Modern Jewelry Maven Vanessa Stofenmacher On Starting Silent Opus and the Ring that Best Encapsulates L.A.

Stofenmacher's new online jewelry platform offers 50,000 customization options and pieces ranging from $375 to $3,200, which is cheaper than most custom jewelers.

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Imagine being able to choose from 50,000 options to customize a piece of jewelry for yourself or a loved one without leaving your house or having to pay exorbitant markups at a jeweler. Well, now you can thanks to direct-to-consumer jewelry startup Silent Opus. Founded by Vanessa Stofenmacher and launched in May, the new L.A.-based jewelry label is simplifying and modernizing the traditionally exclusive and unnecessarily complicated process of bespoke jewelry.

Custom design isn't a new concept but before Silent Opus, no brand offered it to this extent. The tech for such a customization platform didn't even exist, so Stofenmacher built it with the help of a team of 10 developers in Ukraine.

To support the level of customization the brand offers, Silent Opus also developed its own e-commerce platform from scratch. It allows customers to build their own digital page for their Silent Opus design, accompanied by personal stories and media to reflect their milestones, making it a special gift or NFT-like keepsake.

Photo: Courtesy of Nicole Spencer

Silent Opus doesn't produce inventory or purchase stock items. Instead, each design is custom created as soon as your order's placed. The label also prioritizes using recycled gold and alternative gemstones in its designs. Pieces range from $375 to $3,200, which is more affordable than most custom jewelers.

The inspiration for Silent Opus came from Stofenmacher's mom, who created and wore a custom ring when each of her three daughters was born. She eventually passed them to each daughter on their respective wedding days. When Stofenmacher gave birth to her own baby girl, she wanted to continue this tradition. And so the idea for Silent Opus was born.

This isn't Stofenmacher's first e-tail jewelry endeavor. In 2014, she founded and launched direct-to-consumer jewelry brand Vrai with just $8,000 and went on to generate millions in annual sales before Diamond Foundry acquired the business.

We spoke with the modern jewelry maven to learn more about her journey to starting Silent Opus, the ring she thinks best embodies L.A., her favorite jewelry cleaning hack, top L.A. spots, and more.

Photo: Courtesy of Silent Opus

Would you consider yourself a serial entrepreneur? If so, what inspired you to plant the seeds for entrepreneurship? 

I remember memorizing the word "entrepreneur" when I was little so I could explain to my class what my parents did for work on career day. I didn't understand what it meant at the time but looking back, I realize my sisters and I had a very entrepreneurial upbringing and I was always inspired (and encouraged) to pave my own path. 

After graduating college I was faced with a crossroad decision. I was offered a corporate job in Disney's design department, which was an amazing opportunity for a first-year grad, but I also felt called to start my own design studio— even though I was on my own financially and had no client roster to start with. I decided to take the leap and declined the job at Disney. I haven't looked back since.

Are you an L.A. native? If not, where are you from and what drew you to L.A.?

I was born and raised in upstate New York and moved to South Florida with my family during my teenage years. I made a last-minute decision to go to college in California which brought me here to L.A. and opened my eyes to the 'west-coast mentality' which resonated and inspired me. 

Photo: Courtesy of Nicole Spencer

What's one thing you learned about the engagement/jewelry industry when you co-founded Vrai that surprised you?

Traditions are changing! Engagement rings were traditionally marketed to men as they were typically the end purchaser, but at Vrai, I was very passionate about reaching women instead. They are the end 'wearer' and in my opinion, they should have a say in this big decision too. Now, couples are much more open about engagement and it's great to see both partners mutually involved in the ring experience.

When did you first have the idea to launch Silent Opus and why?

After leaving Vrai, my first thought was to take a break from jewelry, but it kept calling me back. My daughter was born shortly after I left and I was reminded of a gemstone ring my mom made when I was born. She had a custom ring made for each of her three daughters which she wore stacked together until our wedding days when she passed them down to us. I was inspired to continue this tradition with my daughter and help others create their own. 

