Accomplished journalist and founder of The Jewelry Loupe, Cathleen McCarthy has been focusing her blog’s attention on jewelry auctions and exhibits, upcoming trends, and the movers and shakers of the industry since 2009. Whether you’re a serious follower of fashion or looking for inspiration, this former Accent editor-in-chief provides incredible insight into the dynamic world of jewelry.
Jaume Labro was fortunate enough to sit down with McCarthy to discuss her personal passion about the industry, including the alternative jewelry materials she believes are set to take the world by storm.
How did you start your writing career in the jewelry world?
I began covering jewelry when I was hired as editor-in-chief of Accent, a jewelry trade magazine. Before that, I was working on staff at a city magazine, and writing about art and design for national magazines.
What did you hope to achieve when you began The Jewelry Loupe?
I was on a mission to celebrate and educate. I’d been writing about various aspects of jewelry (retail, design, history) for consumer and trade magazines for almost two decades but wanted to focus specifically on what I find interesting: the jewelry arts. I’m pretty good at explaining esoteric topics, especially when I’m passionate about them.
What inspires your writing most?
Beauty, originality, craftsmanship.
How has the jewelry industry changed since you first began?
Well, there was no internet then – that’s a big one! E-commerce and online marketing has opened all kinds of opportunity. Materials – especially gems and precious metals – are far more expensive now, but emerging designers are more savvy about business. Many are opting to sell retail rather than wholesale, something e-commerce has made easier.Materials, especially gems and precious metals, are far more expensive now, but emerging designers are more savvy about business. Click To Tweet
Where do you find new and innovative designers?
I follow the results of design contests, not just the winners but the ‘also-rans’. Emerging designers should apply to as many contests as they can. They are a great way to get your work noticed. I also make time to peruse the “emerging designer” section of any show. I also attend local arts and craft fairs.
Are there books or publications that would you recommend to someone starting out in gemology?
Secrets of the Gem Trade and Smithsonian Gem are good starters with lots of pretty pictures. I am a fan of the gem buying guides by Antoinette Matlins. As for magazines, Gems & Gemology.
You often highlight alternative jewelry materials on your blog. What are your favorites at the moment?
There is a lot of fascinating work being done with enamel, especially on three-dimensional pieces. I’m always fascinated by unfamiliar gem material, and I discover new things all the time. Metal-wise, I’m noticing a lot of black rhodium in fine jewelry.
I’m one of few jewelry blogs that regularly spotlights art jewelry as well as fine jewelry, especially when they overlap. I like to see people push the boundaries.
Antique jewelry features prominently on The Jewelry Loupe. What can we learn from studying antique jewelry?
Everything! It’s all there. If you want to see goldsmithing at its finest, look at Etruscan jewelry, then the best Revival and Art Deco jewelry. Anyone interested in craftsmanship should be studying pieces made by master craftsmen.
Any serious artist or designer should be looking for the source. As for collecting, there is also the rarity factor. We are seeing a whole new generation of antique jewelry connoisseurs, thanks to the Internet.
What are some of the most common misconceptions people have about luxury jewelry?
That it’s all about status and bling. That’s just the conventional stuff. There is so much beyond that, both new and old. I try my best to broaden readers’ horizons. It makes me happy when someone tells me my blog did that for them.I try my best to broaden readers’ horizons. It makes me happy when someone tells me my blog did that for them. Click To Tweet
What are the three most important qualities of choosing jewelry?
Beauty – I have to fall in love with something and want to look at it endlessly, or it stays in my jewelry box with 100+ other pieces. Wearability and craftsmanship – it can be subtle or dramatic but it has to hang right and be well engineered. Stones – I’m a sucker for gems with atmosphere: opal, chalcedony, moonstone, and quartz with inclusions.
What is your favorite piece of jewelry from your personal collection? Is there a story behind it?
I have a lovely gold Victorian necklace with a baroque pearl that my grandfather gave my grandmother when they married, still in its original box. That piece is very meaningful to me. But my real favorite is always changing. Right now, I’m in love with a pair of earrings by Mariella Pilato, designed around included quartz crystal points.
Can you tell us about some upcoming personal projects that you are most excited about?
I’m working on a new offshoot of the blog that will tap into something I’ve been doing from the beginning (but haven’t shared until now). I’m pretty excited about it. Watch for that to unveil soon via The Jewelry Loupe.