New Cover Art

As a little girl, I spent hours of my free time ensconced in cozy nooks and tiny chairs hidden between towering bookshelves in our local library. A friendly librarian noticed my love of reading and encouraged me to reach beyond the age-appropriate sections, taking the time to instruct me in the proper book-shelving etiquette and finer points of the cryptic Dewey decimal system.

But in truth, I was able to locate most of my favorite books not by numerical efficiency, but by spotting the familiar dust jacket on the shelf. Spine out, cover, or back-facing, I could identify the usual suspects immediately, and took comfort in the familiar typefaces and colorful depictions of important scenes from the story.

Years later, I remember roaming the no-longer-towering stacks of a nearby bookstore. and feeling more lost and confused than comforted. The titles were familiar — Alice, Matilda, Jane, David, the gang’s all here — but I no longer recognized the classics from their covers alone. The art had changed, often dramatically, and it occurred to me that these “new editions” would need to appeal to a much different audience than in the years of my own childhood.

Identifying a drooping interest in classic literature, the publishers clearly banded together to calculate what type of visual stimuli today’s buyers require in order to open their wallets. Longtime favorites received the royal treatment, those undying words wrapped in leather bindings, gilded, fanciful lettering, and sold in sets with their peers. Newer contributions become wildly colorful, with wrapped jackets that probably took longer to create than the authors took to write, and were marked with exorbitant prices and “special edition” stickers.

But as a beloved nanny certainly knew, a fancy wrapper and sugared coating can go a long way towards catching a child’s eye in a room full of other distractions. Call it what you will — rebranding, new marketing campaign, or my personal favorite, “updated” — but it works.


This anecdote is what came to mind when I first viewed the latest releases from the world of diamond campaigning. The two new ads are an attempt to reach the Me generation on their level, re-packaging the traditional messaging of love = diamonds into something with equal parts playfulness, sex appeal, and a down-to-earth acknowledgement that relationships can come in many forms.

Regardless of the quality of this content (debatable) and questionable length (a little too long), the surprising clarity of the message is what interests me most. Marriage is no longer the cornerstone of our society’s structure, but that doesn’t mean the concept of long-term love and devotion has fallen by the wayside. It has simply transformed, and in order to remain relevant in a landscape that no longer resembles the white picket fences of yesterday to an astonishing number of people under 40, our communication must perforce change along with it.

While I’m not really a member of the target demographic, I can absolutely see the strengths in this type of merchandising. These ads appeal to me far more than the usual run of predictable romantic interludes and lame last-minute gift plugs, so perhaps they’ll have some real staying power and will begin to turn the attention of the next buying wave back to the idea diamond jewelry as an enduring statement of… well, whatever they want it to say.

I’d love to hear your reactions to this new direction. Have a look, share it around, and please share your thoughts.

Diamond Disruption

BREAKING NEWS: things that were once found only in nature can now be synthesized by humans!

RUN… DON’T WALK… to your nearest web browser in frantic search of “the truth” about mining vs. lab-creating!

REMAIN CALM… AND YOU MIGHT SURVIVE!

—> Music cue: dramatic up-tempo tuneless 8-bar vamp <—

Okay, enough of that. The emergence and apparent popularity of lab-created diamonds is definitely cause for industry-wide conversation, if not some of the more hyperbolic commentary I’ve read in recent comment sections.

We now know that lab-created diamond companies aren’t kidding around. We know that some companies want to harness this force for evil, some for good, and many for profit.

We also should have predicted that the development, production, expansion, and marketing of this product would happen very quickly (which it did) and that it would reverberate through the industry like a Tibetan mountain gong (felt, rather than heard).

I actually received a handful of messages today from non-industry folks, asking for my opinion on the matter and offering up their own (one notable quotable: “now that Leo won gold, will he bedazzle the trophy in his fake glitter?”). After carefully explaining the differences between “synthetic” and “simulant,” I asked for honest opinions about giving or receiving lab-created diamonds. I also asked if they held the same thoughts about their own jewelry as they would that of friends, colleagues, or family members.

Here are their summarized answers, paraphrased and used with permission:

Friend A: I don’t even like synthetic fabrics, so why would I want synthetic diamonds when I can afford the real thing? None of my friends are engaged or close to it, but I hope they insist on the real deal.

