Tagged: jzp

About

It was a long and convoluted road that brought me here. Well, yes and no. I was born into a jewelry family. My great-grandfather began working for British jewelry company, Alexander Clark, and acquired their China operations in the late 1800’s and transformed the company from a diamond merchant and metalsmithing business into the finest jewelry store in China. Alexander Clark Company (Shanghai), Ltd. (安康洋行) took up the entire first floor of the infamous Sassoon House, which later became the Peace Hotel on the Bund in Shanghai and we were the sole purveyors of famous international jewelry brands such as Cartier, Lalique, Rolex, Mikimoto, Vacheron Constantin, etc. Shanghai was a chic and prosperous international port at the time and we were responsible for making its inhabitants glisten.


About

About AboutMy grandfather, Jack Poh, took over Alexander Clark from his father, and the advertisement for Rolex watches below was from the 1940’s during grandpa’s time at the helm. My father, Johnson Poh, used to visit the store as a child and his job was to wind all the grandfather clocks after school; he still recalls the elation he felt from hearing over forty grandfather clocks chime together simultaneously. It was assumed that my father would succeed my grandfather when the time came but that would never come to pass as the store was closed as a result of the Cultural Revolution.

 

AboutMy parents moved to NYC (oh yes, I am a New Yorker through and through.  I almost called this blog “Bagels and Diamonds” but then I thought, “Choking hazard!”) after I was born and my dad took up an apprenticeship at a jewelry manufacturing company in 1982. I remember going up to his bench as a toddler and standing on tiptoes to marvel at all the sparkly gems and the gold dust that accumulated. I was told never to touch anything on his bench and I always obeyed. By 1987, he started his own manufacturing company on 47th street in the Diamond District. Whenever I went to the workshop to visit him I was given the very important job of sweeping up the gold dust from the jewelers benches and scouring the floor for diamonds that may have popped out of the jewelers’ tweezers during the manufacturing process. Even now when you visit my father’s company and go into the workshop at the end of the day you will see the most junior apprentice sweeping up the gold dust from the other master jewelers’ benches–although no one can beat me when it comes to looking for floor diamonds (I once found a 3.88 carat blue sapphire on the pavement on 47th street and I wasn’t even trying).

Needless to say, with such a pedigree I developed a special understanding of and relationship with jewelry early on. At the age of five I used to design futuristic jewelry–I think it was a combination of the fashion of the 80’s and my obsession with The Jetsons–a cartoon set in the future–that influenced my design aesthetic at the time.  It was probably around that same age that my father gifted me with my first diamond ring.  An adorable little gold flower with a diamond in its center.  I swooned over it and wore it to dinner in.  There was much frolicking and gleeful hand swinging, and by the end of the night the ring was nowhere to be found.  My clammy little five-year old fingers were once again unadorned.  Oh how I cried!  Heartbreak at such an early age.

Naturally, one would think I went into the jewelry business straight away.  Nope, not this product of an Asian tiger mom!  I was bound for law school.  So yes, Cornell Law, big firm in NYC and an even bigger firm in Shanghai (my other city–I might have about 4 cities).  Alas, hours upon hours, years upon years of venture capital financings, private equity deals and mergers meant that I was practically living in my office with a drawer full of stilettos, another containing a cute outfit for nights out, a spare suit and a black-tie gown constantly hanging on the back of my office door. But alas after about 6 years I decided to give it all up to pursue my true calling.

I went off and got my G.D. (Graduate Diamonds) from the Gemological Institute of America, became creative director of my father’s company and launched Jean & Alex, a jewelry atelier that works directly with clients to design and create custom pieces of jewelry that reflect their individual aesthetics, preferences, and lifestyle. Client after client seemed to be telling me the same thing: that it is incredibly difficult and intimidating to shop for jewelry and everything out there looks the same. I soon recognized that there were inefficiencies in the jewelry industry that not only affected my clients, but also jewelry designers and brands themselves. As a result, after a few years of running and designing for the atelier I felt compelled to try to solve the larger problem–that jewelry has lost its meaning. Thus began  Swoonery.com, a luxury online marketplace for fine jewelry that helps customers discover and purchase exquisitely crafted, unique jewelry that they connect with.

This blog is my love letter to the Universe and my great big thank you to my family and friends for their love and support. It amazes me that all my paths and past experiences have led me to exactly where I need and want to be. This is my way of paying it forward by sharing my journey so that others can learn from my mistakes, be inspired by my wins, and see what being a female entrepreneur in the world of luxury actually entails. I encourage other female entrepreneurs to build what they feel is lacking in the world. Here’s to your fempire!

