Chemistry students won’t take long to work out the nature of 7879’s business. The London-based start-up produces jewellery made from investment-grade gold bullion and responsibly-mined platinum – the name comes from the precious metals’ atomic numbers in the periodic table.
It’s a branding move that signposts the company’s sales pitch – buying its jewellery, manufactured from pure metals, is as much about investing in the value of these elements as it is about making a fashion statement. “Customers have changed – they’re looking for something different,” says Sach Kukadia, who co-founded the business with Ben Flowers.
The idea is deceptively simple. For years, investors have been encouraged to buy precious metals as a tangible store of value, particularly during periods of elevated inflation. But that has typically meant buying coins or bars from specialist bullion dealers, and leaving the purchases gathering dust in a vault somewhere. What if, Kukadia and Flowers, reasoned, you could make the same investment, but in the form of jewellery that you enjoy owning and wearing.
It’s a well-established concept in countries such as India, where families often hold a substantial chunk of their wealth in jewellery. But if you buy jewellery in the West, you have little idea about its value: a significant chunk of the purchase price will be tied up in the brand value of the manufacturer or retailer, the piece may well include more than just your chosen precious metal – stones, for example – and the only way to realise your investment is to sell on a secondhand market, where you’re at the mercy of buyers’ demand.
That’s where 7879 comes in. Its jewellery is pure, so as long as you know what your piece weighs and the current gold or platinum price, you can track its value. And, crucially, the company guarantees to buy it back from you at a time of your choosing and at a price that reflects the prevailing market price. “The idea is that your jewellery is an asset that is sweating for you, whether you wear it or not,” says Flowers. Items sold back to it are melted down and recast as new items of jewellery ready for sale to the next customer.
“Customers buy jewellery as an emotional purchase,” says Kukadia, who knows a thing or two about the fashion sector having founded high-performing SecretSales.com. “But usually, the value is in the brand, rather than the underlying product, so we set out to offer more clarity.”
To underline the argument, he points to a recent social media video in which a prominent influencer was shocked to discover that the market value of the metal in the £1,000 designer ring she had bought was as little as £100. The same-priced gold ring from 7879 would consist of metal worth six or seven times’ as much, Kukadia explains.
That’s not quite the same thing as £1,000 worth of precious metal, of course. The difference comes from the “craftsmanship fee” built into 7879’s pricing. This covers payment for the jewellery designer and the company’s other costs; customers also pay a small transaction fee if they want to sell their piece back to 7879.
Still, the company declares these fees upfront, so customers know exactly what they’re getting in investment terms. And what they’re not doing is shelling out huge sums for a designer label that has no intrinsic value of its own.
In practice, Kukadia explains, the data suggests customers are buying from the company for a variety of different reasons. As a generalisation, older customers are more interested in the investment value of the jewellery; younger buyers are more focused on wearing the piece. But all customers get the same value proposition: the opportunity to invest in precious metal in the form of wearable jewellery they can sell back to the company at the prevailing market price of their gold or platinum.
Customers appear to get it. The company started trading a year ago and in April was spotted by Selfridges, which featured 7879’s range in its Shopping the Future campaign. Since then, sales have grown quickly, to around £1.5 million over the first year of trading.
Kukadia and Flowers believe they can double that figure over the next 12 months, through plans to internationalise the business as well as to launch new products. “At a time of significant economic uncertainty, we believe selling jewellery transparently – not just in terms of pricing but also in quality – is key to paving the way to a sustainable future,” Kukadia says.
Flowers, meanwhile, points to another benefit. “Gold and platinum in their purest forms, are antimicrobial and hypoallergenic, making our jewellery perfectly positioned in a world of heightened sanitisation post pandemic,” he says. It’s a new pitch for an old investment, but one that resonates right now.