“I didn’t dream of marriage or wealth, I dreamed of adventure.”
Growing up, I didn’t dream of getting married or of great wealth. I dreamed of adventure. And, that’s what I got.
At 16, squeezed into the family station wagon driving east towards Arizona, my life’s calling came knocking. Waking from a nap jammed against the car window, outside was a Dr. Seussian “rock pile” landscape. The sight lit a fire in me. I just had to know the story of how those strange rocks got there. I couldn’t get them out of my mind. Yet, in the meantime, I went back to sleep…
Questioning myself, I went to secretarial school and worked as a legal secretary, but still those rocks kept beckoning me. Young and unfulfilled, I decided to go back to school to study what really ignited me: Geology.
Then, what do you think happened? Wait for it…
Studying geology, I learned fieldwork which is learning to map and read the rocks to make some sense of their place in Earth’s history. My fieldwork assignment was the exact same pile of rocks that woke me up in the family station wagon years before. I scrambled all over those rocks learning some of their secrets, later creating my Pietra ring from the inspiration of those rocks.
Towards the end of school, I was able to do an honors thesis on the Himalaya Tourmaline Mine, which was then the largest working gemstone mine in the United States. Soon after, I mapped another tourmaline mine, the Stewart. Heaven. And, I still have the vest.
I founded Cynthia Renee, Inc. in 1990 with the aim of supplying the nation’s retail jewelers with fine colored gemstones. At that time, unset colored gems were very new to most jewelers and challenging to sell. I couldn’t give away a peridot and the female self-purchaser was then an alien concept to most of the men I was dealing with.
So, I did all I could to help the jewelers sell my gems. That included sales training, thematic trunk shows, developing advertising, speeches to the consumer, even TV and radio interviews – including PBS’s award-winning series, “Newton’s Apple.” I created my trunk shows as adventure travel, opening others to the wonder of the world of colored gems and lands they come from.
I enjoyed creating speeches for such diverse groups as: JCK’s Las Vegas trade shows, Neiman Marcus In-store meetings, American Gem Society’s annual conclaves, the Gemological Institute of America and numerous private jewelers. The American Gem Trade Association (AGTA) has featured 15 of my seminars at their annual Tucson Gem Faire since 1989. I was on Cloud 9 when the editor of “Professional Jeweler” magazine wrote an editorial on my fashion lecture declaring I, “manages to cull the 1% of usefulness out of the fashion world’s extravagance…”
I became a “go to” person in the trade for writers interviewing me for articles on developing collector culture, the female self-purchaser, jewelry styling, gemstones, sales training the luxury market.
The prestigious Golden Door Spa also began referring their clients to me for both gem procurement and jewelry design. I designed artistic and informative speeches for their well-traveled clientele. One client I met there was a member of a prominent engineering family (think Hoover Dam) who pushed me to engineer jewelry that could be multi-purpose and interchangeable which led to what I now do with my Progressive Pairs and custom designed multi-use jewelry.
As I got more involved with fine gems and jewelry making, collectors began to find me and want me to teach them things a typical jewelry store could not. They then began entrusting me to make decisions for them in building their world-class collections.
I had plenty of adventure – I created the life I dreamed of…..receiving marriage proposals after my stint as Chief Guest in Sri Lanka and eating piranha soup at an Ametrine mine in Bolivia. I began to commemorate my adventures in the jewelry I created, translating time with my brother, on Mt. Rainier and my rural youth to jewel form.
“I had plenty of adventure …
receiving marriage proposals after my stint as Chief Guest in Sri Lanka and eating piranha soup at an Ametrine mine in Bolivia.”
I thought I had it all. Then, at a family reunion while relatives showed photos of their families, I brought photos of my office decor. Something was missing.
I was traveling 70-80% of the time and any time spent at home was recovering from the travel and workload. There was no space for love or a family of my own in my tightly choreographed life. I had to let go of some things to make room in my life for love and family.
I redesigned my life to do only projects for collectors plus a show I was developing with QVC. I stopped writing regular articles. I cut way back on the trunk shows – I even helped staff find new jobs. Doing this created space for a new life to develop.
While I was waiting for my life to rebloom, I worked on an exciting project for one client that ultimately took five years to complete. An exquisite necklace of beautifully matched, unheated Blue Sapphires from Sri Lanka that is easily a $1 million necklace – wholesale. I went to Sri Lanka three times to source it.
On my third trip, I looked like this (left) … five months pregnant.
“I am humbled that I got so much of what I dreamt of by listening to my soul’s callings.”
Ultimately, I was blessed with two daughters late in life. Looking back on my circuitous path through life, I am humbled that I got so much of what I dreamed of by listening to my soul’s callings.
I took photos of my two young daughters with my jewelry hoping their children will one day connect more with the jewelry with the photos of their mothers as babies with their grandmother’s jewelry. My jewelry collection is a message in a bottle to those who come after me.
Now a mother, my business life has naturally changed to reflect the new me. And, life is not always perfect – though I revel in the creative curves it throws me.