Friend B: Well, I guess if they’re basically the same thing, then what’s the difference? It’s not like it’s an inferior diamond, it just didn’t kill children and the environment to get here. It probably end up like the drug industry though, won’t it, where generics are just as good and cost less, but some doctors are paid by the name brand and won’t write prescriptions for anything else?

Friend C: Ew. I don’t like diamonds at all anyway, and I would never want one for my ring.

Friend D: My center stone is a moissanite, but that’s because I didn’t want a blood diamond and didn’t trust any of the stores around here not to have them. If I’d known about lab diamonds, I might have asked for one.

Friend E: Maybe for earrings or something, if it’s cheaper, sure why not. But for something more important/meaningful like an engagement ring, no way. Test tube babies are still humans, but isn’t trying the natural way first better?

Well, aside from learning a lot more about these their real feelings on things other than diamonds, it was a pretty illuminating set of discussions. The most interesting part? All 5 of these responses are from women between the ages of 25-35. Yes, even evil genius friend B over there, drawing functionally accurate parallels between big pharma and big D. Smart cookie, huh?

As for my own opinions, I prefer to dig a little deeper. The jewelry industry as a whole reacts poorly to change, and adding lab-grown diamonds to the mix of lab-grown colored gems might feel like a step too far for some. The mined diamond industry is certainly feeling the pinch these days, so from their perspective, timing couldn’t be worse.

As you might have guessed by now, I’m not really a flag-waving traditionalist. I think that lab-created anything, sold and marketed with total transparency and accurate information, is perfectly good and healthy and legal. I myself have educated my clients about lab-created colored gems, and they have purchased from me in full knowledge of precisely what they bought.

The romantic in me shudders at the thought of a master gemcutter plying his or her trade with rough that did not come from the earth, passing through the hands of expert dealers and feeding the economies of local governments. The cultural connection I so cherish disappears, and for that reason, I am not personally inclined to seek out non-mined gemstones or diamonds.

Like any ethical jeweler, I abhor the use of marketing or sales tactics that attempt to cloud the truth and shade the facts in order to generate buzz (and therefore, sales). I successfully sold cultured pearls, heat-treated sapphires, and SI2 diamonds for exactly what they are, and never once did I need to resort to used-car-salesman tactics to do so. I see absolutely no reason why the emergence of yet another technological advancement should be met with anything less than our highest standards, as we do what we do best: serve the client.

Now I’m throwing the doors of discussion wide open: what do you think?

 

Adventures in Diamondland

Cue the horns, I have returned triumphant! The next step in my quest for personal edification is complete.

I spent a fascinating week at the GIA’s NYC campus to complete my Diamond Grading Lab, and while it was an extraordinarily stressful class, I’d give anything to still be sitting at my microscope using the tiniest ruler ever to calculate a diamond’s average table percentage.

The opportunity to advance my gemological studies with the most highly regarded institute in the country (and arguably the world) is of paramount importance to me. Obviously there is value in obtaining this degree in terms of respect from peers, but far beyond that is the total sum of skills and knowledge it imparts.

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The absolute best part of completing this lab is the feeling of capability. I will need a lifetime of experience and practice, but at the very least I know I have useful skills to apply to my current work and into the future.

Surrounded by a wonderful group of people from all walks of life (the promised shoutouts: Sarah, Brianna, and Gracie, three fab women with amazingly bright futures), including my coworker/friend and ridiculously talented goldsmith Irene, this class left me happy and excited in a way I haven’t been for quite some time.

Photo credit to Sarah, bad editing job by me. We did it, ladies!

Be Bold

The ring featured in the header image of this post is one of our most popular styles. It contains an extremely high quality custom-cut garnet and nearly 3/4 of a carat of colorless diamonds, all set in 18K rose gold. Isn’t it just stunning?

I don’t often talk about the jewelry in the pictures I post, mainly because I feel that so many other blogs and websites do a much better job detailing some of the most intricate and beautiful jewels in the world. But this particular ring, designed by a fabulous, talented, and extremely kind woman named Bellarri (yes, that’s her!), represents something just a little beyond my usual more conservative classic taste.