Where do you find inspiration for the designs sold on Silent Opus?

Our designs have a nostalgic quality to them as I was very inspired by meaningful jewelry from my past, passed down from my mom, grandma, and great-grandma. While inspired by the past, I also wanted to make sure they felt modern, fresh, and relevant without looking trendy, so as we like to say, our jewelry is inspired by the past, enjoyed in the present, and designed for the future. 

Photo: Courtesy of brand

What jewel or piece of jewelry would you say best encapsulates L.A. and why?

I would say the Cabo Ring in Moonstone embodies L.A. The domed surface of the cabochon stones and its soft and curvy edges give the ring an effortlessly cool look without showing off. 

What's your spirit jewelry?

The Duo Ring is designed after the gemstone ring my mom passed down to me so this particular ring holds a lot of meaning. I didn't tell my mom about the background of this design but after we launched, she wanted to be one of our first customers and she chose to customize a Duo Ring for herself — similar to the one she passed down. 

How would you describe your personal jewelry aesthetic?

My jewelry style is essential and symbolic with a balance of form and function. For me, jewelry is much more than a stylish accessory. It's a powerful vessel that holds meaning and memories so it's important to me that the jewelry I wear every day feels special and brings me joy when I wear it. Overall I keep it simple without much layering or mixed metals. 

Photo: Courtesy of Nicole Spencer

Who are some of your jewelry style icons, past or present?

I have some beautiful pieces passed down from my great-grandmother who I was very close with growing up. She grew up in the 1920s during the Great Depression so her jewelry is simple and modest which adds to the charm in my opinion. 

Do you have a go-to jewelry cleaning hack? 

We include an all-natural jewelry cleaning pen with every Silent Opus order because it's our belief that if we take care of the things we love, we will buy less and enjoy more. I like to use my cleaning pen a few times a week on my rings and once every other week on my earrings and necklaces. It's so easy to use — just brush it on and rinse it off!

What's your favorite way to store or display jewelry at home? While traveling?

Every Silent Opus order comes packaged in an heirloom-style suede jewelry box with removable inserts so it can be used to store all of your meaningful gems. I store my favorite pieces in my Silent Opus jewelry box in a drawer within my closet (which my 2-year-old daughter recently discovered and loves to try on). When traveling, it's not the most glamorous option, but I like to place jewelry in small plastic ziplock bags to prevent them from getting tangled or lost. It's also a great way to prevent oxidation in silver and other non-gold metals. 

Photo: Courtesy of Robby Mueller

You're taking a first-time visitor on a one-day tour of L.A. Where are some of your top stops?
I think the perfect L.A. day would include an early morning trip to Malibu beach, a picnic at Echo Park Lake, and dinner and drinks in the Arts District. 

Given your background in design, where are some places near or far you'd tell design lovers to see or experience at least once in their life?

I don't think you have to travel far to find design inspiration but for me, it's always helpful to escape the city. Most recently I've been enjoying weekend trips to Lake Arrowhead where the pace is slower, more connected to nature and I always leave feeling rejuvenated and grateful. 

Do you or Silent Opus have any new projects coming down the pipeline?

Yes, we're just getting started. We're most excited about a digital experience we're creating that will allow customers to attach meaning and stories to their jewelry purchases – like a family photo album meets a NFT.

Photo: Courtesy of Nicole Spencer

What's your ultimate goal for Silent Opus?

My goal for Silent Opus is to help shift mindsets and inspire more intentional and meaningful consumer behaviors. We're surrounded by so much 'stuff' in our lives but if we really narrow down what's necessary and meaningful to us, I would bet that list is quite small. By infusing more meaning into the products we purchase we will buy less and inspire a more sustainable future. 

What advice would you give to women entrepreneurs trying to make it in L.A. and/or in e-commerce?

Starting a business requires everything from branding and marketing to finance and operations but I have yet to meet a person that's an expert in all of these fields. I would suggest really paying attention to what drives you – what gives you goosebumps – and make sure your business is designed to prioritize that.

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