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Tech-Enabled Jewelry Gets a Boost in Mainstream Visibility

More ubiquity for wearable tech, thanks to a partnership between Cuff and Richline.
Cuff's necklace. Photo: Cuff

Cuff's necklace. Photo: Cuff

Following on the heels of Swarovski's partnership with activity tracker startup Misfit, the jewelry company Richline Group has inked a deal with a San Francisco-based wearables company, Cuff, to incorporate the startup's hardware and accompanying software into its products.

If you don't know the name Richline, you've probably heard of its parent company, Berkshire Hathaway — you know, the one run by Warren Buffet. Richline's portfolio includes brands like Aurafin, Bel-Oro and Honora, which sell to retailers like QVC and Macy's. These brands aren't high fashion, but they have reach.

Enter Cuff, a startup that got off the ground last year and recently raised $4 million from Tugboat Ventures, Tandem Capital and NEA. Cuff's core product is a small piece of hardware that fits into different pieces of jewelry, all designed by founder Deepa Sood, a former VP of product development at Restoration Hardware. The chip can track activity, buzz when the wearer gets a call or text and, most uniquely, send out an alert to a pre-selected group of contacts with the wearer's location if she feels unsafe. Pre-orders for the next collection start at $49.

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While Cuff will continue to put out four collections of smart jewelry a year, the Richline partnership gives it the chance to get its technology in front of a much broader and, in all likelihood, mainstream audience. (Cuff has collaborations with a two well-known American fashion brands in the works, Sood says.) And like Swarovski and Luxottica, which has teamed up with both Google Glass and Intel, Richline Group has found its inroad to the much-buzzed wearables space through Cuff and through the Chinese company Omate, another partner.

The Cuff-enabled Richline jewelry should drop sometime this spring. A rep for Richline did not immediately respond to request for comment on which brands will first carry the technology.