The jewelry industry finally has a reality TV star to call its own: Peih-Gee Law

Peih-Gee Law, 29, is a principal of Lo Rador, a Los Angeles company involved in manufacturing, wholesaling, designing, importing, and selling upscale colored-stone jewelry. It was founded by her grandfather in Hong Kong, and established in the United States by her parents in 1985. Law recently was a competitor on the popular network reality show Survivor: China, which wrapped its television run in late December 2007 (filming was from late June through early August 2007).

Although she didn’t win, Law came close, finishing fifth out of 16 contestants and lasting 36 days in the 39-day competition in the wilderness. Along the way, she won several challenges, including a once-in-a-lifetime reward trip to a Shaolin Temple. Law’s feisty game play, resourcefulness, and fierce competitiveness made her a fan favorite; she was voted one of the three most popular players of her season in a national viewer’s poll.

Law was born in Hong Kong and moved to Los Angeles at an early age. She has worked in her family’s jewelry business her whole life, save for short stints as a dancer in music videos while in college (she was a backup dancer for Madonna and Janet Jackson) and moving to England after graduation to run an import/export company for her aunt and uncle.

At Lo Rador, Law wears plenty of hats—she does everything from designing to manufacturing to sales, marketing, appraisals, and accounting. Lo Rador is known for its high-quality, exotic colored gemstone designs and its LaDoni brand of jeweled figurines and trinket boxes.

In an exclusive interview with JCK, Law discussed her Survivor experience and her plans to capitalize on her newfound celebrity to take her business to the next level.

How would you describe your jewelry?

All of our jewelry is one-of-a-kind. We specialize in high-end colored gemstones and do a lot of tanzanite and fancy sapphires. We don’t have a bricks-and-mortar store, although the public can come into the shop to buy, and we also have a catalog. I collaborate with my father on the designs; he’s been a fantastic mentor. We design and manufacture our own pieces and sell them to the trade and to the consumer through the gem shows. I like nature-themed pieces, like flowers, butterflies, and dragonflies, and plan to tie some of these into Survivor.

In what ways has being on the show helped your business?

There’s been a huge upside in terms of brand building and getting my name recognized. Publicity helps you get more credibility. And I’ve gotten a great reaction from the industry. When I’m doing jewelry shows now, they’ll spotlight me, and so many people want to talk to me about the show. But I look so different in real life than I did on the show; I lost about 30 pounds out there and was down to 86 pounds at the end. We have a picture of me from the show at the booth, and sometimes people will come up looking for me, and they’re standing right in front of me and don’t recognize me. But just because someone watched the show and is a fan doesn’t mean they’ll buy my jewelry. The door is open now; I have to charge through it. I need to network more, get my name out there, and get my jewelry placed in the media.

How do you plan to use your Survivor celebrity?

I’m looking to launch my own jewelry line within a year. I’m also working on a Web site. We’re also looking to get better booth positions at some of the major shows. For instance, I did the California Gift Show, and they gave me a great space because of Survivor. I would love to develop some celebrity jewelry. We’re looking at doing some advertising campaigns, and I plan to do trunk shows and appearances, and perhaps some cross marketing with some of the major trade shows. I want to build a brand. Right now, I’m working under my parents’ company, but I’m probably going to register my own company under the name Peih-Gee Jewelry. We’re also mulling over renaming the family business under my name, to make it more recognizable to people. Anything I do will benefit my parents, too. I’ve even talked to some of the other [Survivor contestants] about working together to come up with some new jewelry lines. I have so many ideas and so many opportunities now. I did get some money from the show, which will help me launch these ventures, but I don’t have a ton of capital. Once I put together a good business plan and start gathering resources, I will move forward.

What will your branded line be like?

I’m still deciding what I want to do. Obviously, I will specialize in color; it’s my background. I love it—it has such a unique personality. It will be more contemporary, targeted to younger women. At Lo Rador, we’re hitting the baby boomers, which is where the biggest dollars are. I want my line to appeal to a wider variety of people. I would love to do some upscale, one-of-a-kind pieces, but I don’t want to isolate people. I may do an upscale line and a mass-market version, where I can experiment with different metals and incorporate different materials. I may even take over some things we already have and add a more affordable version. I tend to like avant-garde jewelry. But my designs will be salable pieces with a personal spin.

What did you learn about yourself from Survivor that will help you in your business?

I learned so much from the experience. I was scared going in there. I didn’t think I could do it. Of course, I would have liked to win, but I think I played very well. I didn’t get sick, and I did well in the challenges. It made me so much more confident as a person. I realized you have to take risks to move ahead. Also, I didn’t come off as the most likable person on the show. I was mad a lot of the time because I was on the chopping block almost from the beginning, and I was determined to play as hard as I could and not be a coattail rider. I learned you have to be friendlier.