Major jeweler introduces ‘Love Equally’ rings

Matthew Reddin, Contributing writer

Among the many traditions surrounding marriage, one of the first involves a trip to the jewelry store.

That can be a more complicated trip for same-sex couples, especially if they’re looking for rings that differ from the traditional. While a few independent companies have begun offering rings specifically designed for same-sex engagements and weddings, no major jewelry company had followed suit until Diamond Nexus, a Wisconsin-based online jewelry company, unveiled its “Love Equally” collection of rings tailored for lesbian and gay couples.

But company CEO Gary LaCourt wanted to do more than simply market to LGBT couples. He signed on as a partner with PrideFest’s “Plus 1” campaign, which is raising money to support the ACLU of Wisconsin’s marriage-equality lawsuit. PrideFest attendees have the opportunity to donate an additional dollar to the campaign when they purchase their festival tickets. Diamond Nexus will then match every dollar donated up to $10,000.

During the festival, Diamond Nexus is also sponsoring a celebratory commitment ceremony for the four couples named in the ACLU lawsuit, using rings from the Love Equally collection.

LaCourt says he was inspired to launch the company’s marriage equality initiatives after a conversation with close friend Wes Shaver, a member of PrideFest’s board. When the topic of marriage equality came up, LaCourt realized that no major jewelry store — including his — had yet committed to producing a line of jewelry designed for same-sex couples.

Diamond Nexus had processed many custom orders for same-sex couples. But his company had nothing unique to offer that would make a statement about equality or reflect the trends his designers detected in orders requested by same-sex couples. His online store also lacked a designated and welcoming area where same-sex couples could shop.

LaCourt’s decision was largely business-driven, to be sure. But a major reason for launching the Love Equally collection was to fulfill what LaCourt calls “a moral responsibility” to support a cause he believed in.

“The jewelry business is all about celebrating other people’s milestones,” he says. “It’s cool to be in a business (that’s) about things that signify love to people,” he says.

He wants his company to embrace all people who are celebrating their love, he adds.

The Love Equally collection is available on Diamond Nexus’ website, in a special section accessible from the site’s home page. LaCourt says his designers are continually tweaking their offerings to better reflect what same-sex couples want.

“Nobody’s really figured out if there’s a certain look or not,” he says. Some sort of defining style is about two years away, by his designers’ estimates.

Couples seem divided into two groups: one that wants rings with obvious LGBT symbolism, and another that wants subtler bands.

For now the collection is primarily a variety of minimalist rings, with a few more elaborate options.

There’s no discernible “same-sex ring” identifier as of yet, but purchasing rings from the Love Equally collection does allow couples to buy their rings together, with substantial savings.

Diamond Nexus as a company is built on innovation, often for social causes. Their whole process is designed to circumvent the diamond industry’s notorious mining operations, lethal to both the environment and workers themselves. The company uses only lab-created diamonds, made of 100-percent carbon and chemically identical to natural diamonds. Also used are diamond stimulants, which are similar to cubic zirconium, but with a different chemical makeup.

LaCourt says the company’s diamond stimulants are just as vibrant as real diamonds, and lack some of the flaws of cubic zirconium due to a superior production process and a special protective coating. The company makes lab-created diamonds for consumers who still want real diamonds without being complicit in cartel mining practices.

“How a diamond gets on a woman’s finger is not a pleasant story,” he says, “We want to be more than just a piece of jewelry.”

It may still have some tweaks to work out, but Diamond Nexus’ Love Equally collection marks a similar step in the right direction for an important social issue — one that a business focusing on love can’t ignore for long.