The Jewelry District, Episode 100: Vic’s Custom Design, a Jewelry Conference, and a Podcast Milestone


JCK editor-in-chief Victoria Gomelsky and news director Rob Bates discuss Victoria’s recent custom ring experience and the State of the Art Jewelry Summit, before commemorating their podcast’s 100th episode.

Show Notes
02:40 Victoria marks a milestone with custom jewelry
06:54 The power of a personal statement piece
12:21 Report from the first State of the Art Jewelry Summit
17:51 The Jewelry District logs its 100th episode

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Sponsored by De Beers: institute.debeers.com

Episode Credits
Hosts: Rob Bates and Victoria Gomelsky
Producer and engineer: Natalie Chomet
Plugs: @jckmagazine; institute.debeers.com

Show Recap

Victoria marks a milestone with custom jewelry
To celebrate her 50th birthday this summer, Victoria commissioned a pair of gold pinky rings for her twin sister and herself designed by Jillian Sassone of San Diego–based Marrow Fine Jewelry—which specializes in heirloom jewelry resets—and featuring two gray spinels gifted to her by jeweler Vlad Yavorskyy. Victoria says she’s been captivated by the beauty of spinels since first reporting on them in 2011, so she was delighted when Vlad (of Yavorskyy and IVY) surprised her with the loose stones at JCK Tucson about six years ago. They were spectacular, but how to showcase them? Earrings? A multi-stone setting? Unsure, she stowed them in a drawer, where they sat until this year, when she interviewed Jillian about the art of refreshing sentimental treasures with updated, wearable designs. Suddenly, an idea clicked into place.

Born on opposite sides of midnight the last day of June, Victoria and her sister have different birthstones, so she asked Jillian to place a tiny moonstone in the shank of her ring and a tiny ruby in the shank of her sister’s. Adding emotional impact was the stones’ luminous gray color, the same shade as their late father’s eyes. “I have never been more delighted or more blown away by a piece of jewelry,” Victoria says. “They were exactly what I hoped and imagined they’d be—even better.”

The power of a personal statement piece
Victoria confesses that although she’s covered the industry for more than two decades, the birthday rings were her first personal experience with customized jewelry. “Finally, after all these years of writing about jewelry, I understand what it means to have such a meaningful piece of jewelry that you can give to somebody or have for yourself,”  she says. She plans to pass her ring down to her son as an heirloom someday. “These rings are going to be part of our family tradition. There’s so much sentimental value already invested in them.”

“I can see what joy jewelers are bringing to their clients when they’re able to turn around heirlooms or make custom pieces,” Victoria continues. “What else is meaningful enough to pass down and to keep in the family?” Few things are as durable, beautiful, and meaningful, she observes.

Rob and his wife worked with a jeweler to customize her engagement ring—a diamond she inherited, with a sapphire on either side. Though it wasn’t planned, he says the ring pays tribute to her April birthstone and his September one.

Rob remarks on the strength of the custom jewelry market and cites a recent conversation he had with Signet Jewelers, which is increasing its focus on bespoke work. They’ve found that “when you design something that’s special, it breeds a lot of customer loyalty,” he says.

Report from the first State of the Art Jewelry Summit
Rob headed to Boston in June to attend the State of the Art Jewelry Summit at Harvard University, where he found the insights shared by Harvard professors and other speakers from outside the industry interesting—especially those related to climate change. One takeaway was the impact climate control efforts can have on ills like poverty and the importance of ensuring that sustainable development doesn’t hinder people’s ability to make a living in disadvantaged areas. Rob speculates on how this point relates to lab-grown diamonds. “We might be able to grow diamonds that are carbon-neutral or use renewable energy, but if you’re taking away jobs from some of the poorest people in the world, you’re not going to necessarily help,” he says. “You could arguably make things worse, because who knows what kind of industry is going to replace what you’ve taken away.” The upshot? “You can’t solve the climate crisis without focusing on making sure everybody’s taken care of.”

Rob sees a need for clear, actionable guidance on how jewelers can do their due diligence. “If you’re a jeweler, you don’t necessarily know where your gems or gold or minerals come from, and it’s difficult to find out what the conditions are where they’re mined,” he says. “There needs to be a way to make it easier for people who care about this to get more information and to support the people who are doing good.”

The Jewelry District logs its 100th episode
Victoria and Rob recall the early days of The Jewelry District, which launched in the spring of 2019, and reminisce about some of the high points. The guest list over the past four years has ranged from CEOs and other industry leaders to less well-known but no less fascinating up-and-comers.

What makes a great guest? For Rob, it’s often someone with an intriguing backstory. Victoria agrees, particularly when the guest is a power player. Hearing that they had to work their way up the ladder makes them relatable, she says. She also enjoys sprinkling in guests who don’t focus on jewelry specifically, but who shed new light on timely topics (marketing to Gen Z, for instance) by giving listeners a fresh perspective from outside the industry.

Here’s to 100 more episodes! Listeners, Victoria and Rob welcome your input. Share your thoughts, feedback, and any topics you’d like to hear discussed on upcoming Jewelry District episodes.

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By: Kathy Passero

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