Big Kiss and Bigger Diamonds,

JZP

DIY Jeweled Buttons

 

Ladylike is the look to embrace this fall.  It seems designers are all waxing nostalgic for a bygone era with all the use of brocade, twill and absolutely massive jeweled buttons.  Sometimes I wonder if designers have ESP, or if it is the result of collusionary meetings in a suite at the Paris Ritz, “Lets push up the market price of jeweled buttons this year!”  However these patterns take hold, it is without doubt that you will be seeing blinged out buttons from Marc Jacobs/Louis Vuitton, Chanel, Oscar de la Renta, Prada, Thakoon, I could go on.  . .

 

DIY Jeweled Buttons

Louis Vuitton, Fall 2012.  Photo courtesy of Style.com

DIY Jeweled Buttons

Louis Vuitton jeweled buttons, Fall 2012. Photo courtesy of Vogue.com

DIY Jeweled Buttons

Oscar de la Renta, Fall 2012. Photo courtesy of Style.com

DIY Jeweled Buttons

Chanel, Fall 2012. Photo courtesy of Vogue.com

DIY Jeweled Buttons

Oscar de la Renta, Fall 2012. Photo courtesy of Vogue.com

How do you know if your jeweled button look is totally au courant or a bit grannypants?  It depends on how you wear the outfit.  By no means should it be a head-to-toe look.  The second you take this trend too seriously and get overly enthusiastic, that’s when you’ve gone prematurely geriatric.  Pair one piece that has jeweled buttons with something completely unexpected like boyfriend jeans or leather pants.  Play with it, have fun, just don’t over-commit to the look.

For the curious commitment-phobe, you can always try DIY jeweled buttons on the pockets of a tweed jacket and see if it takes.  Here is what you need for a DIY:

1. Button covers

DIY Jeweled Buttons

 

2. High Epoxy Adhesive or Rubber Cement

3. Old Vintage Pin or Earring (preferably a broken one where the pin or earring back has already snapped off)

DIY Jeweled Buttons
Vintage enamel, faux pearl and rhinestone earring.

 

There is only one step: Glue the earring or pin onto the button cover.

DIY Jeweled Buttons

So easy even a home-ec flunky can do it.  Try not to glue your fingers together my DMD darlings.  . .if you do, try nail polish remover.

Big Kiss and Bigger Diamonds,

JZP

In Defense of Diamonds: Why Ira Weissman is Wasting His Time

 

There are times in one’s life when selfishness needs to be cast aside, when instincts of self-preservation are subjugated in order to defend one’s beliefs against a bully.  I came across diamond industry veteran, Ira Weissman’s, article “7 Reasons Why Diamonds are a Waste of Your Money” via Huffington Post Blog this week and felt an overwhelming need to right a wrong–to come to the defense of something that cannot defend itself from the inaccurate statements and sweeping generalizations made in Mr. Weissman’s article.

Reason #1

According to Mr. Weissman, “The most common misconception about engagement rings is that they’re some kind of ancient tradition that’s deeply embedded in human history in societies around the world. This is completely false.”  Well. . .actually, around the 2nd Century AD, the Romans first used rings as tokens of betrothal.  During that time, diamonds and colored stones were extremely popular and though diamond cutting techniques were not sophisticated, there is evidence showing that solitaire rough diamond rings did exist (See Black, J. Anderson, A History of Jewelry: Five Thousand Years (Park Lane 1981)).

I will acknowledge the fact that De Beers did propel the popularity of the engagement rings to its current height with some excellent marketing and ad campaigns, but let’s not make sweeping generalizations about “human history and societies around the world” without researching said histories and societies first, shall we?  History aside, assuming that the practice of presenting engagement rings to symbolize love, betrothal, and commitment, is a tradition that was developed over the last century, I still fail to see what Mr. Weissman is taking issue with.  America is a young country, and just like older civilizations before us, the creation of traditions and practices that hold sentimental significance is an integral part of the evolution of any culture.

Reason #2:

“Diamonds are not an investment — they are a retail product like any other.”  Now, Mr. Weissman, assuming that we are discussing finished jewelry rather than diamonds, which are a commodity, there are retail products that depreciate in value the second they leave the store, and there are luxury goods that increase in value based on the basic principles of market economics.  A Chevy Impala will be worth less the day after you drive it away from the dealership, but a limited edition Aston Martin, however, will likely retain its value pretty well, if not appreciate in value, as long as it’s well cared for.  Another prime example of a retail good that not only retains value, but appreciates, is the Hermes Birkin bag.  Point made.

