A black-and-white photo of Sophie Kahn and Bouchra Ezzahraoui.

Image: Sophie Kahn and Bouchra Ezzahraoui | Forbes

Just the other day I was putting in a pair of earrings from Charming Charlie (which cost me something like ten dollars) when one of the (fake) pearls popped off and rolled under the bed, never to be seen again (thus far). It dawned on me how much I’ve probably wasted on cheap costume jewelry over the course of my life. I probably wouldn’t have to deal with that kind of nonsense if I bought real jewelry with real gems, but because I’m not Elizabeth Taylor or a Gates, those prices are beyond me. Then I read about AUrate, a direct-to-consumer brand of fine jewelry, and I thought, well, that’s brilliant.

Two friends who met while studying finance at Princeton, Sophie Kahn and Bouchra Ezzahraoui, had the same problem I did: good quality or good price—you can’t have both. “In doing some research we discovered that many fine jewelry brands have higher price points because of the wholesale markups,” Kahn explained. “That’s when we decided to start a company that would be direct-to-customer. We cut out the middleman, allowing the same better quality pieces to be sold at a fair price.”

Dubbed “jewelry’s answer to Warby Parker,” a socially-aware company that donates a pair of glasses to someone in need for every pair sold, AURate donates a book to a disadvantaged American child every time someone buys a piece of jewelry from them. Kahn, who is Dutch, said, “The Netherlands has a very good education system. Some people ask us why we don’t give to Morocco [where Ezzahraoui is from], but it’s the U.S. that educated us and helped us launch our careers. So we wanted to give back in some way. We wanted to create something real, something with integrity.”

AURate sells jewelry made of actual gems and real gold. Though the prices may still feel steep for some (necklaces go for about $200 a piece), that’s an excellent bargain for a piece of actual jewelry that will last and won’t turn your skin green. A department store could sell an 18-karat ring for $4,500, while a similar ring could go on AURate for $995—75% less.

“Our direct-to-consumer model is upending the traditional model for thus luxury category,” said Ezzahraoui. “All of our fine jewelry retails for at least 50% less than our competitors, and our jewelry is either the same quality or better quality. We design with all real gold and feature diamonds that are sourced from non-conflict regions and work with metals which are sourced in accordance with the highest standard of social, environmental, and human rights practices.”

The refreshingly minimal AURate website is open for business.