I sat on the couch with a three-scoop ice cream cone (naturally) while 9 months pregnant and let my mind wander about what my future son would be when he grew up. I am very lucky to be in the jewelry industry — in fact, sometimes I think that I don’t deserve to be…or at least how did I end up here? This industry has such a deep, rich and interconnected history. It is rare to become a part of it if you have no family involvement or start out by knowing no one. It is built upon trust, often with just a simple handshake. The family roots extend deep within the jewelry industry and it got me thinking that day, as I went back to the kitchen to make another ice cream cone, what are some of the stories from today’s generation jewelers? The ones who have family in the industry — was it their choice to follow in their family’s footsteps? Did they start out differently but ultimately end up back in the family business? I had so many questions and got really excited, and this was how this new column — FAMILY JEWELS — was born.
Our first interview is with Ross Nacht, of Bernard Nacht & Co., also @underthecrownjewelry. I’ve known Ross for several years from attending antique jewelry trade shows like the Vegas & Miami shows. I met his dad in Vegas several years ago when I was sent on my first buying trip with another sales associate. I was sweating bullets while searching for a 2 carat Old European cut solitaire, my only mission while there. I came across many contenders, but it was the interaction I had with Ross’ father which ultimately led me to purchase from him. He felt like family and my instincts told me I could trust him. Through the years, I always enjoy seeing Ross at trade shows and ogling over their inventory.
Let’s get into the interview:
1 – What is the first memory you have of jewelry? And when did you decide that you would also follow in your family’s footsteps and be a part of the jewelry industry?
Growing up, I was always fascinated with the ship, the Titanic. The movie then debuted in 1997, which naturally became a favorite. Knowing my family was in the jewelry business (and not understanding the value of jewelry as a 7 year old), I asked my father, the third generation of our family business, if he could make necklaces like the one in the movie. Now having been in the business for nearly 7 years, I laugh looking back on my question to him. It would be a dream to have a stockpile of diamonds of that color, size and gem quality.
After graduating from the University of Michigan, I worked at a public relations agency for two years and had many corporate accounts, such as Celebrity Cruises (funny enough). Agency life was initially great, and I learned a ton about project management, client relations, social media, and brand campaigns, but my work inputs didn’t equal my outputs. I spoke with my father about my future and career path, and we had an idea. I went into the office with him every Saturday. One day we would focus on diamonds, the Edwardian Era the next, sapphires another time. After a few sessions, he asked if I was enjoying myself, and the rest is history.
2 – What is the first memory you have of diamonds? What make diamonds so special in your opinion?
It’s hard to pinpoint my first life memory of diamonds, but I definitely have a vivid memory of diamonds at work. Two months after starting my new job, we were offered a 5 carat Old European Cut diamond without a laboratory diamond report. The stone turned out to be a D VVS2 Type IIa Golconda diamond, which are free of nitrogen and account for 1-2% of all natural diamonds. My father said that this was a once in a lifetime purchase, and I replied, “But dad, I just started…” Since then, I am always on the hunt for these treasured stones.
Diamonds are special for multiple reasons. Most interestingly, diamonds are formed naturally below the Earth’s surface after several billions of years heat and pressure. These natural, rough stones are then enhanced by expert diamond cutters to craft beautiful and brilliant pieces of wearable beauty, all of different shapes and sizes from this same natural mineral. It’s a wonderful combination of nature and human touch. Diamonds are the ultimate gemstone due to its carbon structure (resulting in the hardest of gemstones), as well as its high refractive index (resulting in a greater return of light compared to other gemstones). Many factors go into the value of these stones. Most importantly, however, is that these factors also contribute to the look of each stone, creating an individual one-of-a- kind item to be cherished.
3 – How are you dealing with the coronavirus crisis?
Like most everyone in the trade, we are working remotely with our stores and designers to fulfill specific calls and special orders. I am also taking this time to “clean up” our back-end inventory system and continue to expand our social media branding and marketing plans, which I typically didn’t have as much time to work on before coronavirus. The other day, I posted a series of my dog, Luna, on our Instagram insta-stories with a few reclaimed antique diamonds to get her opinion. Our followers seemed to love the concept!
4 – Are you currently taking orders? How can your average consumer be thinking about working with their jeweler right now?
We are working with our retailers and designers to fulfill their current needs. Despite the current state of the world, people are still interested in getting engaged and celebrate big life moments and milestones. While coronavirus is keeping people indoors, life is still moving forward. Relationships continue to grow, and people still want to get engaged. I hope consumers plan for the future to celebrate special moments with the people they love. Their jewelers will be there when that time comes.
5 – How are you changing things up and bringing ideals from your generation into what you do?
My great grandfather started our company in Lower Manhattan in 1906. He bought and sold diamonds and jewelry to the trade. His model for success continues today, but on a much more modern and global scale. Technology and social media are definitely game changers to our industry and has become essential to our business. I led the charge to implement an RFID tagging system for our inventory to easily and efficiently update merchandise going in/out of the office.
My stint in public relations definitely gave me a great foundation of branding and success in the “real world”, which is just something that cannot be taught in the classroom. Starting our Instagram page for our brand (Under the Crown®) in May 2014 was a huge stepping stone to gain brand awareness in this modern day. The success of our page encouraged my father to run the Instagram account for our family’s diamond cut, the Crown Jubilee®.
We also recently updated our website to make it easier for our customers view fresh merchandise. The new website is responsive for mobile viewing and also expanded upon our “private collection” capabilities to share a listing of items relevant for specific calls/needs with multiple images per item.
6 – You work with antique diamonds — why are they important in regards to sustainability and upcycling?
Antique diamonds are my favorite, and I love working with them. Each stone is a one-of-a- kind because the diamond cutter carefully crafted each stone to maximize the weight of the rough material. The result of this process (without technology) are unique stones where no two are exactly the same. Each has its own individuality that designers and consumers love.
These stones are important regarding sustainability and upcycling because the carbon footprint (mining, transport and cutting) has already been performed, and the diamonds exist in the same polished state that was originally crafted by the diamond cutter.
In addition to the reclaimed stones we work with (old mine cuts, old euros and other old cuts), our family crafted our own diamond cut, the Crown Jubilee®. These stones take “upcycling” to another level by taking chipped and worn antique stones and refashioning them with our proprietary faceting pattern, thus giving them new life. When cutting, we maintain the outline of the original diamond to pay homage to the beauty and initial cutting of these diamonds in the late 1800s and early 1900s.
You can follow Ross here –> @underthecrownjewelry