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BBC’s Dragons’ Den star Steven Bartlett backs female-led lab-grown diamond jewellery startup with his largest investment yet


In recent years, the landscape of the jewellery industry, particularly in the realm of engagement rings, has undergone a noteworthy transformation. The shift has been from price-focused, standardised rings to a preference for distinctive and branded designer jewellery. This change is significantly driven by the evolving demands of Millennials and Gen-Z buyers, who not only seek unique designs but also prioritise conscious shopping with a keen interest in the sustainability of their purchases.

In the dynamic landscape of changing consumer preferences in the jewellery sector, London-based lab-grown brand Kimaï recently took centre stage in a featured episode of Dragons’ Den, the British equivalent of the popular business show Shark Tank. The startup secured a £250K investment from British entrepreneur Steven Bartlett, who has also recently supported another London-based disruptor, GenAI podcast platform Wondercraft. Worth noting is that this investment represents the largest sum Bartlett has committed since joining Dragons’ Den.

Renowned for its lab-grown diamonds, ethical jewellery startup Kimaï has already garnered the admiration of celebrities such as Meghan Markle, Emma Watson, and Jessica Alba.

The two founders – Sidney Neuhaus and Jessica Warch (childhood best friends who grew up in Antwerp) appeared on the show looking for investment, in exchange for a 3% stake in their company. While Sara Davies, one of the panellists agreed to spend £250K for the 3% stake, two others – Deborah Meaden and Steven Bartlett declined, saying the ownership stake was too small. 

As per the duo, during the first year of operations, Kimaï posted £350K in revenue, which grew to £890K the year after, and £3 million after that. 

“This is the first time I’ve ever been in an investment discussion with a diamond-based high-end jewellery brand,” said Sara Davies, one of the Dragons. “I am clearly realising that I can’t apply the usual metrics to value a business to value this business. Because you have raised big funds, at a very high valuation, long before you were profitable.”

“I think you are un-uninvestable,” said Steven Bartlett. “The story you told me about hounding down Meghan Markle was the moment you had my heart because that’s what it takes. You don’t need money. What you need is value-add. I spent the last 10 years growing the world’s biggest brands. That’s what I’m really good at.”

Meghan Markle’s support 

The Duchess of Sussex and a former actress Meghan Markle, helped launch Kimaï by adorning their beautiful earrings two months after their launch in 2019. Her favourite Felicity earring sparkles with 26 brilliant-cut diamonds. It brought a lot of visibility to the brand and it was a great introduction for the company into the jewellery space. 

Lab-grown diamonds 

Kimaï makes lab-grown-diamond jewellery that it says is chemically, physically and optically identical to diamonds that have been mined. The company replicates in the lab the heat and pressure that creates diamonds in the earth, producing pieces exclusively from 18k recycled gold and lab-grown diamonds. As they are lab-made, they can be fully traced down the supply chain, letting users know exactly where they came from.

“When we moved to London to study, we became more and more conscious about where the products we were buying came from,” said co-founder of Kimaï, Jessica Warch. “When we looked specifically into fine jewellery, we realised two things that we set out to change. The first was that fine jewellery had been heavily marketed towards men; it still felt very antiquated, as if the industry hadn’t evolved for generations and was hardly speaking to women at all.”

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