrial engineering. Once she started making enough money to buy herself jewelry, she realized quickly that the options were skewed toward expensive luxury brands like Cartier or Tiffany & Co., or inexpensive costume pieces from trend-based retailers, with very little in between. Seeing a gap in the market, she decided to fill it.
It helped that her family operated a jewelry business back home, making Sakkijha the third generation to go into the field. But while she describes that as more of a “mom-and-pop” affair, Mejuri had a different vision: “I was passionate about flipping the narrative. These products were traditionally gifted, usually by men for women, and I wanted to make it something you’d buy for yourself,” she says.
Starting a direct-to-consumer brand marketed toward women in 2015 made sense. Everlane had already established itself as a place to get affordable basics. Glossier had just launched its first line of beauty products, and Brooklinen had launched bedding. Also started around that time were Away luggage and Lola, the feminine care subscription service. Founders—many of them young women themselves—were realizing that women were comfortable shopping online and had the money to do so. It was a perfect time to rethink how fine jewelry could be sold.
And, of course, this was the era of peak delicate jewelry. Catbird, which at the time was still a small boutique in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, helped start and popularize the trend. Net-a-Porter quickly caught on, tapping Catbird, along with Wwake, Saskia Diez, and a handful of other affordable jewelry brands, to launch a demi-fine section in 2016.
The trick was that in order to get the look, you could never buy just one piece; the entire aesthetic hinged on the way you mixed and matched, requiring shoppers to buy multiple rings or earrings and thereby guaranteeing a return customer. It was lucrative, with Business of Fashion reporting a rise in women self-gifting themselves accessibly priced earrings, rings, and necklaces in 2017.
But 2017 was, in fashion terms, a lifetime ago, and tastes are changing. The past 18 months have seen the rise of brands like BonbonWhims, which makes chunky resin and rhinestone rings favored by Doja Cat and Megan Thee Stallion, and Ian Charms, a beaded-jewelry label worn by everyone from Justin Bieber to Pete Davidson to Madison Beer. Their Y2k aesthetic feels like a welcome change to the stern minimalism of the mid 2010s. So given those pressures, how does Mejuri stay relevant?
Sakkijha believes the key is her devoted community of fans, all drawn to the brand’s strong sense of visual identity. Since Mejuri was founded six years ago, it has sold more than two million pieces, and “Forty percent of our revenue on a monthly basis are from our existing customers,” she says.
One such customer is Kristina Rudolfo, a freelance beauty editor and content creator. Rudolfo found Mejuri a few years ago, when a cousin bought her the Croissant Dome earrings for Christmas. She cites quality and value as the main reasons she’s drawn to the brand. “It’s durable, doesn’t change color, or [dye] my skin. The price point is accessible, but still feels like an upgrade from cheap costume jewelry. I can’t afford fine jewelry yet, so it’s a nice compromise,” she says.
Mejuri has found success from using fashion world people in a way that feels tasteful and stylish but not too edgy or intimidating. One campaign featured downtown model and It girl Binx Walton alongside ’90s supermodel Christy Turlington. Shot by fashion photographer Shaniqwa Jarvis (who did a prior campaign for the brand with another hot model, Paloma Elsesser), the concept paired signature pieces with models who the brand felt were iconic. The resulting images spoke to both fashion insiders and consumers across the country. You could imagine dressing like them.
“The brand is for someone who has good taste and cares about the product, how it’s made, and where the materials come from, but doesn’t want to break the bank,” Jarvis explains. “I’m known for my timeless imagery, so it was a natural fit.”
Another fashion person Mejuri has tapped is British Vogue’s deputy editor and fashion features director, Sarah Harris. She’s designed two capsule collections for the brand; one sold out, the other is on its way. “I’ve been collecting jewelry for decades and often have thought how fun it would be to tweak certain pieces. I was able to do that with the Mejuri team, because we share the same ideology—fine jewelry for every day,” she says.
On Instagram, Mejuri’s presence is big, with more than one million followers and an endless stream of tagged photos. The brand might feature well-known fashion figures, but it doesn’t shy away from courting micro influencers; look through #mejuripartner and you’ll see plenty of accounts with followings well under 10,000. It’s an effective marketing tactic, inviting everyone to dabble in the influencer life.
Branding and community can help, but funding plays a huge part too. Mejuri has had multiple rounds of investment. In 2019, it raised $23 million in Series B funding with the help of New Enterprise Associates, a venture capital firm that has also invested in Robinhood, the stock-investing app. Former Net-a-Porter founder Natalie Massenet, via her venture capital firm with partner Nick Brown, Imaginary Ventures, is also an investor and has helped open doors.
Of course, the specter of changing Gen Z tastes hangs over all fine jewelry brands. How do you ensure longevity? Is it through collaborations, like the recent one between Supreme x Tiffany? Or is it about modifying designs to be brighter and bolder?
“Mejuri is a millennial-orientated brand, and [that] can be limiting in terms of longevity. They can either move with their target demographic as they transition through life, or they can [appeal to] new audiences by creating collections linked to the brand DNA,” Juliet Hutton-Squire, the head of global strategy at Adorn, a jewelry trend-forecasting agency, says.
Mejuri is pursuing the latter strategy with the Croissant line. The collection represents a pivot to bigger pieces, moving away from the ultra-delicate rings and earrings that formerly dominated the space. And it’s being promoted on TikTok with a video in which a model totes a giant, tire-sized Croissant ring around London. “Beauty editors joke about the Croissant ring being a friendship ring, because we all have it and see it on each other at events,” Rudolfo says.
Sustainability and philanthropic efforts are another way to invite younger shoppers in. “Gen Z are a cohort of consumers for whom inclusivity, integrity, and authenticity are significant contributors,” Hutton-Squire explains.
On that note, Mejuri has an Empowerment Fund, which came about last year. “In June, with Black Lives Matter, we wanted to be part of the positive change. We decided to accelerate establishing our own fund providing scholarships for women and nonbinary people,” Sakkijha explains. “We started off with Canada and the United States with a focus on education, and we’ve employed over $250,000 in scholarships.” The brand plans on expanding the amount of money in this fund in the future. As for sustainability, Mejuri is switching from 40 percent recycled gold to 70 percent, and bumping up the amount of responsibly-mined gold it uses to 30 percent.
Is it working? It seems like it for now, at least for the older Gen Z and millennial crowd. Even though Mejuri has invested in a pivot—adapting new designs, ethically minded messaging, and big, splashy ads—there’s no guarantee customers will remain loyal. Other delicate jewelry brands have faded, a remnant of the 2010s as nostalgia for Y2K fashion gets underway. A stack of wispy rings doesn’t exactly fit in with the return of raver style after all.
For many, though, the original pitch continues to resonate: If you want cute jewelry, why not buy it yourself? “Affordable luxury aimed at the self-purchaser is not going to be over for a long time,” Hutton-Squire says.