Marion Fasel……..has become a legend in the jewelry industry. Two decades as a jewelry and watch contributing editor for InStyle magazine have solidified Marion Fasel as one of the top jewelry historians and experts. A year ago Marion started a new venture, the Adventurine. An online magazine that has become a go-to destination for great jewelry stories. Initially, I was intrigued by the name, as it reminds me of the French word L’aventuriere (the adventurer). Turns out, the Adventurine was inspired by a gemstone called Aventurine with a very interesting history…
Some of us have come to the jewelry industry because of family and others have landed by accident. Everyone has a story to tell about their beginnings. To Marion’s luck, her first job right out of college was in the jewelry industry.
Josette: Do you believe that your first job as an archivist defined your future in the jewelry industry?
Marion: I am so glad you asked this question. I was on a panel just a couple of weeks ago at the GIA Career Fair. Each of us spoke for about 10-minutes about our career path in front of an audience of recent Graduate Gemologists looking for work. In putting together the talk, I realized everything I do is based on a foundation of what I did as an archivist. During those years in the process of cataloguing a vast collection of twentieth century jewelry and writing several books about the subject, I gained an in-depth knowledge of the history of jewelry design. Talking with students afterwards, I was reminded of the fact that there is nowhere for people to learn the history of jewelry, the way one learns the history of art in college. They were all very interested to know more. I feel like I should start The Adventurine Academy and teach it.
Josette: Did you have an inclination towards jewelry that developed a thirst for more knowledge during those years?
Marion: I still have a thirst for more knowledge about jewelry. It’s an underdeveloped field. There is always lots to do and learn which makes it exciting.
Josette: Having a mentor for a very long time has helped us tremendously in our vision and our work, especially since both Mark and I didn’t come from a jewelry background. After spending twenty years working side-by-side with Penny Proddow, how much of an influence do you feel she had in shaping your work?
Marion: Penny was a brilliant and hilarious woman who shaped my work 100%. She believed in telling jewelry stories in context, writing about the time and place that inspired designs. Penny put a light on the path for me and her way of doing things is exactly how I do them to this day. I named my online magazine The Adventurine because I believe jewelry takes you everywhere. I think it is vital to write about more than just the jewel itself. I am fascinated by the environment that brought the jewel into being.
Josette: How important do you think mentorship is?
Marion: Mentorship is vital. I do think however, the relationship has to go both ways. The mentor and mentee both have to have an enthusiasm for the subject and relationship to make it work.
Josette: Classic celebrities, from the likes of Marlene Dietrich, the Duchess of Windsor, Elizabeth Taylor, Maria Felix etc… and lately Ellen Barkin used to buy and collect beautiful jewelry. What are celebrities buying today, and are they still a power tool for brands?
Marion: The celebrities on your classic list had some of the greatest jewelry collections of modern times. I do believe most of the jewels in their collections weren’t items they bought, but gifts from their husbands and lovers. Celebrities are absolutely buying jewelry today. Jennifer Tilly has a substantial and important jewelry collection. She is great fun about it and I did a story on a few of her pieces for The Adventurine. Gwyneth Paltrow has some nice JAR jewels she loaned to the exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Beyoncé has some serious pieces from Lorraine Schwartz. Pharrell is legit gem collector. Sofia Coppola has several of Verdura’s Maltese Cross Cuffs and she wears them all the time. Really, the list goes on and on, so it’s safe to say they are buying it. Professionally are they power tools for brands? As with everything now, there is not one answer to a successful brand strategy so power tools are few and far between. If a brand works with the right celebrity for their image it can certainly help with the bottom line.
Josette: Millennials……..My children’s generation is smart, driven, progressive, sensitive to others. They have wrongly been portrayed as materialistic spenders and entitled. This is the generation that researches everything before they spend their money in a world that has become more expensive. How do you engage with Millennials in your online magazine and how are their buying habits influencing trends in the jewelry industry?
Marion: Like you, I think Millennials are fantastic. They seem to love jewelry and wear it in more interesting and personal ways than any generation ever. I said as much when I reviewed the new Tiffany ad campaign which I adore because it is giving a nod to the Millennial crowd. I believe Tiffany got it right where so many others have gotten it wrong.
In terms of engaging Millennials, I don’t do it consciously. I have found that Millennials are not quite as predictable as marketing folks would have you believe. I think they enjoy history and books as well as trends, things every generation enjoys. I cover all of those things.
Josette: Branded content is a form of advertising and I feel that we are in a content war, with every brand struggling to be noticed. Not everyone has the means to pay for content to reach an audience. How does an understated brand make it in today’s world?
Marion: I wish there was a simple answer to that question. I think big, medium, small and understated brands are all trying to figure it out. I see big brands struggling to adapt in our ever-changing world as much as small ones. We are in a major moment of transition on just about everything. The best advice I can give anyone is do what you do and be yourself without trying to be like others. I think consumers have a nose for authenticity and they will find you.
Josette: What is your opinion on paid editorials and do you think that they are a powerful tool that shapes the public power of buying?
Marion: These are truly the questions everyone is struggling with now. The short answer is it depends. When I was at InStyle, the publication had a reputation for selling very big figure jewels right off the pages. The truth was however sometimes jewels sold and sometimes they didn’t. Paid editorials are also a bit of a gamble. I think it is important to find an outlet that provides the same environment you want your jewelry to live in. If you chose a website with a huge following simply by the numbers, but the content isn’t anything like your jewelry the chances are it won’t do well. If you chose an environment that reflects your work, you will have a better opportunity to find your audience. Sponsored posts can certainly be a useful part of a marketing strategy. Just keep in mind that one thing will not change your business completely. The omnichannel world in which we live demands work on several fronts consistently to keep getting your message out.
Thank you Marion, I am so grateful for such an informative interview.