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KKB Talk: Ritani's president finds a diamond in the rough

Brian Watkins is the president of Ritani.com

Brian Watkins is the president of Ritani.com Credit: Brian Watkins (Ritani.com)

Have you ever wanted to design a ring or piece of diamond jewelry for someone special, but didn’t because you weren’t sure if she would like it?

Brian Watkins, president of Ritani.com, has disrupted the luxury shopping world by creating the first- ever Clicks-and-Bricks Omni Channel retail experience in designer jewelry. His diamonds are custom ordered online and can be tried on in a local jewelry store before they are purchased.

The graduate of the University of California, Berkeley’s Haas School of Business clued us in to buying that special stone on Valentine’s Day and the allure behind the tennis bracelet.

How did Clicks-and-Bricks start?
I began my career with Bain Consulting before entering the diamond business at Blue Nile, with positions including VP of corporate planning and VP of merchandising. Prior to Ritani, I was the CFO of Wet Paint and the director of strategy at Nordstrom.

What’s the best gift for Valentine's Day?
I think a wonderful proposal is the way to go. I’d start with a nice piece of classical jewelry. We see trends, but the biggest gifts are engagement rings, a classical stud diamond earring, open hearts, affordable silver, classic pieces, vintage silver and lariats.

How do you find the right engagement ring?
First, you need to find the right person. Make sure you are ready. It’s a lifetime commitment. Buy what she likes and for how she lives her life. Does she wear yellow or white? Vintage or standard? ... Set a budget and gain an understanding for who she is.

What is the most popular kind of jewelry?
Diamond basics are the biggest. Customize it and make it your own. Diamond bracelets and tennis bracelets are very popular.

Where did the name tennis bracelet come from?
Chris Evert wore these diamond bracelets when she played tennis. And she popularized the diamond bracelet in the ’70s. You don’t have to wait to wear diamonds for special occasions. You can wear a diamond bracelet anywhere, even on the tennis courts. Women find it a very exciting item to have.

What separates Ritani.com from other jewelers?
Background, leading designs and manufacturers. We are also made in the United States and handcrafted.

What’s your business model?
We give [customers] options on our e-commerce site and send them something special to a local jewelry store, where they can look, try and ask questions. Some get uncomfortable before making the purchase. We want the best consumer experience.

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