There are many words one can use to describe Liza Urla—bold, creative, captivating—but wallflower is not one of them. A few years ago at JCK Las Vegas, eyes followed her wherever she went. Decked out in a pearl headpiece that towered above the crowds, she was there to discuss the latest trends with an awestruck audience.
I remember one of the best parts of having Urla attend JCK that year was seeing the show through her eyes. The jewels that I had seen and tried on, appearing on her blog and social media, were set ablaze by her knack for styling and incredible photographs. If a jewel couldn’t sell itself, she would certainly offer just the push it needed—not to mention that she has the audience: 135,000 followers on Instagram.
She’s a self-described jewelry influencer, and what some may not know about Urla is that she’s a trained gemologist. She studied at the Gemological Institute of American (GIA) in New York, so she knows that there’s more to a piece of jewelry than just looking the part (though, the way she styles them, they always do look the part).
While influencer has become a dirty word mostly associated with social media—Instagram in particular—Urla’s got the content to back it up. Her website, gemologue.com (referring to “a dialogue about gems”), is exciting and well maintained, spotlighting not only exquisite high jewels, but travel and other experiences, all narrated through her words and pictures.
So who better to ask for a little advice on putting yourself out there? Below, this is Liza Urla on her social media habits and tips, favorite jewelry destinations, and connecting with her “Gem Squad.”
JCK: First, tell me a little bit about you. How did you get into the jewelry industry?
Liza Urla: During my time in Vienna, I was exposed to some of the finest private jewelry collections in the city—it completely mesmerized me and sparked my curiosity in precious stones and craftsmanship. After my time in Vienna was up, I decided to take a gemology degree at GIA in New York City, and it gradually turned into an all-consuming passion. While doing my gemology degree, I realized that I could not have access to all the brilliant designers who, at that time, were afraid to show their creations online. Consequently, I launched Gemologue in 2009 to showcase aspirational jewelry designers from all over the world. Gemologue stands for a “dialogue about gems,” and discovering stunning jewels is its raison d’être! Every jewel has a story attached to it, and I wanted to share it with as many people as possible. I carefully pick pieces that catch my eye and capture my heart.
Are you solely responsible for Gemologue’s social media accounts, or do you have help?
I personally run @gemologue and have a team to help me handle the creation of daily content, as all Gemologue content is made in-house and art directed by me. I do not publish anything I have not seen or experienced myself. I carefully select and try on every single jewel that I think is worthy of my followers’ attention!
What does a typical day look like in the world of Gemologue?
I often struggle to find enough hours in the day to do all the things I want to do in the exciting world of jewelry. Gemologue’s days are filled with working on different collaborations: helping designers launch new jewelry collections, being the face of brands, interviewing designers, art directing campaigns via GemKreatives [a creative agency cofounded by Urla], curating jewelry auctions, giving talks at fairs, as well as consulting and finding the perfect piece of jewelry for private clients. There is no such thing as a “typical” day for me as every day is completely different.
Your Instagram feed is a vibrant mix of fashion and travel, tied together with jewelry as the uniting theme. Can you give us an idea of how it all comes together—do you travel to certain location with the specific purpose of visiting jewelers, or do the travel plans come first?
I breathe jewelry, so for whatever purpose I travel, jewelry is my priority. Since January of this year, I have traveled to Brazil; Copenhagen, Denmark; Milan; Las Vegas; and Paris for everything from previewing and discovering new jewelry collections to judging jewelry awards and giving lectures. I also recently published Gemologue: Street Jewellery Styles & Styling Tips, a book to bridge the gap between jewelry and fashion from the jungles of Brazil, the beaches of Mexico, and the streets of London, New York City, Paris, and Moscow. It is a visual journey of inspirational images and beautiful photography aimed at jewelry designers, photographers, stylists, and collectors.
What is your favorite jewelry destination?
Over the last 10 years, I have been sharing my jewelry journey through many cultures around the world—luckily, anywhere I travel there is a jewelry culture to explore. My favorite destinations are Paris for Couture Week for high and fine jewelry collections, Brazil for exotic costume jewelry, and Las Vegas for designer-forward jewelry as well as emerging designers.
Have you ever monetized/considered monetizing any of your posts? If yes, could you offer some advice to those looking to do the same? If no, tell us why not.
Through Gemologue I seek out the best the jewelry the world has to offer and share my authentic, firsthand experience with my followers. I receive requests to sell Instagram posts daily, but I believe in long-term collaborations with brands that are the right fit for Gemologue. I handpick the brands I collaborate with and create high-quality online content through creative styling and professional photo shoots. I offer opportunities to create bespoke campaigns that sit seamlessly within Gemologue‘s editorial environment and showcase the best aspects of each jewelry brand. I do not publish any third-party content, and all jewelry featured on Gemologue and its social media channels I select myself. Social influencers, writers, and bloggers often command a great amount of trust among their followers, so they are able to raise awareness about brands. They are a powerful link from brands to consumers. I recommend to be selective rather than becoming a shop window where all of your Instagram posts are sponsored.
For someone aspiring to get more active on their social media accounts, from retail jewelers to the individual who loves jewelry or fashion, what’s the most important piece of advice you would give them?
My Instagram accounts are about my individual journey through the vast and dazzling world of jewelry. I believe it is important to stay authentic, be social, and treat Instagram as a party rather than a hard-core networking event. I recommend creating quality content through creative styling. Photography and video content is is key, and I recommend mastering your photography, video, and art-direction skills.
During London Fashion Week, I always merge jewelry and fashion. Once, my face was completely covered with pearls, and that particular look went viral around the world through street photography and social media. The pearl face look was truly arresting, and it has deeply embedded itself into many people’s memories. So master your creativity in order to stand out and make yourself known!
Everyone has a different definition of success when it comes to social media. What’s yours?
Social media success for me is to see that my Gem Squad is growing and desiring jewelry. Since I launched Gemologue, jewelry has been in competition with other luxury goods and experiences. My goal has always been to carve out a niche for jewelry and show the journey of the gemstone to fine jewel and jewelry’s significant role in today’s society. It’s an education in all aspects of jewelry, including materials, design, craftsmanship, style, and emotional value.
First site you check in the morning?
Financial Times. It is a habit I developed working at Goldman Sachs. I consume all sorts of media, both for inspiration and entertainment.
I’ve asked a lot of questions about Instagram, but do you find other social media platforms to be vital to your business?
My favorite social media platform is actually Pinterest. You can find my special jewelry curation boards and keep up with new articles on Gemologue via Pinterest.
What do you think is the next big thing in social media?
It will be really interesting to see how the removal of Instagram likes will affect our interaction with the platform. Today everything changes at the speed of light—it will be challenging to predict which platform or content type goes viral next. My only advice is to learn to become flexible and always open to changes, there is no way we can win the social media game by thinking our current type of content will flourish even in the next 1–2 years. So adapt, improvise, overcome.
What are your 5 favorite Instagram accounts to follow (these can be jewelry or other)?
My favorite Instagram accounts are Brazilian jewelry brand @silviafurmanovich, industry leader @lecolevancleefarpels, jewelry agency @gemkreatives, jewelry advocate @theadventurine, and jewelry photographer @juliaflitphotography [Julia Flit is the other half of GemKreatives].
Social media pet peeve?
Social media is very addictive, and algorithms that various platforms use force us to create a lot of fast daily content. Sometimes, all I want is a digital detox!
Where do you plan to travel to next?
Paris for Paris Fashion Week. Travel is such a vital component of my life and has always been the purest way of reenergizing my spirits and providing a shift in perspective.
A social media mantra to leave us with?
Authenticity is the key.
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