I assume you would retort with something along the lines of, “Limited edition, sure.  But diamonds are mass-produced and readily available.”  I beg to differ.  Diamonds are a limited resource.  The sheer fact that it took the perfect combination of temperature and pressure for carbon to transform into diamond’s unique crystal structure over billions of years, hundreds of millions of years for the diamonds to be transported by kimberlite and lamproite from the earth’s mantle, through the process of emplacement, to the earth’s crust where they can be mined by humans, renders the diamond a rare and awe-inspiring phenomenon indeed.

I am not claiming that all diamonds are investment-grade.  Just like some investments make money and others fail, one must invest well for a diamond to appreciate in value.  I would never buy shares in any old company and expect for a 15% return in one year, or ever.  Would I buy a 2 carat, L colored, SI1 and call it an investment?  Of course not.  However, with proper investment advice, certain diamonds will appreciate in value.

Diamonds, just like any other investment have to be bought low and sold high.  There must be demand in the market and a rare, high-quality stone will appreciate in value like any other commodity over time.  Given the recent demand for diamonds in China and India, diamond prices increased by 10-20% in the first half of last year alone.  Appraisers are quite familiar with the increase in diamond value, which is why most will automatically add 15% to the appraisal value in order to arrive at the replacement value of a diamond.

Reason #3

Mr. Weissman then cites integrity of the diamond dealers and their willingness to engage in unsavory behavior in order to turn a profit as his third reason why diamonds are a waste of money.  Diamond dealers like Mr. Weissman sell to manufacturers, designers, and wholesalers, not directly to the consumer.  The diamond dealers margins are absorbed by the manufacturer or wholesaler as their cost of doing business.  Every stage of the industrial process has a built-in margin, everyone needs to make some money along the way.  To argue that profits should not be made by suppliers in the production chain suggests a naiveté about capitalism that I would find alarming coming from a diamond investment advisor.  On the other hand, if reason #3 was an attempt at undermining the integrity of other diamond dealers in an effort to drum up business for himself, I’m afraid Mr. Weissman’s efforts fall short as well.  Do we really expect the public to believe that a disenchanted and slightly bitter diamond dealer is going to forgo any profits in his own business dealings?  I think not.

Reasons #4-7

If I wasn’t sufficiently appalled by the unresearched blanket statement about the history of engagement rings made by Mr. Weissman earlier in his article, please consider me fully horrified by his reasons #4-7, which range from unsolicited lectures on fiscal responsibility to sweeping statements about men and women’s motivations behind buying or wanting an engagement ring, respectively.  He supposes that men buy rings to “prove their manhood” or to keep their girlfriends “quiet for another year about marriage” and women are merely seeking a diamond as proof that they are loved.  Such unfounded stereotypes are about as insightful as those of a high school psychology student with a penchant for watching reality TV.  Perhaps reasons #4-7 clawed away at Mr. Weissman’s inner dialogue when he was proposing to his (poor) wife, but I have more faith in society than to assume they are all weak-minded sheep with inferiority complexes who can be herded en mass into the abyss in search of a little blue box.

For me, engagements rings remain a beautiful gesture.  If a man loves a woman enough to want to make her happy by purchasing a rare gem because she thinks its stunning, and if he is selfless enough to spend (whatever the amount) on a gift for her, rather than on himself, that is something worthy of praise, not ridicule.  As for the women, I doubt many of us would condemn ourselves to a lifetime with a horrid man we couldn’t stand purely for the sake of a diamond.  In case you didn’t get the memo, women are quite capable of funding their own diamonds nowadays.  So if the sparkly ring on our finger reminds us of how we fell in love and the man we fell in love with, I would say it’s money well spent.

I am a big proponent of loving what you do and believing in what you sell.  I left a career as a corporate lawyer in order to pursue my passions, jewelry, design, fashion and diamonds.  It is because I love what I do that I urge clients to make informed decisions by discussing things to consider before buying your first diamond, or the truth about conflict diamonds.  I would never sell something I felt resentment towards, nor would I hold my potential clients in such low regard.

Quite frankly, Mr. Weissman, if you are so disenchanted with your profession, perhaps the more effective solution would be to pursue another trade, rather than trying to fashion for yourself a niche as the “diamond Cassandra.”  After all, in life as in the purchase of diamonds, it is not the money that matters in the long-run, it’s the joy that one derives from the process and the relationships that one builds, that make for a life of fulfillment.

Big Kiss and Bigger Diamonds,

JZP

In Defense of Diamonds: Why Ira Weissman is Wasting His Time


Wrist-Wear for the Wispy

 

Oh, how I envy women with big hands and long limbs that extend ad infinitum!  Bangles look so divine on them!  Me, I’ve got little hands connected to tiny wrists that get swallowed up by larger bangles that fit other women so well.  Put large round bangles on me and you might as well call me T-Rex.  Since persistence is a virtue (don’t tell your stalker), I continue to plug away experimenting with various acoutrements for my less than sturdy limbs.  The solutions:

1.  Wear dainty bracelets that can be adjusted for size.

Wrist Wear for the Wispy

Eddie Borgo, Gold-Plated Northern Star Bracelet. Photo courtesy of Net-a-Porter.

