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Diamonds are a “girl’s best friend”, but they’ve never really been mine. It’s not like I’m some sort of freak—I obviously think they’re beautiful and would roll around in them if I could. But I can’t—they’re, well, expensive and I never felt quite ready for the responsibility of a fine piece of jewelry. So instead I’ve compiled hundreds of rings, necklaces, and bracelets over the years that, at $20 a pop, have all started to rust and deform into unrecognizable versions of themselves. In an effort to avoid investing in a good jewelry piece, I probably spent just as much money and wasted way more resources in the process. Go figure.
A couple of months ago, I celebrated my birthday. I’m not a huge birthday person per se, but I won’t lie—I like being a little spoiled on the big day. Sue me. My boyfriend did a great job of making this year feel special, but at the end of the day, it was 95 degrees and we were holed up in our 1,000 square foot apartment with no A/C. So, a couple of days later, I decided to treat myself to a belated birthday present. I’d never really invested in a good piece of fine jewelry, and decided it was exactly what I needed to turn this year around.
There are obviously many options for jewelry these days, but when you consider my non-negotiables of 1) sustainable 2) unique and 3) affordable, the pool of options gets significantly more shallow. In the end, I found my answer in a place I’d never expect—Belgium. While I wish I could tell you my pursuit of the perfect diamond resulted in me literally flying to Europe, it didn’t. Rather, I stumbled upon Belgium-based jewelry brand Kimai in a very expected place: the Internet. Founded by two Belgian women with families in the diamond trade, Kimai is out to revolutionize the industry, one necklace (or ring, or bracelet, or earring) at a time.
Diamonds Are A Belgian’s Best Friend
I’ve never been to Belgium, but it’s always been on my bucket list. A country known for waffles and chocolate is a country I can get behind, and as if that wasn’t enough, I recently found out they’re home to some of the world’s best diamonds. Many consider Antwerp—the most populated city in Belgium—to be the diamond capital of the world and you guessed it—that’s where Kimai’s co-founders grew up.
With both of their families in the business, founders Jessica and Sidney grew up frustrated by the lack of transparency they saw in the fine jewelry industry. Whether due to ignorance or a more malicious intent to deceive, they felt the lack of clarity around sourcing and sustainability to be unacceptable. So they built something different.
At first, I was skeptical—their website refers to “lab-grown” diamonds several times and as I’m not privy to the intricacies of diamond science, that just sounded synthetic and fake. With a bit more research (some conveniently located on Kimai’s website), I was quickly proven wrong. In fact, I was very wrong—it turns out labs are able to replicate the exact process that creates a diamond but without any of the harmful ethical or environmental impacts (including but not limited to: dangerous working conditions, worker exploitation, soil erosion, the collapse of entire ecosystems). Great, I thought—Kimai passed my sustainability requirement with flying colors. Plus, since lab-grown diamonds are crafted identically to mined diamonds, they each have their own “flaws,” so no two are the same. Sounds pretty freaking unique to me.
But Could I Really Afford One?
The last requirement I needed to check off was affordability. Look, I’m not naive—I knew I wouldn’t find any diamond necklaces for $150. I prepared for some sticker shock and headed to their site to peruse. First things first, their website is gorgeous. It matches their pieces perfectly—understated yet elevated, modern, and chic. I got sidetracked (more like hypnotized) by all of the sparkly goodness as I was scrolling through their Shop page.
There are few good things to say about 2020, but one positive is that I’m saving much more money than usual. With movie theaters, bars, and nail salons all closed, everything I usually have listed as “for fun” in my budget spreadsheet is sitting pretty in my bank account. I wasn’t ready to spend in reckless abandon though—I worked hard for the money I’ve managed to save, and wanted to make sure that any piece I chose was a truly worthy investment.
I already knew that Kimai as a brand was more than worthy (they’re sustainable, ethical, and a favorite of Princess Meghan Markle—no, you didn’t misread that). But I wanted to make sure that the Kimai piece I chose was one I would wear for years to come. I quickly came to learn that all of their pieces would offer me the timeless look I was searching for; they weren’t making this decision easy for me.
Less Is Always More
Before we get to the fun part where I finally land on the one, let’s talk diamonds, pricing, and middlemen. Obviously, hand-crafted jewelry doesn’t come cheap. Their lowest-priced item is $195, and it’s a very small—albeit diamond-encrusted—earring. That said, Kimai’s prices are indubitably more affordable than other fine jewelry brands out there and the easy-to-read graphic below helps to explain why. Because Kimai uses lab-grown diamonds, their process includes six steps, whereas traditional diamond brands’ processes include eleven (at the very least). Kimai isn’t dealing with diamond traders, miners, and retailers, so they’re able to get you a necklace for $675 instead of $1,075—a steal in any book.
The One (And The Ones That Got Away)
With so much beauty to choose from, this was a hard decision to make. After lots of scrolling, I chose The Ivy. Available in yellow gold, rose gold, and white gold (all 100% recycled gold, BTW), the necklace is the delicate, elegant, everyday staple I had been longing for. I loved that it was strong enough to wear on its own, but delicate enough to layer with other pieces I might get down the road. Even though I’m incredibly happy with my decision, I’m still thinking about the other pieces—my two that got away. This review wouldn’t feel right without a quick shoutout to them:
Also available in yellow, rose, and white gold and adequately referred to as subtle, this drop-down necklace is a stunner. Ultimately, I chose The Ivy so that I could layer with other necklaces, but if I were looking for a stand-alone piece, this would be the one.
Again, if the stars had aligned slightly differently—if I was more in the market for a ring than a necklace—Ally would have been the chosen one. A beautiful ring with a stacked effect, it also comes in recycled yellow, white, and rose gold and is expressive enough to be the only ring you wear.
Waking up and putting on my new necklace is the best addition to my otherwise stale quarantine routine. I’ve gotten tons of compliments (over Zoom) already, and can’t wait to really show it off when the time comes. The best part is that I know I didn’t have to break the bank or compromise my values to get it. I found everything I could have asked for (and more) in Kimai, and can’t wait until I’m ready to shop for my next piece.
5 More Reasons to Love Kimai:
- Kimai is woman-owned and since its founders grew up with family in the diamond trade, it feels like a family brand.
- Their Instagram is an aesthetic utopia, with calming colors and soothing graphics.
- You can easily personalize some of their pieces with custom imprints.
- Everything is handmade in Antwerp and the founders know each designer and workshop personally, meaning they can be confident that their standards of ethical practices and fair wages are upheld.
- They have a blog with interview features, diamond facts, and tips from the Kimai team.