Stephen Alexander is a self-proclaimed “retail guy.” The jewelry and fashion industry veteran—whose resume includes 15 years working with jewelry brand Tacori and a stint at legendary fashion house Yves Saint Laurent when Tom Ford was creative director—says his mind is frequently on the point of sale and the overall shopping experience. He believes nothing is more important than the customer experience (known as “CX” in retailing).
Also, “Retail is a party every day—I just love it,” says the personable executive. His passion for retail also means he’s long been invested in anything that enhances the enjoyment consumers get from buying, wearing, and collecting jewelry and other luxury goods. Over the past few years, this has led him to conceptualize and create technology that effectively puts your jewelry collection in the palm of your hand (with zero risk of losing it).
Alexander cofounded Luxsurance® and the LUX Digital Vault®, an app at the heart of the Luxsurance technology that allows customers to digitally store and manage photos of their jewelry (plus any paperwork for each piece, including receipts, appraisals, and gemstone reports), giving consumers 24/7 access to their jewelry collection, and the ability to access jeweler contact info and receive a jewelry insurance quote.
The idea was simple: “Imagine being able to see all your jewelry in one app. And even go shopping with it,” he says. “When you have the LUX Digital Vault, you can see everything all at once. My wife has all this amazing jewelry, and she has no idea what she really has because she can’t see it when it’s stored away in a safe and jewelry box. We don’t really see what we have when things are locked away.”
On the retailer side, the app allows jewelers to further strengthen customer relationships through a seamless-feeling mobile app experience—a low-friction channel facilitating easy one-to-one communication (the tech integrates into some of the most-used point-of-sale systems, including THE EDGE®, Logicmate, and ARMS, among others). Jewelers Mutual recently acquired the core Luxsurance technology and is currently piloting the LUX Digital Vault with a group of jewelry retailers and their customers. The technology is expected to be available widely over the next few months.
“The acquisition of the Luxsurance technology is an exciting opportunity for us as we continue to drive innovation and bring a new, comprehensive digital solution to market,” said Mike Alexander, Chief Operating Officer at Jewelers Mutual. “The LUX Digital Vault will be transformational in strengthening jewelers’ in-store offerings while staying connected to their customers in new ways.”
In the acquisition, Jewelers Mutual also brought on Stephen, who’s been innovating in the jewelry space for over a decade, as its new Vice President of Jewelers Solutions Innovation.
During his 15 years at Tacori, he was a true mover and shaker: Stephen spearheaded a selling method known as the “RF” or “ring-first” formula, and a new and more customer-friendly method for naming the parts of an engagement ring—the shank became the “foundation,” the halo became the “bloom,” etc.— in the process “changing the way people actually talked about rings,” he recalls and adds, “I’m proud of Tacori’s ability to embrace change. I don’t think I will shock anyone by saying the jewelry industry is archaic in many ways. But when jewelers see an opportunity, they jump on it. And Tacori is a very innovative brand.”
Despite his love for Tacori, he felt the itch to create his own brand a few years back and began conceptualizing what would become Luxsurance. He jokes, “With two kids, a wife, and a mortgage in Los Angeles, the best thing I could do was quit my great job and start something!”
Stephen initially began thinking about what would become Luxsurance after gifting his wife Jasmine a 2.29 ct. radiant-cut diamond (29 is his lucky number), which chipped soon after he bought it. “I, like most people, thought I was covered under home insurance for the diamond. I had a $2,500 deductible and they were only going to give me $2,500 for a diamond worth a lot more than that. It wasn’t going to work.”
Fast forward to 2018, and “I just keep thinking, why don’t I insure my jewelry?” he says. Stephen researched the topic and found that he wasn’t alone, not by a long shot: 81 percent of people don’t insure their jewelry, putting sometimes-substantial investments at real risk.
He brainstormed the idea for the LUX Digital Vault, a product he aptly characterizes as “making the invisible visible,” while walking on his treadmill, and soon after drew up the app’s interface on a whiteboard. Its mobility was integral to its DNA, he adds. “I was watching [comedian] Bill Maher, and he said ‘the phone is a limb—it’s a part of our bodies. That really resonated. And I believe people just want to look at their stuff. So, we created this digital vault so people could see their jewelry, have all their paperwork, have their appraisals and everything they need right in one place.”
Jewelers Mutual was one of many companies Stephen considered joining forces with to make Luxsurance a reality. “Luckily, Jewelers Mutual came into play,” he says. “They were the only ones who didn’t see the opportunity as a dollar factor. They saw it as an opportunity to really solve the challenge of people insuring their jewelry, while also giving the retailer a new channel and a way to give to their customers.” (Stephen has a watch collection he keeps on the app, noting, “I just want to be able to enjoy looking at my watches and show and share to people when I want to from my iPhone!”)
He loves partnering with a 110-year-old insurance company that specializes in jewelry—”that experience matters,” he explains. But really, he views Jewelers Mutual’s as an “insure-tech company that’s really evolving and skyrocketing to a whole new level.”
He shares that creating and launching Luxsurance was “one of the scariest things I’ve ever done. There were times in the maze when I didn’t know if we’d get through. But to be able to get here, and to be here with Jewelers Mutual, feels amazing.”