From weddings and graduations to births and memorials, jewellery helps tell stories of past milestones. Toronto’s Oremme wants to help you tell yours.
In 2018, marketing expert and entrepreneur Emilie Nolan founded a company that quickly created a lot of buzz in Toronto’s fine jewellery scene. Creating wearable works of art with a conscience with craftspeople in Canada and Italy, Nolan brought her childhood memories of trying on her mother’s most precious jewels to life.
In Nolan’s family, milestones have always been marked with jewellery. Growing up, she’d sit on her mother’s bed, picking through watches, rings and earrings, each one signifying a major life event — from birthdays to graduations. She was trying on heirlooms that would one day be hers before she even understood the stories they represented or what they would come to mean to her.
“Those moments in our lives are worth memorializing,” Nolan says. “When you have these pieces that you wear and you look down at them, you’re transported back to that moment, to that person. You’re accessorizing your life.”
But Oremme has its own story, too, and it started with a different name: Gemmie.
About two years ago, Nolan began filling a void in the fine jewellery business when she and her team saw brands selling costume pieces incorrectly regarded as “fine jewellery.” With the market full of brands, she set out to educate prospective clients on what it means to invest in truly high-quality jewels.
“What I found too often were companies marketing their products as fine, when in fact they had plated, costume jewellery on their site,” she says. “My team later dubbed this as ‘fine-washing,’ and we’ve made it our mission to make sure consumers know the difference.”
She did just that with Gemmie’s inaugural collection of millennial-approved stackable rings, colourful bands studded with gem stones and 14-karat gold hoops, all with the promise of being ethically sourced and, most importantly, timeless.
“I had three criteria I was looking to meet,” Nolan explains. “That it wasn’t going to end up in a landfill, that it would be something of value and that it would donate to a cause.”
Gemmie hit all the marks, selling what Nolan calls “happy luxuries” decorated with diamonds sourced in compliance with the UN’s Kimberly Process and gems sourced in accordance with the Responsible Jewellery Council’s standards. With her own Photoshop, marketing and branding skills, Nolan built Gemmie herself over two years.
Everything was falling into place. But when it finally came time to trademark her company in December 2019, Nolan’s stomach sank: the name Gemmie had already been trademarked. She would have to pivot.
“Rebranding is really not ideal. We had a lot of press as Gemmie, and it was just a huge bummer to have to make that announcement,” Nolan says. “But there was no use in being upset over something that should’ve never happened — the daily stressors of running a business has strengthened my resolve.” Given this opportunity to rebuild, she was determined to do things even better.
Nolan didn’t want to change the product she was offering, but rather refine the voice. She decided to step away from a “louder brand” to something more polished, she says. “I decided to loop in an agency that was going to make the rebrand worth the time — I wanted professionals who knew what they were doing,” she says. “It allowed us to come out even stronger with an even better brand.” Working with the Toronto-based agency Public Office Inc., Nolan designed a core visual identity, including everything from the logo, brandmark, typefaces and colour scheme.
In a matter of six weeks, Nolan’s baby morphed into Oremme, a name born from Post-It notes inscribed with her favourite words and sounds on a table in front of her. “There were different parts of words that I liked, or ones I liked the look of,” Nolan says. “On one, there was ‘ore,’ which is gold, and another had ‘emm.’ I was doing Tetris on the table, moving things around, and it finally came together.” The combination of a play on her own name and the material that is the foundation of her product proved to be that “eureka moment” when everything came together to birth a new and improved jewellery company.
Not every part of Gemmie-turned-Oremme evolution was as serendipitous, though. Like many entrepreneurs, Nolan struggled with imposter syndrome, and remembered being overwhelmed with too many ideas. “The moment you start talking about it, it becomes real. When I was building Oremme, I was insecure about the fact that I had so many ideas and nothing had come to fruition yet,” she says. “I felt like a phony, like I could never go through with anything.”
But these challenges have amounted to growth opportunities, which she fully embraced by working with others and going back to the drawing board many times. The foundation she built with Gemmie made it easier to strengthen her early convictions. With the brand change also came a dedication to diversity and sustainability — a minimum of 15 per cent of Oremme’s marketing budget is dedicated to supporting Black models, creators and freelancers, and Nolan joined as a member of 1% for the Planet to increase the company's environmental responsibility.
While her target demographic remains the same — and lovers of the original Gemmie band can still get their fingers on the original products — the voice has matured. Everything from the new logo to colour scheme and new product designs reinforces the feeling of timelessness and ease. Nolan’s overall vision remains the same: creating fine pieces of wearable, ethical art that speak to and represent the beautiful moments in life.
Nolan has recently released stunning new additions to her already sparkling roster of accessories. One closest to her heart, literally and figuratively, is the Rune Medallion: a plate of 14-karat gold with a letter initial of choice, surrounded by a crown of diamonds and suspended on a gold chain.
“It’s very much a declaration,” she says. “It’s almost like a shield.”