Episode 141 Part 1: How Emerging Jewelry Designers Can Cut Through the Noise with Writer & Editor, Amy Elliott
What you’ll learn in this episode:
- Why the most important thing a jewelry designer can invest in is high-quality photography
- How Amy finds the topics she writes about for JCK’s “All That Glitters” blog
- How designers can find the story that helps them break through the crowded marketplace
- Who today’s most exciting emerging and independent designers are
- How the jewelry industry changed during the pandemic, and what retailers must do to engage young consumers
About Amy Elliott
Amy Elliott is a writer, editor and brand storyteller who specializes in fine jewelry and fashion, and is fluent in other lifestyle categories, including food, weddings and travel.
As a former staff editor at The Knot, Bridal Guide, Brides Local Magazines + Brides.com and Lucky, Amy is known for delivering high-quality editorial content across a variety of print and digital media. After recently serving as the Engagement Rings Expert for About.com, Amy joined the freelance staff of JCK as its All That Glitters columnist, while contributing articles about jewelry trends, estate and antique jewelry and gemstones to its prestigious print magazine.
Amy also serves as the Fine Jewelry Expert for The Bridal Council, an industry organization composed of luxury bridal designers, retailers and media, and her byline has appeared in Gotham, Hamptons, DuJour, Martha Stewart Weddings, GoodHousekeeping.com and more.
- Amy’s Website
- Amy’s Twitter
- Amy’s Instagram
- JCK Article: Cicadas Swarm on Sienna Patti Gallery in Lenox, Mass.
- JCK Article: Christopher Thompson Royds’ Flowers Bloom at Sienna Patti Gallery
- JCK Article: Look What Happens When Annoushka Gives Peridot A Go
Examples of posts that reflect the intersection of jewelry with history, culture and current events:
Bob Goodman Wants Jewelers To Join Him in Disrupting the Status Quo:
The Ten Thousand Things x Met Museum Collaboration Is Coming In Hot:
Go “Sea” Some Serious Silver Treasures At Mystic Seaport Museum:
New Jewelry From Rafka Koblence, Olympic Wrestler Turned Designer:
As author of the “All That Glitters” blog for JCK, Amy Elliott has a front row seat to the jewelry industry’s up-and-coming trends and designers. She’s also been lucky enough to work with some of these designers, helping them refine their brands and create stories that resonate with customers. She joined the Jewelry Journey Podcast to talk about what designers and retailers should do to stay relevant with younger consumers, how art jewelry has influenced high jewelry, and what jewelry trends to watch out for in the coming months. Read the episode transcript here.
Sharon: Hello, everyone. Welcome to the Jewelry Journey Podcast. Today, our guest is Amy Elliott, founder of Amy Elliott Creative. She is a writer, editor and thought leader who specializes in fine jewelry and fashion which makes most of us envious. That’s a great profession. She is a contributing editor to the industry publication we all know, JCK, and writes the blog “All That Glitters.” We will hear all about her jewelry journey today. Amy, welcome to the program
Amy: Thank you very much for having me, Sharon. It’s a pleasure to be here.
Sharon: So glad to have you. I’m always envious of people who are writing about jewelry or makers and designers. That’s fabulous. I have no talent in that area, so when I hear about people writing, I think, “Wow, it’s great.” Tell us all about your jewelry journey.
Amy: My jewelry journey is a mix of personal and professional. I’m an avid collector of jewelry. My mother is a big collector of jewelry, so from age 12 on, jewelry was always a part of my life and something that I gravitated to. As a professional, jewelry has been central to my career as a journalist and a writer since the very beginning, starting at The Knot in 1999.
Sharon: The Knot being the bridal publication.
Amy: Yes. At that time, it was just a website. I was there when they moved into magazines. I helped coordinate the gowns and accessories for fashion shoots and got a taste of engagement rings and diamonds, the 4Cs. That was my first introduction to jewelry on a professional level. Then I took a job at Bridal Guide Magazine, which is a leading print publication still around, privately owned. I was a senior editor there. I had many duties, but one of them was to produce a jewelry column, and that is when my education in jewelry really began. I began forming connections within the industry to educate myself on the 4Cs, pearl buying, colored gemstones. I’ve always been drawn to color, so that’s when I became a student, if you will, of gems and jewelry and how jewelry fits into conversations about fashion trends and cultural and social current events. That was when I really got into jewelry as a métier.
