We like to say that nothing makes a gem shine quite as much as when it is adorning a lady’s finger. But what if, the very person designing the jewelry was one of the most prized jeweler currently in activity and a lady to boot? Wouldn’t that bring an extra touch of femininity?
Today we have the pleasure of receiving the acclaimed American jeweler: Erica Courtney!
Erica has been one of the most influential figures in the trade for decades now and is possibly the most iconic standard bearer for the female empowerment in our industry.
We will be looking forward to understanding what makes her brand special, where does her imagination come from and the world that comes before the creation process of her lovely pieces of jewelry.
Without any further delay, we give you, Erica Courtney!
Ms. Erica Courtney featuring some of her hottest and latest pieces of jewellery
Asia Lounges: Hi Erica, thank you very much for agreeing to be with us today. We will start with our usual question, tell us about yourself: Who are you, Erica Courtney?
Erica Courtney: Hi Simon! That’s a hard question to answer, but here goes: I think I’m constantly evolving in life and looking for new inspiration and adventures. I’m very much into comfort but when I go on gem expeditions, I don’t care if it’s not comfortable, I’m so into the adventure that my curiosity overrules everything.
I’m also a beauty worshipper: I love beauty of all kinds, like beautiful art, beautiful smiles, beautiful architecture, food, music and, of course, beautiful gems.
Asia Lounges: It is always a pleasure to look at your publication and obviously, your creation is, more often than not, breathtaking. I’d like to know what drove you to our lovely world of gems and jewelry? Where does your passion for gems and jewelry comes from?
Erica Courtney: My passion for jewelry comes from two places: when I was a little girl, our neighbour came over with all her Austrian crystal jewelry and gave it to me. I absolutely couldn’t believe anyone would give up such a treasure! And I couldn’t believe she would give it to a little girl! I cherished it. The other reason was watching my mom dress to go out. My mother was drop dead gorgeous, watching her choose her jewels seemed so important and added a certain perfection to this beautiful creature. She was a vision.
Erica Courtney's Easter Egg Paraiba ring seen from the side fully highlighting Erica's passion for Architecture
Asia Lounges: I’m always in awe when I see people, much like yourself, who are able to come up with new designs, piece after piece, and I’d love to know the source of your inspiration? Some of our past interviewees mentioned nature, other architecture, etc. What drives your creativity?
Erica Courtney: Inspiration is a mysterious thing; I think it’s magic. It’s a magical mixture of every beautiful thing I’ve seen, listened to, and felt emotionally and physically in my life. I think I design from a very emotional part of me, a part that’s brave and scared at the same time. My process is simple: I take my gems to my sofa and watch TV with my sketch pad and pencil. I feel like my gems speak to me, sometimes it’s loud and sometimes it’s a whisper but, I hear it.
Erica Courtney's Easter Egg Paraiba ring
Asia Lounges: As a merry bunch of gem fanatics ourselves I’d like to hear your opinion on the “talk of the year”. What is your opinion on ethical sourcing and traceability?
Erica Courtney: I think it’s such a complicated issue and there are no simple answers. For every action, there are possible reactions that should be discussed. I've heard some very simple ideas that sound great unless you’ve been there and know; it’s just not that simple.
Erica Courtney's Jenifer Pendant featuring a stunning Mahenge, Tanzanian, Spinel reminisces of the highest distinction under French Law: La Legion D'Honneur
Asia Lounges: Further to our previous question, we’d like to know what is your position on treated gems, do you use them or do you generally avoid them and why?
Erica Courtney: I love the idea of turning cheaper gems into something beautiful, as long as the treatment is disclosed. I think this is a major help on the sustainability aspect and also helps the miners to sell more and make a better living. I think everyone should be able to buy jewelry and treatments bring the price down. I don’t have any problem with heated gems.
Erica Courtney's Medusa Paraiba pendant - (NDLR: Traditionally Paraiba Tourmalines are heat treated )
Asia Lounges: This question is a bit of a customary one here but, what is your favourite gem and do you often have the opportunity to work with said gem?
Erica Courtney: My very favourite gem is spinel, most especially, Mahenge spinel. They’re very rare and the color is like no other! It’s a mix of fuchsia with a touch of orange. I love both colours and the mixture is perfection to me. I buy them when I find a beautiful one. Paraiba is my second favourite. The color is amazing!!!
Erica Courtney's Diana ring featuring a stunning Mahenge Spinel
Asia Lounges: I understand that you have won the AGTA Spectrum award from 2016 to 2018. Can you tell us more about the story behind the pieces that won the awards? Why or for whom were they made? Were they made specifically for that competition?
Erica Courtney: Actually, I’ve won lots of Spectrum Awards, not just 2016 and 2018. Typically, I know when I see a special gem that I can design something wonderful with it for Spectrum. I love having that feeling when I see something great! Win or lose, I love the competition.
Asia Lounges: You recently presented, in your interview on Gemology Worldwide, your pieces as collectibles. Can you tell us more about that concept? Are your pieces numbered?
Erica Courtney: They aren't numbered but 99% of my pieces are one-of-a-kind. I think my designs are timeless. I’ve had some of the same clients for more than 20 years, and they still wear the pieces that they bought 20 years ago. It’s super flattering to me to know they can have whatever they want and still choose to buy my jewelry for years on end.
Asia Lounges: I know its a tricky question but, how would you define your perfect customer profile?
Erica Courtney: I don’t really have a perfect customer profile, my clients are 15-90 years old. Some are very chic and some aren’t. Some have lots of money and some make payments. I’m happy to have them all and it doesn’t take long for them to turn into my friends. Those friendships are so important to me because I work a lot so a lot of my time is spent with them.
When she's not designing, Erica's traveling, here in Sri Lanka
Asia Lounges: We are reaching the end of this interview and, as it is customary here, we’d like you to give three pieces of advice, perhaps even advice that you wish you had received in the past, to the young generation of designers, gems dealers or customers entering our lovely world of gems and jewellery.
Erica Courtney: I was lucky that, when I started, I didn’t listen to my detractors. Lots of people told me I could never sell the kind of jewelry I was making but the truth is that I WAS selling it. I wasn’t insulted, I just thought they didn’t understand. On the other hand, I had lots of people pushing me forward telling me to do what I love. I was so focused and in my own world back then that I didn’t care what people said, and I still don’t. I just do what I love and my clients love it too.
So here’s what I have to say about advice:
- If you love what you sell, you'll always be successful!
- Learn everything you can, take every opportunity and don’t feel like you're too good to start at the bottom. I started with less than nothing and was happy to learn everything I could, and I’m still learning.
- Don't feel like you’re a failure if it takes longer than you thought, keep going, chances are you put unrealistic expectations on yourself. There is no magic bullet just hard work. I promise you'll be successful if you work hard.
Erica Courtney's Visit of a Czarite mine in Turkey
Asia Lounges: In case Loungers would like to reach you for info or more, where can they meet you or talk to you?
Erica Courtney: FaceBook Messenger is a good place to chat with me.
Asia Lounges: Thank you very much, Erica, for your time with us today. It is always a pleasure to meet you and we hope to have many more opportunity to read about you in our columns in the future. In 2019 or 2020 for your next AGTA award perhaps?
As for us, we will be back with you, Loungers, with more cool interviews and articles about the world of gems and jewelry. As usual, should you have questions about the trade, wish to read about a particular player in the industry or wish to be the next one to be featured in our columns you only need to mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will do our very best to make it happen in the briefest delays.
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See you in the Lounges,