Raised to always be the cool, poised, and diplomatic daughter, I struggle to speak out and stand up for myself. Doing the same for others has never been an issue — a lifelong activist and advocate for equality, I’m no armchair protester — but to raise myself up to a position of power has never felt comfortable. In short, I need to learn to be bold. And this singular piece of jewelry, with its fiery center, brilliantly outlined details, and larger-than-life presence, is nothing if not bold.

It sounds silly, perhaps, to aspire to be more like a ring. But many people attempt to emulate other inanimate objects — the towering oak, the majestic mountain, the smooth ocean come to mind — so why not a gutsy fireball of a ring that practically sings out to everyone who sees it, “look! Look at me, so tastefully bold, so beautiful and bright and impossible to ignore!” You can’t pass her by, you certainly can’t pretend she doesn’t provoke some sort of reaction, and you absolutely must pay her the attention she rightly deserves. No formerly timid, currently work-in-progress leader could fail to appreciate all she represents.

Back to Reality

Personal PSA: I have not abandoned you! I’ve only just returned from a fabulous vacation (keep your eyes peeled for a few snaps that may pop up in the future). It was tough, but I remained mostly off the grid the entire time, so give me a bit to settle back into daily life before I return to our regularly scheduled program.

So as not to leave you sans eye candy, here’s proof that autumn is — of course — the best:

Give Me Your Tired, Your Poor(ly) Made

You have a secret. You’ve been carrying it around for quite some time now, and it’s starting to really get you down. You’ve tried to push it away, but it comes back like a bad penny every time you turn on the TV, walk through the mall, or flip through a magazine. It’s difficult to admit it, but… you just hate your ring.

Now don’t be alarmed that I’ve guessed your innermost thoughts. I’m not psychic — well, not entirely — I just know that look. You’re gazing at some of our beautiful rings, imagining what they’d look like on your finger, and you casually glance at the sentimental, formerly-fashionable piece of misery currently perched where that gorgeous double-halo with split-shank in platinum should be.

You sigh, or frown, or maybe even grimace. What can you possibly do? After all, someone very special gave you that ring. He or she (probably) thought long and hard before that purchase, and it (hopefully) made you very happy at the time. It still holds a wealth of meaning for you, and always will.

But times have changed, and so has your style. And recently someone told you that the shank was wearing quite thin, and the prongs are really not as heavy as they should be. It would be a bit silly to spend money on a fix when a whole new setting isn’t really so much more, wouldn’t it? And the new one would suit your style, and of course make you just as happy as the day you received the first one.

I understand. And I can help.

Give us just a little slice of time, and we can create the ring of your dreams. Rather than a symbol of the early days of your relationship, this ring will celebrate the love that has grown and flourished over time. It will honor your past and pay tribute to your future, and it will make you happy to look down at your finger all over again.

So give me your tired, your poorly made, your ugly jewelry yearning to be new again. It’s time.

**Speaking of a do-over, I spy… a whole new look for Karat Cake! Hope you like the mini-makeover!**

A Little Reminder

One of my primary roles here at work is to manage the inventory: accurate entry, tags, pricing, photographs, re-orders, show orders, invoice processing, etc. It’s a job that can be tedious from time to time (ahem, the Popular Bead Bracelet Brand era) but is usually rather interesting because it appeals to my inquisitive, detail-oriented brain and allows me to get my hands on every single piece of merchandise in the store as it arrives.

I also attempt what I call a self-inventory every so often, taking stock of my life and its various components and running down a list of places to improve, discard, or enhance. Recently my mind has been occupied with family, health, summer plans (golf lessons, new hiking boots), and of course my gemological studies. I tend to continue mulling over my educational material long after I’ve put it away for the day, which causes a disproportionate mental emphasis on the very technical details I’m currently learning. I end up totally engulfed in the bloodless and unromantic side of this industry, focusing all of my energy on numbers and figures and diagrams.

That’s great for test-taking and fundamental progress, but is ultimately useless in my day-to-day job until I work to distill it down into something I can use on the sales floor. I’ve been feeling waterlogged with minutiae, unable to climb onto solid ground from the watery bog of information overload.