I was one of the founding editors of Brides local magazines, which was a Condé Nast publication of regional wedding magazines that no longer exists. Because we were short on staff, I would call in all the jewelry for our cover shoots. Even though I had a leadership role there—I was the executive editor—I also made it part of my job to call in jewels for art cover shoots. I kept that connection, and then on the side I would freelance for luxury publications. It became the thing that I liked to do the best. I loved the people in the industry. I would always learn something. No matter what I was doing or writing about, I would learn something new, and that’s still true to this day. There’s always something for me to learn. I discovered that jewelry is the perfect combination of earth science, history, culture, and straight-up beauty and aesthetics. It’s a very gratifying topic to cover. I love the way it intersects with current events and with, as I mentioned, the fashion conversations at large.
Sharon: When you went to Vassar, did you study writing? They’re not known for their metalsmithing program, so did you study writing with the idea “I just want to write”?
Amy: Pretty much. I was always pretty good at writing and facility with language, so I went there knowing I’d be an English major. For my thesis I wrote a creative writing thesis; it was like a little novella. I’ve always had a love affair with words and expression of thoughts, and I loved reading, so I knew I would do something that had to do with words and writing. I actually graduated thinking I would be a romance novelist. That was what I thought I would do. Then, of course, I started out in book publishing, and I found it really, really slow and boring, just painfully slow, and I decided perhaps that wasn’t for me. Then I took a job in public relations. I really loved the marketing aspect of it and the creativity involved. Of course, it involved a lot of writing.
Eventually I decided I wanted to be on the editorial side of things once and for all. I had always written for the high school newspaper. I had done an internship at Metropolitan Home Magazine in the design department in college, so magazines were always lurking there and were always the main goal. I ended up there; it just took a couple of years for me to get there. Once I did, I knew I wanted to work for a women’s magazine. I love things that would fall under the heading of a women’s magazine, relationships, fashion. The wedding magazines I worked at were a great fit for me because it’s pure romance and fantasy and big, beautiful ball gowns and fancy parties. It was a good fit for me, and I was able to take that and home in on jewelry as a particular focus elsewhere in my career after those first years.
I will say Vassar is known for its art history program. I was not a star art history pupil by any means, but I took many classes there. I find myself leaning on those skills the most as a jewelry writer, looking closely at an object, peeling back the layers and trying to understand what the artist or jeweler is trying to say through jewelry, much like you would with a painting from the Renaissance. So, I am grateful for that tutelage because I found myself drawing on it often, even though I was definitely a B- student in art history.
Sharon: It seems to me if you’re not going to be a maker, if you’re not going to be a metalsmith or a goldsmith or if you’re not going to be selling behind the counter, it seems like art history is a fabulous foundation for jewelry in terms of the skills you draw on.
Amy: Absolutely. Historical narratives and every historical event that’s going on in the world can be—you can look at jewelry from the past and tie it into something that was going on, whether it was the discovery of platinum or the discovery of diamonds in South Africa. It all intersects so beautifully. Vassar taught me to think critically; it taught me how to express myself, to develop a style of writing that I think is still present in my writing today. I always try to get a little lyricism in there. A good liberal arts foundation took me into the world of magazines and eventually digital publishing. I stayed with Condé Nast for a long time. Then I went to Lucky Magazine and was on staff there for a little over a year and a half. I was exposed to fine jewelry on a more fashion level, like the kind cool girls would wear, gold and diamond jewelry that wasn’t big jewels by Oscar Heyman. It was a different category, but still within that universe. That was a great education, to look at fine jewelry in a fashion context. They had layoffs in 2012 and I was forced to strike out on my own, but I’ve been freelance ever since, doing a mix of copywriting for fashion brands and writing for various publications. I’ve been writing for JCK since 2016.
