As I gear up to celebrate (celebrate? Really??) my 41st birthday this week, I thought it might be a good idea to take the time to throw some shout-outs to my fellow mid-lifers in the biz. When you’re 40 you often hear how “40 is the new 30” or “40 is the new 20” when in reality, 40 is simply the same old 40, just with a stronger heart and newer faces behind it. There’s nothing wrong with 40. It isn’t the end of the world. We don’t have to hide behind the other younger decades trying to convince ourselves that those ages were superior in some way. They very much weren’t. If they were, they’d be running the place and I’d be doing a story about them. Not the case, so without further hesitation, get to know a little bit more about just some of the exciting 40ish-year-olds that I’m blessed enough to call my colleagues and even luckier to call my friends.
The Retailer: Mark Mazzarese
The most annoying thing about this guy is that he is exactly one day younger than I am. One stinkin’ day. Man that gets under my skin. Other than that though, he’s pretty alright. Firstly, he’s Italian, which always bodes well. But he’s not just any kind of Italian, he’s a first generation American with Italian parents, and a fourth generation jeweler with the Mazzarese name. I mean, there are family-run jewelry stores, and then there’re just straight up empires. This is an empire. Made from Italians. If they were in New Jersey, this might not make the feds too happy but hey, they’re in Kansas, so I think it’s safe to say that they’ll be able to carry on with their business without interruption. Oh, I KID! I KID! Jeezus. Lighten up. My last name is PALUMBO, for Capone’s sake.
Mark has single-handedly taken his Mazzarese brand – and believe me, that’s what it is – to an elite level among retailers in this country. I had heard the name and recognized the face long before I ever knew the man. That’s the mark (pun intended) of good MARKeting (intended, again) and a sign that this guy refuses to let be abandoned what his ancestors built. If you’re in the KC area, I suggest you give their store a visit. And if you’re anywhere near Las Vegas at the beginning of June, look for the handsome, shaved-head guy with the Italian nose and chiseled jaw, and go ahead and buy him a drink while you’re at it… a limoncello, maybe… because he’s somebody you’d want to know.
The Editor-in-Chief: Victoria Gomelsky
To know her is to adore her, stalk envy her, and even want to be her at times. I’m talking about the Editor-in-Chief of JCK magazine and recent 2014 GEM Award winner in media excellence, Victoria Gomelsky. Whether she’s riding the ski lift at the Sochi Olympics in order to bring us a story about the history of timekeeping, or having a watch named for her because she was the first person to walk into Shinola’s booth when they were deciding what to call their new collection, one thing is for sure: if you’re reading a story she’s written or even an article written about her, you are in for a vividly wonderful and likely well-scribed treat.
Vic (as we stalkers insiders refer to her) began writing about watches back in 2000 – five years after graduating summa cum laude from UCLA with a degree in Political Science. Slacker, sir, she is not. Her greatest professional accomplishment, she says, is getting every issue of JCK magazine to the printer on time each month. But with 53 countries visited (and counting!), Vic’s true passion in life is travel. “I gravitate to places that are really different from the U.S. and way off the beaten path. Some of my favorites include: the Gran Sabana region of Venezuela, home to these crazy-looking plateaus called tepuis that were the inspiration for Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Lost World; the Buddhist monument of Borobudur in central Java, which rivals the temples of Angkor in its awesomeness; and the fabulous city of Rio de Janeiro (I’ve been five times and have yet to get my fill.)” states Gomelsky. If her recent trip to Russia where she skied the Caucasus, attended three Olympic events, and had dinner with the first man ever to walk in space are any indication of what her forties are going to be like, by her own account she’s in for a “wild ride.” Her advice to her fellow newly-knighted middle-agers is “Memento vivere. It means ‘remember to live.’”
The Marketing Guru: Michelle Peranteau
The very first thing I remember about this woman was how she introduced herself to a room full of her new co-workers back in the year 2000. Like so many of us with last names that are not “Smith,” Michelle used her marketing savvy to come up with a simple rhyme that would assure no one in the company pronounced her name incorrectly. Her name, she said, was Peranteau. It rhymed, she said, with Toronto. The rest, they say, is history. Pronouncing it is no longer a mystery. Fourteen years later, I’m happy to still call Ms. Peranteau my friend, colleague, mentor, and birthday buddy, since our turns of the decade came just weeks apart last year.
Michelle has worked her way up through the ranks at some of the most successful and recognizable brands in the industry, with her latest position being Director of Marketing and Communications at luxury watch company Baume et Mercier. Her solid reputation, she says, has been vital to her successes. “I feel incredibly blessed that I was able to secure the majority of the jobs in my career by knowing someone who knew someone, which affirms my commitment to maintaining a good reputation in this business.” When Michelle’s not making us bawl our eyes out with B & M’s “Moments” videos, she plays co-pilot to her pilot boyfriend and throws fabulous dinner parties in their northern New Jersey home. Her thoughts on turning 40 last year? “I have never felt more confident, sassy, and ready to grab the world by the (**bleeps) if need be than in my 40’s.”
The Designer: Todd Reed
Remember how ticked off I was when I said Mark Mazzarese was a day younger than I am? Well this all makes it better because Todd Reed is three days older. And so far, it looks like the Aries are dominating this bunch with Reed turning the big 4-1 this week. If you haven’t heard his name, seen his face, or worn his product, I suggest you get out of that time capsule you’ve barricaded yourself in and step on into the light, child. There is likely not a more recognizable face in the jewelry industry today than that of Todd Reed. His look is as unique as every piece of jewelry he makes at his studio on Pearl Street in Boulder, Colorado. When you think of the term “Modern Renaissance Man,” two people should come to mind: James Franco, and this guy. Sculptor, clothier, furniture designer, and culinary master are only a handful of the professions that Todd had prior to venturing into the world of jewelry design, but oh, are we ever grateful that he did.
