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Startup Makes Jewelry Personal

Alva jewelry invention hero

Spring 2021

A few years ago, Kinsey Hart received a promotion and wanted to mark the milestone with a new piece of jewelry. She had a simple design in mind — a necklace with emeralds to mark her Irish heritage — but could not find her dream piece. That’s when she hatched the idea for Alva, an online personal jeweler that allows buyers to customize a base design or create their own unique piece from scratch.

“In talking with women about this concept, I found that a significant number had a strong vision of what they wanted in a piece of jewelry and wanted to be able to create it,” says Hart, a second-year student in the dual-degree MMM program, which combines an MBA from the Kellogg School of Management and a master’s degree in design innovation from the Segal Design Institute at the McCormick School of Engineering. Hart and colleagues tested the idea in Rick Desai’s New Venture Development course in winter 2020, and then the Alva team — including Northwestern junior Riva Akolawala — participated last summer in The Garage’s 10-week accelerator, now called Jumpstart.



Customers can craft a piece to match their vision. Alva’s website features base designs for earrings, rings and necklaces, which customers can personalize by selecting the type and color of the metal and adding gemstones — lab grown or mined. They can also see how those options affect the price. In the future, customers will be able to customize the number and size of the gemstones.


If Alva does not have a specific design, Kinsey Hart and her team offer an interactive customization process that allows buyers to collaborate on creating the exact piece. Alva offers “the ability to personalize online in a way that is not mainstream,” says Hart.


Alva’s pieces are made by a local Chicago jeweler. To bring the designs to life, Alva and partners digitize the designs into a 3D computer-aided design file, create the molds, cast the pieces and set the stones by hand.


Alva’s website is driven by logic mapping on the back end that combines pricing matrices and hundreds of different image combinations to show customers the right stone and the right price.

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