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Sneak peek: Gemvara's new custom jewelry "experience" on Newbury Street

Posted by Scott Kirsner  November 1, 2013 09:34 PM

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Boston jewelry e-tailer Gemvara is planning to open its first bricks-and-mortar showroom this Sunday, on Newbury Street between Clarendon and Dartmouth. It's a pop-up location — they like to call it an "experience" — that'll be around until Valentine's Day. I stopped by Friday afternoon to have a look. Several media events and the official grand opening are slated for next week.

I wrote recently in the Globe about web retailers like Gemvara, Bonobos, and Blank Label experimenting with retail spaces. Gemvara's is designed to explain the company's build-whatever-you-imagine approach to jewelry, and to let customers try on a range of different items (some with real gemstones, some with synthetic ones). But all purchases will be made on tablet computers or the showroom's two in-store iMacs. The store will be staffed by existing Gemvara employees, some of whom volunteered to participate in a retail training bootcamp.

The project has been overseen by Callie Smith, Gemvara's director of online mechandising (above), and CEO Janet Holian. Holian tells me the company is open to the notion of a permanent showroom in Boston or New York, but probably not in the current location. Holian says the company will be attempting to measure whether the Newbury Street location, along with some highway billboards the company is buying around the city, have an impact on online sales in the Boston area.

Photos below...They were still putting the finishing touches on the space when I visited today at 5 PM.

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The location is on a second floor, above Jonathan Adler, at 129 Newbury.

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Jeffrey Katz of C&J Katz Studio designed the space; the South Boston firm has worked on restaurants like Menton and Tatte Bakery, and the offices of Spark Capital and Grand Circle Travel.

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The crucial "husband/boyfriend" sofas in the back of the showroom. I tested one. Comfy.

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Scott Kirsner was part of the team that launched Boston.com in 1995, and has been writing a column for the Globe since 2000. His work has also appeared in Wired, Fast Company, The New York Times, BusinessWeek, Newsweek, and Variety. Scott is also the author of the books "Fans, Friends & Followers" and "Inventing the Movies," was the editor of "The Convergence Guide: Life Sciences in New England," and was a contributor to "The Good City: Writers Explore 21st Century Boston." Scott also helps organize several local events on entrepreneurship, including the Nantucket Conference and Future Forward. Here's some background on how Scott decides what to cover, and how to pitch him a story idea.

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