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A jewelry company started by veterans gets a boost from Taylor Swift

SACHA PFEIFFER, HOST:

Last year, we brought you a story of two former Army Rangers - both of them combat veterans - who decided to start a diamond engagement ring company. And today, we can't resist bringing you an update to that story because it now includes the woman whose name seems to be everywhere lately - Taylor Swift. NPR's veterans correspondent Quil Lawrence explains.

QUIL LAWRENCE, BYLINE: Drew Wolgemuth grew up in Lancaster, Pa., where he sometimes worked in his parents' jewelry store. He did not expect that to matter much when he deployed to Afghanistan. But it did, as he told us last year.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED NPR BROADCAST)

DREW WOLGEMUTH: A bunch of Rangers in my platoon, they were at that point in their life where they wanted to get engaged. But they want this idea of buying an engagement ring, they're fresh off a combat deployment, and all of the wives, girlfriends, family members are standing there with signs, and they get to walk up, drop to a knee and propose.

LAWRENCE: Mailing diamonds to Afghanistan seemed unwise, but Wolgemuth figured out how to get a nice-looking replica mailed over so the guys would have something to propose with when they got off the plane. And it worked.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED NPR BROADCAST)

WOLGEMUTH: I mean, yeah, it was a once-in-a-lifetime proposal off the plane. They got the moment, a beautiful moment, yeah.

LAWRENCE: After the Army, Wolgemuth and another Ranger buddy created a startup called Wove. They design rings - sometimes with input from both fiances - and then mail out a 3D-printed replica to try out before making one with a real diamond. They sell online and at the commissary stores on military bases worldwide. Last year, an investor connected them with golfer Michelle Wie West to design some jewelry, and little did they know...

WOLGEMUTH: Michelle happens to be friends with Travis Kelce, and Travis wanted to design a bracelet for Taylor.

LAWRENCE: You may be aware that the Kansas City Chiefs' tight end is dating the mega pop star Taylor Swift. So Wove helped Kelce design a diamond bracelet with the initials T and T on it. They're pretty sure he gave it to her for Christmas. And then Wolgemuth and his team started watching football very intently.

WOLGEMUTH: As you know, I grew up right outside Philadelphia, so I love the Eagles. But I guess now I would say I'm a Chiefs fan.

LAWRENCE: The Chiefs won the AFC Championship game last week. And Taylor Swift hugged her boyfriend, and there it was - the bracelet, glittering on her wrist.

WOLGEMUTH: So sales are up about 2,000% across the board in the last two weeks. Our jewelry sales, specifically, essentially non-bridal sales, is up like 10,000%.

LAWRENCE: As a former Ranger, Wolgemuth has a practiced way of not commenting on politics, the culture war or Taylor Swift conspiracy theories. But he would say that his overworked team is ready if Travis Kelce is shopping for an engagement ring after the Super Bowl this weekend. Quil Lawrence, NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF TAYLOR SWIFT SONG, "FEARLESS") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Quil Lawrence is a New York-based correspondent for NPR News, covering veterans' issues nationwide. He won a Robert F. Kennedy Award for his coverage of American veterans and a Gracie Award for coverage of female combat veterans. In 2019 Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America honored Quil with its IAVA Salutes Award for Leadership in Journalism.