I was fortunate to be interviewed this week for Luxury Travel Magazine. Luxury Travel Magazine does a host of interviews every month of various business and society people, and I was very happy they chose to interview me. The full interview can be read on their website. www.luxurytravelmagazine.com
I read that your gemological interest began as a child growing up in New York City. What trips or gemstone locations were the most memorable to you from your childhood Stateside?
Mineral collection was not a typical hobby for people in New York City. But I think having the experience of traveling outside of the comforts of urban life and into remote backcountry locations in search of stones, really was a great experience for me as a child. My parents took me around the United States, camping out and hunting for stones. Some memorable places were in Montana, where we looked for sapphires; upstate New York, in Herkimer, where we went searching for “Herkimer Diamonds” (which are really quartz crystals of exceptional beauty). Also, I have fond memories of being in Kemmerer, Wyoming collecting fossil fish.
So your father was a gemstones dealer?
No actually, he is a Lawyer. Stone were just a hobby for my parents. They actually prefer them in the uncut mineral state. It took me a while to decide on gems and jewelry as a career.
So how did you get into the business side of gems – what was your journey?
I went to New York University, Stern school of business. After graduating I moved to Berlin, Germany to work in project management, on an aerospace engineering project. I think this really help get my design juices flowing and gave me a look at systematized , large scale industrial design. Taking elements from this helped me a lot, when I transitioned into gems and jewelry. The company I was working for eventually closed, and I felt like it was time to do something I had passion for. While in Germany I did some research and saw that the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) had a campus in Bangkok. A few days later I was formalizing my application, and a month later I was in Bangkok taking full time classes. A year after that, I had my own office in Bangkok and was buying stones for American manufacturers. I subsequently got more into jewelry making, and decided I needed to be closer to my clients in the USA and moved back to New York.
How much traveling do you do, and where are you mostly traveling?
These days I am traveling just about as much as I am in New York. I need to be on the road and in the field, because I never know when something interesting comes up. I also have my clients with particular requests, and in order to accommodate them I have to always be on the hunt. This past year I have been mostly visiting Myanmar and sourcing there. Normally I’ll spend a week or so in Bangkok, then two weeks traveling around Myanmar, and then another week in Bangkok before heading back to New York. Then I’ll stay in New York for a few weeks making and designing jewelry pieces from the gems I purchase before heading back out to Asia. Other places I travel are Sri Lanka, Madagascar, and Tanzania. I also have spent 6 months in the jungles of Sierra Leone developing a diamond and gold mining site for local miners.
Do you ever feel you’re in danger in these places?
I think a healthy dose of fear is always good in this business. There are dangers everywhere, but for the most part I have had more good experiences than bad. I tend to meet good hard working and genuine people in the most unlikely places. It also depends on the culture of the countries I visit. Some are a bit more aggressive than others.
The rest of the interview is available on the Luxury Travel Magazine website: