Meet Lauren Priori, the creative force the behind private jeweler company L. Priori. Located just steps away from Philadelphia’s Liberty Bell, L. Priori specializes in creating customized engagement rings and redesigning heirloom jewelry. Lauren works from sketches and 3D CAD renderings to design one-of-a-kind pieces that will be cherished for generations. Keep reading to learn more about her creative process, unique style and advice on following your dreams.
F&F: Who are you, and what do you do?
Lauren Priori: I’m the gemologist and private jeweler behind L. Priori Jewelry. I work with clients to create one-of-a-kind pieces, including many custom engagement rings. I also curate a collection of everyday luxe fine jewels and estate pieces, available online and by appointment at my showroom.
F&F: How did you become so passionate about custom jewelry?
Lauren Priori: For as long as I can remember, my mom has gifted jewelry to commemorate special occasions. Fine jewelry can be about so much more than matching an outfit. A special piece can be a daily reminder of a new baby, a hard-earned college degree, or a love that’s grown after years of marriage. I love that the custom process allows clients to get exactly what they want, down to the tiny details. You want to love your engagement ring (or any other custom piece) forever, so it really should be perfect.
F&F: What inspired you to start L. Priori jewelry?
Lauren Priori: After working with a few friends on custom engagement rings, I kept getting feedback that my process was so much more enjoyable than the typical jewelry store experience. I realized that going into a store with hundreds of rings and diamonds can be intimidating. How is the average person supposed to know how much clarity they can sacrifice for carat weight? I felt there was a need for a better, more efficient fine jewelry experience, focused on education and one-on-one interaction.
F&F: What is the most important lesson you’ve learned in the process of creating L. Priori Jewelry?
Lauren Priori: Don’t be afraid to network! Networking can be such a dirty word, conjuring up images of awkward happy hours. But the truth is that Philly’s creative community is so welcoming and supportive of entrepreneurs. Every time I’ve nervously asked someone out to coffee or to collaborate on an event, amazing things – and friendships – have happened.
F&F: What makes your jewelry line different from others?
Lauren Priori: My aesthetic is all about mixing new, old, dainty, and bold. I love antique and estate pieces that feel fresh when mixed with more contemporary jewelry — I’ve been told some of my specialties are layering and stacking unexpected pieces. Our gems are always responsibly sourced and we use recycled gold and platinum in our custom pieces.
F&F: Can you tell us about your estate collection?
Lauren Priori: Estate jewelry has always had my heart. I love the handmade details and impeccable craftsmanship that goes into every piece. You can just feel the hours of work the jeweler put into each and every treasure. I source my estate pieces from dealers around the world and from private collectors. My collection spans the late 19th century to more contemporary estate pieces made just a few years ago. My personal favorites are the bold and chunky rose gold rings from the 1940s. It’s hard to part with them but I love seeing my favorites go to a good home.
F&F: What is the process like when you help clients customize the perfect engagement ring?
Lauren Priori: When a new client comes in for an initial appointment, I like to get an idea of their timeline, budget, and their style. We may look at some diamonds so I can get a feel for how they value color and clarity. From there, I’ll spend some time with my diamond dealers, sorting through dozens of stones. I’m looking for non-conflict and preferably post-consumer recycled stones within a range of the four Cs, which indicate diamond quality: color, clarity, cut and carat.
At our next appointment, I’ll discuss the stones and invite the client to loupe each gem. It’s always a balancing act to maximize the four Cs within the budget, and I love explaining the pros and cons of each stone. At that point, I’ll typically have a few sketches ready on my CAD design software that lets me create anything imaginable.
Once we have the approval for the stone and setting and a deposit, I’ll order a wax model. The client can come in and try on the wax ring to get a feel for scale and make any edits they’d like. From there, casting and setting takes about three weeks. About four to six weeks after that first meeting, the ring is finished and ready for pickup. I love seeing the client’s face on delivery day – almost as much as I love the happy “she said yes!” texts and emails.
F&F: What do you look for when choosing pieces for your jewelry?
Lauren Priori: First, I look for pieces with fine craftsmanship. I never want a client to have issues with stones falling out or a band wearing out too quickly. Great jewelry should be able to withstand daily wear with minimal maintenance. Next, I figure out if the piece offers a great value. One of the reasons I love estate jewelry is that it can be sold for 30-50 percent less than a comparable newly-made piece. And of course, I look for jewelry that is beautiful. My aesthetic spans all time periods but is consistently bold, feminine and detail-oriented.
F&F: Why do you believe L. Priori jewelry will be a success in the Philadelphia jewelry market?
Lauren Priori: I think there was a need for a better way to buy fine jewelry in Philadelphia. I wanted to create a laid-back environment where the focus was on education and value. I’ve worked hard to provide a comfortable and easy experience, along with a refined aesthetic. I’ve been lucky that happy customers have helped spread the word quickly.
F&F: What advice would you give someone who is trying to turn his/her passion into a business?
Lauren Priori: Go for it – it’s so worth it to truly love what you do. Also know that passion is a great place to start, but that bookkeeping, marketing, and sales are equally important for success. I strongly recommend taking a year or two to work for an entrepreneur doing what you want to be doing. Not only will you figure out pretty quickly if the entrepreneur life is for you, but you’ll also get paid while you’re learning.
I spent four years working for my mentor on Jewelers’ Row before branching out on my own. I treated that job like business school, working hard and fully immersing myself in every aspect of the company. From learning about accounting and merchandising to making great contacts, that experience was invaluable.
Thank you to Lauren for chatting with Femme & Fortune and being such a boss lady. To check out her collection, visit L. Priori.