This article is part of a series of interviews conducted by LIM students with winners of the Accessories Council's 2020 Design Excellence Awards (DEA). Students are enrolled in Fashion Merchandising Professor Andrea Kennedy's Honors Introduction to the Fashion Business class.
On October 8, 2020, we spoke with the DEA Award Winning Brand Charles & Colvard’s Senior Director of Marketing and Communications, Sarah O’Dea. In a matter of 9 questions she was able to unpack all about moissanite, the brand, winning product, and her journey to become a renowned figure in the jewelry world.
What sparked you to branch into the “fashion” industry?
Sarah did not initially think that she would be where she is today, noting she wanted to go to law school and be an attorney. She has always loved fashion, but it wasn’t until she moved to New York that she knew she wanted to pursue a career in that industry. So today, she isn’t a lawyer but rather the Senior Director of Marketing at Charles & Colvard.
Has sustainability been a passion of yours before finding your place at Charles & Colvard?
Sarah responded that she became fully sustainably-minded when she got to Charles & Colvard and learned the environmental benefits of lab-grown moissanite. She expressed that consumer awareness regarding sustainability has been growing recently and it’s apparent that people want to wear items that are thoughtfully and sustainably made.
What is the difference between Moissanite and Diamonds? Even though they are both white gems, the chemical and optical properties of moissanite and diamond vary greatly. Moissanite is made of the mineral silicon carbide. Diamonds are made of carbon. Moissanite is considered the world’s most brilliant gem, because it has more fire and brilliance than any other gemstone. Moissanite is also much rarer to find in the earth than a diamond, which is why Charles & Colvard creates it in a lab.
After two decades of being the only brand to create and sell moissanite, competitors have emerged. Can you please elaborate how Charles & Colvard continues to be a leader in this specialty?
Until 2015, because of their patent, Charles & Colvard was the only brand in the world that could sell moissanite. In the next few years, other moissanite suppliers came to market, but Charles & Colvard had 20 years on them. No other brand has as much knowledge in technical ways such as cutting the gem itself and the progression of the technological aspect of lab grown jewelry. Forever One moissanite is grown using a patented process, which makes it superior to other brands of moissanite. Forever One has unparalleled clarity and is available in colorless and near-colorless grades.
Can people design their own “one of a kind” rings? While Charles & Colvard currently doesn’t create custom designs, they offer a variety of styles to ensure their customers can find what they are looking for.
Charles & Colvard’s One-of-a-Kind Category has recently changed to the Exotic Edition. Thereare still one-of-a-kind pieces available, but now larger carat weight styles are offered and can be made to order.
Can you talk about the type of stores and retailers you wholesale to your collection?
The foundation of this business was made to manufacture moissanite gemstones, not produce jewelry. The company has evolved to selling to many independent jewelers around the world. As they have further launched their jewelry line, they now also sell to Helzberg Diamonds and Macy’s.
What does a typical day at work look like for you?
Sarah explained that since she is the Senior Director of Marketing, her schedule is always different. Sarah gets to work in product development, public relations, and on the creative side in photo and design. It just depends on what is the priority.
Since you have been working with a sustainable brand for years, how has it changed the way you practice sustainability?
From a business aspect, she emphasized the importance of partnerships and evaluating those types of suppliers ensuring they do not derail their mission as a sustainable brand. For marketing purposes, she pays close attention to their sustainable practices and commitment.
You have immense experience in the marketing and jewelry world. Do you have any advice for students about getting into the industry?
Sarah emphasized her career has come full circle. Looking back at her professional journey, she explained you never know where life is going to take you. She quoted something that resonated with her, “You are smarter than you think you are.” This statement continues to give her confidence to push her career forward.
As freshmen starting our journey, it was very refreshing interviewing a successful leader in the industry- and a female at that! Thank you, Sarah O’Dea!