With back-to-back “Best of Show” AGTA Spectrum Awards under his belt, a recently debuted Tahitian pearl and raw diamond collection getting rave reviews, and stores across the country clamoring to carry his brand, Todd Reed has done extremely well for himself in a mere twenty years of adulthood. As a father, he spends time with his daughter hiking, biking, and golfing, but rarely does he stop thinking about his future. I for one often think about his future as well, but for now, I’m basking in the enjoyment of his present, which is represented greatly in his beautiful, one-of-a-kind masterpieces.
The Manufacturer: Bryan Cohen
Rachel Zoe fell in love with them. The Knot fell in love with them. Let’s face it, pretty much everyone who comes across Bryan Cohen of Timeless Designs and his sister Jackie falls in love with them. They’re just “those people,” y’know? Immediately likeable and fun as hell to be around. I dare you to not find a bottle (or several) of wine in their booth to share with customers (and me. Several times. Throughout the day) at any trade show where Timeless exhibits. Bryan – of the “by Jacob and Bryan” title – turned forty just over a week ago but he’s probably in the best shape of his life. His two young sons help keep him on his toes, and along with hitting the gym, snowboarding, and playing basketball, Cohen pounds the Brooklyn pavement two to three days a week for a run before heading into his 6,500 square foot, state-of-the-art factory in Manhattan. When I asked Cohen where he’d like to see Timeless Designs in five years, his response was “in the same location, because we signed a ten-year lease.” See what I mean about him being likeable? The factory, he says, is not a bad place to be. And with lofty office space, a new showroom and a massive, brand new CAD department, I can clearly see why.
On celebrating his 40th birthday, Bryan had this to say: “Turning 40 is like fine wine; it gets better with age. However, I drink martinis so I’m not sure where that leaves me.” Bryan’s wishes for becoming New York’s most successful manufacturer of high-end jewelry in five years may very well come true if he continues being the genuine person he is, because as the old saying goes… “People buy from who they like…”
The Great Communicator: Michelle Orman
If Michelle Orman of Last Word Communications were a 6’4” twenty-five-year-old man, I swear she’d be my next ex-husband. I often wonder if this woman was born in a public relations office. I can almost see her as a six-year-old on the schoolyard telling everyone that Shawn Cassidy was going to come to her birthday party and how it would be the gala of a lifetime and that every last one of them was invited because they were all good people. Then I flash forward to Shawn Cassidy’s face as he sits in a purple fuzzy beanbag chair reading snippets of Nancy Drew to tiny first-graders, all the while wondering how in the hell this little brown-haired girl convinced him to come to her party in the first place. I mean, she is just… that… good… and on her very own Eve of Forty, she’s only getting better.
While bartending in the City (capital “C”), Michelle – an English major with a degree in writing – was offered an internship with a company that handled PR for some of the industry’s major watch brands. From there she went to work for the Jewelry Information Center as a media liaison (which she credits for teaching her how to spell “liaison”) and in 2002 started her first company. Michelle’s favorite part of working in the jewelry business? “I get to laugh a lot on a regular basis, that’s something that I feel very lucky about. My genuine love for the people I work with and the products that I work with—whether the product is a trade show, a press event, or a line of jewelry—makes every pitch I make to media an ‘easy sell.’” When I asked how she felt about her impending middle-agedness, she had this to say: “I’m actually 39 and 3/4 so let’s not push it. But seriously, I’m definitely more excited about turning 40 than I was about turning 30. Other than a few more wrinkles and having a harder time working off a cheeseburger binge, I can’t really think of anything negative.” That makes two of us, Ms. Orman.
The Everything Elser: Erika Winters
I used that title because there really was no other way to categorize what exactly it is that Erika Winters does, because in reality, she truly does do everything. This soon-to-be 39-year-old (okay, so I cheated a little and included a youngster) is not only the Editor and Director of Communications at consumer-advocacy jewelry site Pricescope.com, she’s also a badass jewelry photographer, blogger, WJA member, and newly-crowned custom engagement ring designer (check out her glorious work using antique cushion cut centers at erikawinters.com). Oh, and did I mentioned she’s also a GIA Graduate Gemologist, former model, and former dancer/actor? Yeah. I can barely make it down to the gym and this women fox trots on her way to pour a cup of coffee. TAKE THAT, TWENTY-SOMETHINGS! IN YOUR FACE, TEENAGERS! All kidding aside, I know and simply love Erika to pieces and personally cannot wait to see what the age of forty will have in store for her next year. On becoming the big 4-0 down the road, Erika states “I’m looking forward to turning 40. My level of focus continues to increase as I get older, and as I look back on my different career paths, I couldn’t have done any of it without putting in the time.” Amen, my sister. A-freaking-men. ((JAZZ HANDS))
As for me, I’m just a lowly 41-year-old blogger, but in some small way, shape, and form, I hope I’ve also left my mark on this tiny corner of the planet we call Jewelville. While at the JA show in New York last month, a middle-aged salesman said to me “I can’t believe you’re a mom. You don’t look like a mom.” To which I replied, “What does that even mean? What’s a mom *supposed* to look like?” “Well, I don’t know… they’re supposed to look like my mom, I guess”… and it made me think about all of the times someone told me I didn’t look forty or how they couldn’t believe I was forty. I think saying that a vibrant person with a youthful appearance and a positive outlook doesn’t look or act forty does a disservice to those of us who are forty. We are the new face of forty. But we’re the new soul of forty, too. We take better care of ourselves, we know what we want out of life, and we work like we’re putting it all on the line. Let’s face it, we look forty because this is how forty looks now and how it’s going to look and sound and feel for a long, long time to come.
*Horns = balls
**Bleeps = balls