Last updateTue, 20 Aug 2019 10pm

Mia Katrin

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)

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.