So it was with genuine pleasure that I found myself on the business end of a diamond engagement ring sale just this week — and not a moment too soon.

The gentleman was polite and earnest; his female “helper” lived up to her job and was supportive but not pushy. We discussed settings & styles, diamond sizes & qualities, and priced out a few options. A brief lunch break on the sunny restaurant decks (them, not me) later, and a ring was born. Hooray!

This was not a “big” sale, or a tough one, or a thank-goodness-that’s-over interaction. The clean simplicity of selling a meaningful object to a happy and eager buyer was exactly the refreshing reminder I needed when terra firma seemed very far away. Clearly I required this experience in order to remember what we really do, what the purpose is behind all the numbers and calculations:

Joy. Happiness. Excitement. Love. Hope.

That’s our real business, our own small contribution to the betterment of the world. I am a facilitator, nothing more, as I gently nudge people toward an object that stands to represent all the best emotions we could ever want. And amidst the structure of carbon atoms and lengthy history of mining, I needed a little reminder about why I do it at all.

Try This One Weird Trick

Clickbait: modern internet users love to hate it. So why do absurd claims and questionable tactics persist? The answer lies in consumer (read: human) habits. Though we vehemently deny it, a tiny piece of us still wants to find that too-good-to-be-true panacea for our perceived woes, and we never really stop searching for it.

Well, I’m sorry to say I can’t offer you a cure-all — I’m in the jewelry business, not snake oil. What I can give you are some neat little tips (definitely not tricks) to help solve some common jewelry woes.

Woe #1: Help! My previous jewelry gets all tangled up whenever I travel. I’ve tried everything!
Woe-away: Meet your new best friend, the drinking straw. Depending on the style and length of your necklace, you can either (a) drop one end of the chain through the straw and re-clasp it, which will keep it from tangling; or (b) cut a small notch in the top & bottom of the straw, drop the whole necklace through, gently tug the chain down each notch, and lay a small piece of tape to keep them in place. Stack multiples together and secure with a rubber band, and off you go. No more tangles!

Woe #2: I’m on vacation and really don’t want a sunburn, so I’m wearing lots of lotions all the time and getting very sandy. But now my diamond rings look disgusting! What do I do?
Woe-away: You have options galore on this one. In order of most to least effective, they are:

  1. Leave your diamonds at home next time, and just wear a pretty but non-gemstone band. Easier to clean, and no risk!
  2. Purchase a portable cleaning stick with brush attached. Use it to gently remove all the build up, rinse, and pat dry.
  3. If applying lotions in a safe place (hotel room), simply remove all jewelry first and allow lotion to dry/set before putting them back on. Be mindful of where you place your jewels during this process (ring holder or jewelry case good, edge of sink bad).
  4. Rinse hands thoroughly with soap and water, taking extra care with rings to rinse well. A very soft, old toothbrush used to brush gently will help dislodge some of the gunk.

Woe #3: My ring is doing loop-the-loops around my finger in the cold weather, but it usually fits fine in the heat. What do I do?
Woe-away: While it’s best to bring this sort of problem straight to a trusted jeweler, there’s a good chance that he or she will suggest some version of sizing balls or bars. Think of them as speed bumps on the inside bottom of the ring, as they help to “grip” the finger a little better when it’s loose, but maintain enough breathing room for when the ring feels snug. Keep in mind that someone people find the little nubs uncomfortable at times, but since they’re typically fairly easy to remove, it’s often worth a shot. Useful for arthritic knuckles, too.

I think that’s enough secret-spilling for one day, don’t you? If you have a jewelry woe, feel free to ask in the comments or send a message. The solution might just help you AND someone else!

Vegas Virgin No More!

What do you do when you realize all your dreams have come true?

Pay back old sleep debts!“**

…Well, that’s the response you’d get from me, anyway. I’m back home and back to work after a fabulous, grueling, exhausting, productive, fascinating, and altogether too short trip to Jewelry Week in Las Vegas. Many who know me are aware that attending this show has been a dream — a serious goal — for some time, and it’s easy to say that the entire trip did not disappoint.