Sharon: Wow! Amy, we want to hear more about that, but just a couple of things. First, thank you to our subscribers. I want to thank everybody who’s gotten in contact with me with their suggestions. I love to get them, so please email me at Sharon@ArtsandJewelry.com or DM me @ArtsandJewelry. Also a big shoutout to Kimberly Klosterman, whose jewelry is featured in the exhibit “Simply Brilliant: Jewelry of the 60s and 70s” at the Cincinnati Art Museum. It’s on now through February 6. You can listen to our interview with Kimberly on podcast number 133. Now, back to our interview with Amy. Amy, what I like about what you said—you expressed it very well—is the intersection of jewelry with current events and history. I know I always have difficulty explaining to people why I’m interested in jewelry or jewelry history. They think, “Oh, you like big diamonds,” and it’s hard to explain how it tells you so much about the period.
Amy: Yes, I think acknowledging how global our industry is and learning about different cultures has been so critical to becoming fluent in this world and the gemstones that come from Afghanistan or Ethiopia or Mozambique. Just learning about the sapphires from Sri Lanka—it’s so global and all-encompassing. I read the Cartier book, and their story is so fascinating. I am interested particularly in World War II and how that impacted the jewelry industry, how Susan Beltran saved the business of her lover, how the events of World War II Germany impacted Paris and the jewelers there, how the Cartiers would do the birds in the cage and all that stuff. I think you can look at historic jewels and see reflected back at you current events and moments in our history.
Sharon: Definitely. I imagine when you look at something, it’s not just seeing the jewel, but you’re seeing the whole background behind it, how it sits within that context, that nest of history with World War II and platinum. It’s an eye into the world.
Amy: Even someone like Judith Leiber, who fled Hungary during wartime and became this amazing designer of handbags in New York. So many of the jewelers that are leaders and pillars of our industry came here because of the pogroms in Russia and Eastern Europe. It really does intersect with what was happening in the world. The jewelry industry is a microcosm of all those events, even going to back to the Silk Road and Mesopotamia and the Armenians and the Ottoman Empire. It is a rich tapestry of moments. Historic jewels in particular can give you insight, not just into an artist’s vision, but into a moment of time.
Sharon: I didn’t know that about Judith Leiber; that’s interesting. You left Lucky Magazine and opened your own shop. You do a lot of writing and editing. How do the graphics also play into it? Do you art direct? If clients come to you and say, “I need a brochure,” I assume you’re doing all the copy and editing, but do they bring you the photos? How does that work?
Amy: My background in magazines definitely has given me a pretty robust skillset in terms of working with graphic designers and art directors, conveying ideas and working with them to solve problems. You do emerge with a sense of the visuals, and a taste level is part of it when you’re covering fashion and jewelry and things related to style. So yes, I think as a copywriter, one of the things I bring to the table is that I will be able to advise you on the quality of your photos and your look book on the crops, on the model even. Also there’s the hierarchy of information; that’s definitely a form of direction. It’s not very glamorous, but I’m good at understanding how things should be stacked and arranged on a page in terms of hierarchy of messaging. I do have a lot of opinions, I guess, about what looks good and what doesn’t. If that feedback is welcome, I’m always happy to share it. Sometimes a client will send me an email for review, and I know they just want to get it out, but I’m like, “No, this is spelled wrong, and the headline should be this, and this needs to go there,” and I’ll mock it up on the screen as to where things should go. The best editors and writers, especially when you’re dealing with jewelry and fashion and beautiful objects, you have to have a strong sense of the visual.
Sharon: I know sometimes clients push back, but I assume they come to you because they want your opinion or they’d do it themselves, right?
Amy: Yes. My favorite clients to work with are emerging designers who are just getting out there. They have so many ideas, so many stories to tell, and I help them refine their vision, refine their voice. For many of them, it’s the first time they’re coming to market, and I can help them present themselves in a professional way that will be compelling to buyers and to media.
Sharon: What type of issues are potential clients coming to you for? Is there an overarching—problem might not be the right word—but something you see, a common thread through what they’re asking?
