Last updateWed, 18 Oct 2017 12am

Mia Katrin

Inside Scoop! 2017 Trends and Tips Mia interviews industry insider Lorraine DePasque

Mia Eli April

You probably know Lorraine DePasque, although you might not realize it! One of the jewelry industry’s leading journalists, she’s written literally thousands of jewelry articles. The founding editor of About.com’s Engagement Rings and Wedding Bands and Lustre Magazine and former executive editor of Modern Jeweler Magazine, she now enjoys a full-time freelance journalism career. (Blog: www.instr.us/depasque.com). Lorraine’s interviewed countless luminaries including Oscar nominee Taraji P. Henson, Scandal’s Bellamy Young and Eli Manning, NY Giants quarterback. She’s also judged hundreds of jewelry design contests including the AGTA Spectrum Awards.

Is your store designer-centric?

How designer-centric is your store? Are you taking advantage of all that designers can offer? Share the secret of successful stores leveraging this hot trend. Take the following fast, fun quiz to see where you stand. Circle True or False:

Five tips to rev up your style! A new year. A new you.

What jewelry works best for you? For the successful jeweler style savvy’s a must. They can guide their customers to pick the pieces to make them shine. Five tips to help put your best fashion foot forward:

1. The bling’s the thing

To enhance your style, add some sparkle! Nothing ups the wattage more than scintillating gems, especially framing the face or highlighting the hands. Be dazzling! Sparkling jewels add the dazzle.

Erica Courtney interview – Part II: Fabulous gems. Celebrities. Words of wisdom.

Mia ParaibaErica Courtney’s “Drop Dead Gorgeous” award-winning designs are a favorite of Hollywood celebrities. Sourcing unique world-class gems directly from exotic locations around the world, Erica creates spectacular works of art with wide market appeal and industry-leading success. She shared with me recently some of her design inspiration.

MIA KATRIN: “What inspires your designs? What’s your creative spark? How do gems in particular motivate you?”

ERICA COURTNEY: “In gems for me, the brighter the better! I seek the prettiest of the prettiest. When I see the gem, I can see the design. It emerges in my mind’s eye. I know immediately if it’s a ‘Spectrum gem,” a worthy candidate for the AGTA Spectrum Awards. (Editor’s note: EC has won many Spectrum Awards, including one this year.) My girls, my team, all immediately know if ‘That’s a Spectrum gem!’”

MK: “You seem to design especially rings and earrings. Why are these your favorites?”

EC: “Rings are my favorite thing! I’m always looking for something different, fresh, fabulous. With rings you have to be creative. There are only so many ways you can put a gem on top of the metal base.”

MK: “You have many established individual clients. When you’re designing a piece, do you design with particular clients in mind?”

Mia garnetEC: “Sometimes when I’m designing a piece, I begin to think…I know this would be perfect for so-and-so. They would really like it. But I don’t actually design with someone in mind. I make it the way I would like it. That way it always has my fingerprint. Also, if you design a piece with someone in mind and it turns out they don’t get it, you’re stuck with a piece that has a particular style that may not appeal to others. You’re limiting yourself.”

MK: “But you also do custom work as well, yes? If a client comes to you and they’d like a particular design or need a piece for a special occasion, you work with them?”

EC: “We work very closely with clients. I’ll go over their jewelry wardrobe, their entire collection, with them. We overhaul their jewelry boxes. We get rid of costume jewelry, or pieces that aren’t working for them. We salvage gems and elements from pieces and re-design them to make new fabulous pieces they’ll love and secondary additional pieces for a daughter or other relative. A client will say, ‘Look at this ugly diamond ring.’ I’ll say, ‘That 4 carat diamond in the ring isn’t ugly….we can make that into something fabulous! We make their safe look good again.”

MK: “Do you have any words of wisdom as an industry leader you’d like to share, any tips for retailers?”

EC: “Learn as much about your designer as you can! My success has always been about the story. This is what’s driving the market today. This wasn’t always the case. Back in the day, retailers would say, ‘This piece is a ruby. This is its carat weight.’ That was it. Things are different today. Customers want to connect with the designer. This is why gems sales are never a bore. Customers want to know about the designer…This designer is a world traveler. Or this designer has the best rubies in the world. You have to tell a story. The story sells the design.”

Mia BullockMK: Any other tips for retailers?

EC: In this business, you have to take risks to be a success. You can’t just follow the herd and be a success. You have to stand out. You have to have something different, something unique. Customers want something special. It should make them gasp. You have to provide something that when they see it, they can’t live without it.

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, subscribe to her YouTube channel www.youtube.com/channel/UC2B-53XBuB_HD5-bofc5jAA

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.