Erica 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?”
EC: “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.”
MK: 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