I briefly considered writing some kind of day-by-day recap post, detailing the hours spent in supplier meetings, lunch offerings by category, and what time we went to bed each night. While I’m sure that would make for some riveting entertainment, I’ve decided to withhold that kind of information to maintain the mystery. I wouldn’t want to spoil the surprises for any future show-goers out there.

Instead, I can offer my impressions of an industry that is so vast, it spans multiple convention spaces in multiple hotels across a week of 10+ -hour days (this would be where the “exhausting” part comes in). It’s far more than glittering jewels, dazzling trays of diamonds, and ropes of precious pearls. It’s an international community, a unifying purpose, a parade of fashion from ultra-conservative to runway couture, a lifestyle and modus operandi that creates its own rhythm for everyone to move and dance to.

Many things surprised me: the variation in personality types from one rep to the next; differences in approach and business model that are totally opposite but equally effective; the integration of modern technology into an ancient craft. I received an almost daily shock each time I checked my watch, thinking it some sometime before noon, then realizing it was rather closer to 6pm. Also, it turns out that walking all day in heels is something I can do, but probably not something I should do (my feet haven’t looked so mangled since my time as a ballet dancer).

In essence, this show reinforced the idea that business and beauty are not mutually exclusive. We accomplished so much for the store in looking at both the short and longer-term goals, but did so in a way that felt refreshingly true to the highest standards of ethics, quality, and service. I’m fortunate to have the opportunity to stand amidst the madness and quietly learn at the elbows of industry professionals, and in that regard it’s a privilege to be counted as a member of such a dynamic group.

In the process of making my way from one end of the show to the other and back again more times than I can count, I discovered that it takes a very particular brand of dedication to really achieve success here. In fact, I’ll throw in the good old p-word: passion. Yawningly overused it may be, but the word is apropos for the type of energy I felt. Frankly, I’m not sure how anyone could sustain the kind of hyper-fast pace and intensive focus that is required to just make it through the day, let alone a lifetime of business, without feeling a true emotional connection to the work.

**Bonus points for Name That Film. No cheating!

Welcome, spring!

As a native New Englander, I’ve grown up in a world that revolves very much around the seasons. We slog through tough winters, squelch through wet springs, sigh about humid summers, and stumble around the leaves of fall. Seasons also have nicknames — “mud” or “tourist” or “black fly” — that often describe the shared misery of the region in its respective states.

May typically brings with it the transition out of our winter boots and hats, and into shorter hemlines and brighter colors. It also brings another round of gift-giving occasions: Mother’s Day, graduations, weddings, showers, and of course birthdays (ahem, like mine!).

I’ve been asked more often than I can count to recommend a gift, and typically I’m happy to oblige. But lately it seems that my gentle questions — how old? style? hair length? current or dream profession? hobbies? — go unanswered, simply because the buyer is totally unprepared for them. One notable interaction ended when a customer realized she wasn’t entirely sure if this was for a high school or college graduation, and left to call her sister for more information.**

So if I may, a little advice from one who truly wants to help you select a perfect present, but needs a tad more information in order to do so:

1. Know the basics. Gender, age, and basic physical description help. Bonus points for hair & eye color; double bonus for skin tone.

2. Know (at least one of) the specifics. Favorite color, preferred metal type, ear piercings, lefty or righty, birth month, sports team, degree, hobby, pastime, career.

3. Know the occasion. While it doesn’t always dictate the gift, it can help with direction (and, to a certain degree, price point). Bonus points for details like wedding color(s), school colors or mascot, religious symbols, family traditions, etc.

4. Diamonds, pearls, watches. Repeat this, mantra-like, to yourself as you shop during this time of year. You’ll see these items placed front and center in advertising due to their immense popularity and widespread appeal, so you might as well consider them. Lockets, charm bracelets, and money clips are all great options as well, and often customizable to boot.

Friends and family (and perfect strangers), do you have a gift-giving conundrum? Ask away, free of charge! 🙂 Also, feel free to share a story of a memorable gift you’ve received — everyone loves a good tale for inspiration.

**As it turns out, it was neither: the giftee had been cast in the leading role of her school theatre production. The gifter returned just to tell me this and promptly left, saying she “didn’t feel it merited a gift” after all. Break a leg, kid!