Last updateWed, 26 Oct 2016 4pm

Mia Katrin

Erica Courtney - Circling the world in beauty

Mia jungleI recently caught up with Erica Courtney just returning from her latest globe-trotting, gem-collecting adventure in Thailand. Erica’s a legend in her own time. Boot-strapping her way to success from her roots as a single mom in need of basic income to the highest echelons of the designer jewelry industry. She’s the real deal, a self-made woman, a model creative entrepreneur. Erica’s a winner of numerous Spectrum awards - including this year - and couturier to the stars. Her Hollywood A-List clients are frequently seen gracing the red carpet with her latest “Drop Dead Gorgeous” signature creations. (ericacourtney.com)

“I’m at home wherever I am,” Erica states simply. Her natural friendliness and approachability are certainly one key to her success. Whether she’s making dal (an Indian sauce made from lentils and spices) with miners in Sri Lanka or revamping a celebrity client’s jewelry wardrobe with them, re-designing pieces to add a fresh twist, salvaging secondary pieces for their children and relatives, Erica’s like your best friend you never knew you had. Her overflowing creativity is infectious.

Mia Katrin: “Your exquisite jewelry features some jaw-dropping world-class rare and exotic gems from spectacular Paraiba tourmaline to color-change Csarite, as well as precious sapphires, emeralds and rubies. What initially sparked your interest in featuring these remarkable gems?”

Erica Courtney: “It all began 18-20 years ago at the big AGTA Gem show. I discovered a vendor with this incredible Pakistani peridot - a color I had never seen before - and Spessartite garnet with vibrant flashes of orange and red. I was mesmerized. It changed my world. I had to have them! I invested $10,000 - a large sum for me then - although advised against this by my gemological mentor at the time who thought I was overpaying. But when I saw my clients’ response to the gems I knew I had found my niche.”

Mia pearl harvestMK: “When did you begin directly sourcing gems at the mines and with local dealers?”

EC: “In 2008 I went to Tanzania. Africa was incredible! We went on safari. It whetted my appetite. I’ve been to Colombia, Thailand, Sri Lanka and Vietnam and am planning a trip to Burma next year.”

MK: “I’ve heard from gem dealer friends that you have to be careful going to remote locations. Personal safety is an issue.”

EC: “The dangers are real. We hike to remote locations carrying backpacks with a gallon of water - which feels like 100 pounds! - treats for snacking and sleeping bags for sleeping under the stars. In Vietnam we trekked over acres of wet, slippery green rocks. If you twist your ankle you jeopardize the progress of the whole group. Going down mine shafts, there are no safety harnesses. Of course the real issue is getting back up. And there are bandits!”

MK: “What about getting taken advantage of business-wise?”

EC: “You can make a lot of mistakes. I go with experienced guides such as Vincent Pardieu, a GIA connection who knows how to navigate the terrain. We’re careful our gems are ethically sourced. We don’t give advance warning when we go to an area so we can know what’s really going on there. We don’t allow leeway for ‘cover-ups.’ Although once you’re in an area the word quickly gets around to all the local dealers.”

MK: “You seem to blend in very naturally with any culture you’re immersed in. I’ve seen pictures of you making soup with miners in Sri Lanka, preparing culinary feasts in Thailand. Do you have a favorite location?”

EC: “I enjoy them all for different reasons. Vietnam was incredibly beautiful. When we were cooking in Sri Lanka, they took such care with the preparation of the meal - every detail for every person. They make their own moonshine. If it’s served with breakfast you have to at least take a sip for hospitality’s sake!”

Mia Vietnam Mia Sri Lanka
Mia Columbia Mia miners

(Next time: Part II: The evolution of Erica Courtney’s signature style; practical “words of wisdom” from an industry leader)

Mia Katrin is an award-winning jewelry designer featured in over 100 top stores nationally. She is available for lectures and seminars. To add her Collections or book a lecture: www.jeweljewel.com, 877 539-3569, facebook.com/MiaKatrinforJEWELCOUTURELLC.

William Travis - Part 2: Gem collector, creative entrepreneur, environmental advocate

I recently visited William Travis at his elegant William Travis Jewelry in Chapel Hill, NC. Designer extraordinaire with 12 AGTA Spectrum Awards under his belt, including 3 in 2016, he’s also an avid gem collector, visionary entrepreneur and environmental trailblazer.

Mia gems Oct

Travis is deeply inspired by his love of gems. He shared with me his impressive collection of rare precious gems, garnered from buying trips at gem centers in exotic locales such as India, Thailand, Sri Lanka and Brazil.