Wrist Wear for the Wispy

Lulu Frost for J.Crew, Resin and Marcasite Bracelet. Photo courtesy of J.Crew.

Wrist Wear for the Wispy

BaubleBar, Brown ID Bar Triple Wrap.  Photo courtesy of BaubleBar.

2.  If dainty is not your cup of vodka, then you can get the look of cuffs  by stacking a selection of smaller, thinner bracelets together.

Wrist Wear for the Wispy

Arm Party a la Manrepeller.  Photo courtesy of Dannijo.

3.  Or, wear size-adjustable cuffs OVER your sleeves, as I do.  The sleeves elongate the arm while giving your wrist some bulk.  It’s a revelation.

Wrist Wear for the Wispy

Shourouk, Pheonix crystal cuff.  Photo courtesy of Net-a-Porter.

4.  When in doubt, diamond tennis bracelet.  No one ever said, “oh those diamonds look terrible on her!” unless they were positively green with envy.  Tennis bracelets are versatile.  You can wear them alone or stack them.  Have your jeweler size the bracelet for your wrist upon purchase.  Don’t worry about the diamonds that will be left over, you can turn them into earrings.

Wrist Wear for the Wispy

JZP diamond tennis bracelet, Fallon necklace worn as a bracelet, Miansai hook in rose gold.

Big Kiss and Bigger Diamonds,

JZP

 

Ring Size Fit Guide: From Puffy Fingers to Paltry Digits

 

It may seem like common knowledge that one should buy a ring that fits, but you’d be surprised at the science behind finding an ideal fit.  I recently sized a client in Shanghai and thank goodness for flying out there because we would be totally off without a fitting.  My general rule of thumb is: your ring should slip one easily but require a bit of an effort to take off.  Most people’s knuckles are slightly larger than the girth of their finger, so you want the ring to catch on the knuckle just a bit as you take it off so it doesn’t fall off inadvertently.  Another way to think about it is if the ring would fall off if you’re washing your hands then it’s much too large and if you need to lather up your hands with soap to get it off then it’s much too small.

Now another thing to keep in mind is that our hands swell with air travel, sodium intake, booze, pregnancy, weight gain, water retention, exercise–yes I know, this is not pleasant so lets cut the list short and suffice to say that unless you’re the same size you were in high school, eat a macrobiotic diet without salt, get lymphatic drainage massages every day and intend to never have children, your finger will get larger with time and arthritis (if you have tendencies toward hypochondria as I do).  So, if you’re choosing between two sizes, go for the larger one (as long as it doesn’t fall off if you swing your hand).

When my hubby proposed to me we happened to be in Cielo, a club in NYC that we both used to frequent in our younger wilder days (ahem). My ring was gorgeous obviously since it was from Jean & Alex and after all the sobbing, hugging, kissing, surprise visit from my brother (who knew about the proposal because Hubby tweeted about it all day), we did a little dance to the electronic version of  La Vie En Rose.  He twirled me and with a flick of my wrist. . .poof!  Ring goes flying into the crowd!!!  In a club!  In NYC! Stomping! Dancing! I screamed something to the effect of F*#!@ Me! And we both hit the floor on hands and knees to try to retrieve the ring.  Luckily, it was big enough and shiny enough that it sparkled under the strobe lights, but you better believe that the very next day I went into the office and got ball bearings put on the inside.

WHAT?  Ball bearings?  Jes my darlings, platinum ones of course.  Little known fact, it is easy to resize a ring and make it bigger but you can’t make it smaller because the diamonds will pop out. My remedy is to solder two small ball bearings into the inside of the ring.  They make it more snug and have the added benefit of being removable.  So in the future if I puff up like a cholera patient, I can remove them and voila–the ring will be the perfect size!  The opposite is also true, if by some miracle I lose my fondness for champagne, fois gras, lobster, asian noodles, sea urchin pasta and all things divine and become supermodel skinny, I can always add in a few more ball bearings.  But then again, if I ever became that thin I doubt I would be able to lift the heavy ring on my finger or all my other statement jewelry so best not give up the sea urchin pasta just yet. . .

Ring Size Fit Guide: From Puffy Fingers to Paltry Digits
Jean & Alex engagement ring with ball bearing sizers.

Big Kiss and Bigger Diamonds,

JZP