Amy: There are a number of things. One could be a complicated concept that needs to be explained, something technical like the meteorite that’s used in a wedding ring. “We have all this raw material from our supplier. How do we make that customer-facing? How do we make that dense language more lively and easier to digest?” Sometimes it’s collection naming. “Here’s my collection. Here are the pieces. Can you give them a name? Can you help name this product?” Sometimes it’s, “We want to craft a story around this,” and I’m able to come at it with, “I know what the story is here. We’ve got to shape you to be able to present that story to the world, whether it’s a buyer or an editor.”
Usually there is some sort of a concept that is involved; it just hasn’t been refined and it’s not adjustable. They’re so focused on the work and the design vocabulary, they need someone to come in and look at it holistically and figure out how they’re going to package this as an overarching idea. Sometimes it’s as simple as, “I need to write a letter. These are the things I want to get across to buyers or new accounts or an invitation to an event.” I can take these objectives, these imperatives, and spin them into something compelling and customer-facing and fun to read. It’s a mix of imaginative work and down-and-dirty, let me take this corporate document and finesse it and make it more lively and more like something a consumer would want to read on a website.
Sharon: They must be so appreciative. Their work may be beautiful, but they have to condense it to say what they are trying to express and get that across to somebody who may not know the language, so somebody wants to pick it up and say, “Oh, that’s really interesting.”
Amy: Storytelling is a big buzzword right now in the industry, but it’s so important. The marketplace is so crowded, and it’s not enough to be like, “I have a new collection of stacking rings,” or “I’ve expanded these rings to include a sapphire version.” You have to come up with some sort of a story to draw in an audience, and then you can use that story on all of your touchpoints, from social media to your email blasts to a landing page on your website. There are a host of jewelry professionals out there that can advise in different ways, to help you get into stores, to help you with specific branding, refining your collection from a merchandising standpoint. There are so many professionals out there that specialize in that, but I think what I bring to the table is knowledge of the industry and a facility with language. It’s almost like I’m a mouthpiece for the designer or the corporate brand and a conduit to the consumers’ headspace.
Sharon: It sounds like a real talent in the areas where there are gaps in what a designer and retailer/manufacturer needs. Telling the story may be a buzzword, but it’s words, and you have to use the right words. Tell us about the JCK. You write the blog “All That Glitters,” which is very glittery. It’s very attractive. Tell us about it.
Amy: Thanks. I was JCK’s center for style-related content. Obviously, there’s no shortage of breaking news and hard business news, because JCK’s first and foremost a serious business publication.
Sharon: With the jewelry industry.
Amy: With the jewelry industry. I’ve evolved the blog to be—my favorite things to cover are new collections. I like to interview designers about inspirations. I like to show a broad range of photos from the collection. A lot of it is just showing collections that I love. Maybe I’ve seen them at Fashion Week; maybe I saw them at the JCK shows or at appointments in the city; maybe I saw something on Instagram. I love to cover design collaborations. Those are one of my favorites things to cover: how two minds can come together to create a new product, like when Suzanne Kalan partnered with Jonathan Adler to do a line of trinket trays. I am interested in cultural events. I like to cover museum exhibits. I covered the Beautiful Creatures exhibit at the Natural History Museum. Because I live in Connecticut, I was able to make it up to Mystic Seaport. They have a beautiful collection of silver trophies by all the best makers, from Tiffany to Shreve, Crump & Low and Gorham. I was able to go up there and see that collection.
It’s a blog about culture. It’s a blog about things I love. I’ve written about TV shows that have to do with jewelry. I like the title “All That Glitters” because it gives me a lot of leeway in terms of what I can cover. I’ve written about writing instruments. Fabergé did a collaboration with whiskey brands and I wrote about that. I try to leave it open, but if there’s a strong, new, exciting collection, especially from a high jewelry brand—I’m going to be writing something on one from David Webb coming up. They just released a new collection called Asheville, inspired by his hometown. I like to do a deep dive into a designer story or to show a new collection. My colleague, Brittany Siminitz, does beautiful curations. Sometimes I’ll do curations, meaning a roundup of beautiful products that correspond to an overarching theme. I love to do those, but I am happiest when designers come to me with a new collection and something that people haven’t seen before. I particularly love discovering new voices and emerging designers that haven’t been featured in the press before, so I can be that first introduction.