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One block from London's River Thames, the chic Bankside Hotel is famous for its art, innovation, sustainability — and touch-screen vending machines that dispense surprising items, such as champagne, Tom Ford sunglasses and "placeholder" engagement rings.
Supplied by ROKUS, a London-based jeweler, the gold-plated brass rings feature a cabochon-cut labradorite secured in a classic six-prong setting. The brass is soft and adjustable, so one size fits all.
Labradorite was discovered by Moravian missionaries on the Isle of Paul in Labrador, Canada, in 1770. The missionaries brought the stones back to England and France, where they were fashioned into bracelets, brooches, necklaces and pins.
Labradorite displays a flashy iridescence and comes in many color variations — from grey and brown to green and yellow. But, due to its relative softness (6 to 6.5 on the Mohs scale), it is not really intended for engagement rings.
Certainly, it has a place as the center stone of a novelty engagement ring — a cheeky, spontaneous expression of a couple's commitment until they can pick out a more precious and permanent keepsake.
“We didn’t want to fill our vending machines with just run-of-the-mill items,” Douglas McHugh, general manager of Bankside, told Lonely Planet News. “We wanted to include the fun and playful, as our guests tend to be comfortable in their own skin and don’t take themselves too seriously. We’ve had a few guests who have bought the ring and we’ve even had a spontaneous proposal in our restaurant.”
The six-story, 161-room hotel caters to artsy clientele. Guests enjoy an on-site artist studio and each room is equipped with an easel and paint kit. Works of art are displayed throughout the property, which happens to be a stone's throw from the Tate Modern, Britain's national gallery of international modern art.
The hotel proprietors decided to abandon the concept of in-room minibars. Instead, each floor is equipped with a touch-screen vending machine that can deliver a multitude of handy, quality items.
In addition to champagne, sunglasses and engagement rings, the "Bankside Boutique" vending machines dispense Patrón tequila, S'well water bottles, Polaroid "Snap" cameras, reading glasses, face masks, luxury shaving kits and much more.
Credits: Images courtesy of Bankside Hotel.