When Lauren Priori got her first ring, she didn’t want to stop wearing it. As she grew, she kept moving it to smaller fingers—all the way down to her pinky.
Her mother always told her to do something she loved, so after graduating from the University of Pennsylvania with a management degree in 2009, Priori went straight to gemology school where she learned to grade and identify diamonds and gemstones.
Many people in the jewelry industry are stone buyers, meaning they see something, buy it and try to sell it. But Priori brought business into design.
Priori started doing designs for friends and family, and then worked for a diamond auction house. From there she worked at Hamilton Jewelers for a year in the buying department, and then at an estate jewelry company on Sansom Street—where she said she was practically managing the business by the time she left.
She started creating engagement rings and then started her own business because ultimately the jewelry industry is “very welcoming to young entrepreneurs,” she said. Priori’s entrepreneurship with jewelry began at a very young age—her parents would buy her boxes of beads and she would make pieces for her family.
Priori and her sister would sit for hours and hours in a friend’s estate jewelry store, where Priori remembers the owner being her “first mentor,” the first person who encouraged her to follow jewelry making as a career.
A lot of Priori’s friends and family questioned her decision to go into jewelry, because it’s “definitely not the norm for people to go from Wharton to jewelry,” she said.
“They weren’t sure it was a viable career, anything besides basically working in a mall jewelry store,” she said. “But my family has been super supportive.”
“Now my friends are like, ‘Your job is cool, you’re the only person we know that is really doing what they want to be doing,’” she added.
Seeing pictures of an engagement or watching people exchange the rings she made is the reason Priori specializes in engagement rings. She loves “being a part of that meaningful day,” she said, and her business is different from typical jewelry stores because she tries to get to know the couple before she creates rings for them.
Priori tries to incorporate a couple’s love story in her rings, like putting the birthstone of the month they met or an engraving inside the ring.
One of Priori’s favorite love stories is of Megan Cribbs and her wife Emily, who were roommates, then became best friends and eventually fell in love.
Priori likes working with same-sex couples because they “usually try to be coordinated,” she said. Emily’s ring is an emerald cut stone and Megan’s is more square.
“They’re two of my favorite rings,” Priori added.
Usually when a client comes to Priori, the partner has dropped hints of what they would like or have shared a Pinterest board—but whether the buyer has a general idea of what to get or not, Priori always has an initial consultation.
“We usually pick out the center stone first. I’ll bring out three or four stones,” Priori said. “We’ll pick one and then we’ll sketch out the ring together, and once they approve everything it usually takes about two weeks to make it.”
Priori also makes sure to teach people about the four C’s: clarity, color, karat and cut.
“She has such a deep knowledge of all of this, and is so passionate and excited,” Cribbs said. “She’s one of the only people doing this in Philly.”
The basic stone shapes include circles, ovals, squares and hearts.
“People do actually get the heart, it’s totally silly,” Priori said. “It’s like if a 5-year-old was getting married and had to choose an engagement ring.”
Priori also enjoyed creating a custom ring for an old friend, Brad Murtha. Priori knew Murtha from college while he was still single, and watched him fall in love with his girlfriend—who is now his wife. She felt lucky to be a part of the engagement, and Murtha loved every second of the experience.
Murtha’s fiancee was specific on what she wanted, but he still wanted to surprise her. That’s where Priori came in. Before Murtha’s consultation, Priori sourced through 50 different diamonds of what she thought he’d like, and picked out her top 10.
“Her recommendation was the one I went with, I thought it was the best as well,” Murtha said.
Murtha said his wife Janie is very simple, traditional and elegant. “She’s not flashy, but she likes pretty things,” Murtha said.
“Lauren knew right away,” he added.
Murtha’s favorite part of working with Priori is how she knows the “backs and forths of every detail of a ring,” he said.
“I inherently trusted everything she said because she was doing it for me, not for the paycheck. I knew she cared what the right price and design was for me,” Murtha added.
“We have something that’s totally personal, and exactly what we wanted,” Cribbs said. “She does stuff that’s out of the box, and her approach is totally individualized and personal.”
Tsipora Hacker can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.