William Travis - Designer extraordinaire: Fusing past and future

Mia Spectrum 2016I recently spent a very enjoyable afternoon with William Travis at his impressive new anchor store William Travis Jewelry (williamtravisjewelry.com) at University Place, Chapel Hill, NC’s premier upscale mall. The open, airy 3500 square foot space, designed according to principles of Feng Shui, hosts an inviting bar area where Travis regularly entertains clients. By creating a warm, friendly environment focused on his staff’s needs Travis has proved unusually successful at recruiting and maintaining top talent culled from around the country.

Stressed out? Simplify!

“As you simplify your life, the laws of the universe will be simpler.” - Thoreau

Overwhelmed? To-do list spinning out of control? Dozens of daily details - clients, merchandising, vendors - can leave you feeling swamped. Every new suggestion for beefing up your website, social media or staff enrichment seems tantalizing. But it may also leave you floundering. There are only so many hours in the day! How to cope?

David Craig, Master Appraiser, Bucks County legend

Mia 1 JulyNestled in the heart of upscale Bucks County PA is a hidden gem, David Craig Jewelers, flourishing since the early 1980s. On any given day David can be seen in his immaculate, well-appointed shop settled behind his executive desk, surrounded by tomes on gemology, carefully curated designer collections, his loyal and friendly staff, and Bubba and Daze, part of a menagerie of 8 award-winning Portuguese water dogs David and his wife Debbi breed and show.

I was fortunate to spend a recent afternoon with David here as he unraveled his life’s yarn. “I cut my teeth in the early ‘80s apprenticing as a bench jeweler on Jeweler’s Row on Sansom Street in my native Philadelphia, getting my GG from GIA. From the beginning I had a knack for appraisals. A lot of unsavory activity was going on in the trade in the early ‘80s - stories of jewelers switching stones and falsifying gem reports were not that uncommon. Prime Time Live with Diane Sawyer decided to do an expose. GIA recommended me as a reputable expert. I got a call and was featured on the show, immediately catapulting my name into the national limelight.”

That was 37 years ago. Today David’s a Master Appraiser, frequently called upon as an expert witness to testify at trials by the government. He’s an active member of the American Gem Society.

Mia JulyDavid’s a darling of the historic Bucks County community and it’s easy to see why. “Thirty-seven years ago I opened a store two miles from my home. I go to the same stores as my customers. I’ve raised my family here. My roots in the community are strong and deep. Good standing is everything.”

A loyal and impressive customer base is the reward. The store’s walls are accented with framed photos of celebrity customers at charities and gala events. “I believe in giving back. I’m very active supporting the local hospital. Forevermark Diamonds, which we feature, supports Jewelers for Children.”

After 37 years what’s David outlook on his business and life? “Integrity in life and business. That’s the key. 100% transparency. It’s not just about profit. It’s about morality, being a good person, leading a good life.

“I want to present a beautiful piece of jewelry and stand behind it. It should be fairly priced. Good standing in the community is central. And I want to be able to sleep at night!”

A refreshing reminder that time-honored values are alive and well, David’s a shining example of how living the good life breeds success. “I answer to a different authority. My conscience comes from above.” We wish David many more fruitful years of continued success! He’s truly an inspiration to the whole jewelry community.

Mia Katrin is an award-winning jewelry designer featured in over 80 top stores nationally. She is available for lectures and seminars. To add her Collections or book a lecture: www.jeweljewel.com, 877 539-3569, facebook.com/MiaKatrinforJEWELCOUTURELLC.

Call to Retailers… Let’s take back the market!

MiaInside Scoop! I recently spoke with Chi Galatea Huynh, founder of the highly successful company Galatea Jewelry by Artist (featured in 1400 stores nationally) about an exciting program he’s launching. Chi’s motivation is to help make his retailers more profitable - “As a wholesaler you can only be as successful as your retailers.” Seeing retailers lose market share to online giants because they don’t have the motivation, time and technical expertise to develop a major online presence, he thought, why not develop a simple platform that retailers can opt into that will give them an instant powerful presence? By combining forces retailers and wholesalers will gain the clout to compete and capture sales in the arena that’s quickly becoming dominant in the jewelry industry.

Rev It Up! Trends and Colors 2016


Spring’s in the air! And with it, Mother’s Day, weddings, graduations. Before you know it the fall season will be here. Get in the groove with the latest styles, colors and gems to tantalize your clients. Set some new dreams in motion! Some top trends we’ve been seeing that are sure to stir the imagination and rev up your sales:

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