In the Diamond Mind: Colleen Caslin
A conversation with Colleen Caslin, CEO at Jessica McCormack.By Livia Primo-Lack |
Self-proclaimed diamond lover Colleen Caslin has been the business backbone of multiple fine jewelry brands throughout her career working for international companies considered to be industry Leaders. From the finest Maisons on Place Vendome, Rue du Rhone, and Fifth Avenue to her current role as CEO of fine jewelry brand Jessica McCormack. Her outstanding career has allowed her to interact with some of the extraordinary pieces designed by the master jewelers of the 20th century from Schlumberger to Verdura to Belperron to name a few. Sitting at her desk surrounded by contemporary art in Jessica McCormack’s Flagship Carlos Place townhouse in London’s Mayfair, her exuberant passion, ambition and drive is palpable and infectious, even through the computer lens.
Q: What’s the story of your first diamond?
The very first diamond I developed an emotional attachment to wasn’t even mine! At the time I was working for Tiffany & Co. I was introduced to the largest and finest natural yellow diamond, known as The Tiffany Diamond. It is almost 130 carats and completely priceless. Incorporated into the piece known as, “bird on a rock”, it is one of the world’s most recognized diamonds.
My most memorable diamond jewelry piece is without a doubt the diamond band my husband bought me when we first started dating. He gifted me a beautiful diamond band ring for absolutely no reason other than he knew I would love it. Today working with Jessica, I learned to appreciate what curating a personal collection means to a client and all the memories and milestones each piece represents. My diamond band holds a particularly special place in my heart.
Q: What excites you most at the moment?
Fine jewelry is a growth category which is so exciting as it is gaining a lot of traction. People are purchasing more jewelry than ever before, and they are also repurposing old family heirlooms, which haven’t seen the light of day in years, due to Covid. What’s great about Jessica McCormack is that she works as an architect of memories. I believe the desire to celebrate life, feel good about oneself, and mark a milestone with a beautiful piece of jewelry, old or new, will become even more important than it is today. It’s thrilling to know that you are helping someone create a future heirloom for their family.
Q: What is your intention for the year ahead?
Our focus is to build out our footprint through global expansion. The first chapter in this new adventure is in Aspen, Colorado – collaborating with Citizens of Humanity. The brand has opened a new store called Humanity, for which they have collaborated with creatives, including artists like the Haas brothers – who have design items of clothing specifically for the space. It’s a curated collection of brands and art installations. We are excited to have Jessica McCormack pieces available for purchase there. This concept store partnership dovetails perfectly with the DNA of our brand. We’re known as “the disruptor” in the jewelry space, as Jessica started her business on Instagram, so partnerships and pop-ups appear in unconventional locations.
Q: What’s your greatest indulgence?
I have a serious jewelry addiction. When I see an incredible piece of jewelry, I find it intoxicating. My personal aesthetic is modern and distinctive; having come from a professional background where I have been lucky enough to work alongside some incredible designers, from Elsa Peretti to Angela Cummings, and now Jessica McCormack. Thus, I have developed a curated eye for jewelry. At the end of the day, it’s all about investing in something that speaks to you, which sounds simple but couldn’t be truer. Maybe it’s a stone that takes your breath away, or a brand you believe is going places. Whatever the draw, creating and curating a collection is very personal.
Q: What diamond destination is at the top of your list?
I travelled a great deal during my career. From living abroad in Europe in Paris, Geneva and London to the Caribbean, whether visiting the Japanese pearl farms to the emerald mines in Colombia,
I have been exposed to what jewelry lover’s dream about. However, one place I have yet to experience, is the diamond mines in South Africa, to see first-hand the birthplace of these natural marvels, which is a personal goal of mine.
Q: What inspired you to pursue a career in jewelry?
During my university years, I worked at Tiffany & Co. part-time. It was a family rite-of-passage, as my four siblings did as well. I worked with a passionate group of colleagues that led me down the rabbit hole of jewelry discovery, and there was no turning back.
From there I became a GIA Graduate Gemologist and developed an intellectual curiosity for gems. I volunteered at the Museum of Natural History in the Mineral Gems Hall, which had such an impact on my career, being exposed to hundreds of stone specimens and reading about the women of style who owned them.
Q: What moment still blows your mind?
Building the Jessica McCormack business with Jessica from its infancy into a global brand with an average growth of 40% year-on-year. When international clients started choosing us over major diamond houses, we knew we were onto something. We have serious jewelry collectors, as well as the millennials as our international clientele base.
Earlier in my career, my brainchild was the creation of a “Titanic necklace.” Originally it was a prop made of synthetic stones for the film Titanic. When I worked for a Bond Street jeweller, we created a real version which was auctioned for a great cause at the late Princess of Wales Gala Charity. It was worn at the Academy Awards by Celine Dion when she performed the song, “My Heart Will Go On”. That day, I had a grand slam victory at the ceremony, dressing the Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Supporting actress and garnered over 4 million in editorial equivalency putting the brand on the map.
Q: What life lesson has been the hardest learned, and which taught you the most?
During the Covid pandemic we all learned the importance of being entrepreneurial and resilient, and to never give up. It is something I always keep at the forefront of my mind considering our 62% growth this past year.
You have to be able to adjust to whatever life altering events are thrown your way, on a personal and a professional level and not be afraid to take risks. In business it’s about adaptability and creativity (The newness imperative-innovate or fade).
Q: What advice would you give your younger self?
Be fearless which is the advice I live my life by now having navigated 9/11, the financial crises of 2007-2008 and these past two years of Covid. Never give up, adapt, be nimble and pivot.
Remember that life is all about relationships. It’s important to foster and develop them in all aspects of your life. After all, we are in a relationship centric business, servicing clients by creating works of art that are personal and an emotional connection to them.
Always be humble, grateful and appreciate the smart people you surround yourself with on your team and in your life. Don’t take yourself seriously and always keep a sense of humor. Trust your instincts. Follow your passion and dream big! Driving a successful business with Jessica and a well performing & passionate team, allows me to bounce out of bed every day and enjoy doing what I do! It’s all about the team wins!
Q: What’s next for diamonds?
There are two key focus points in terms of what’s next for diamonds. Firstly, I think post-Covid will open a new world in which people will be embracing new shapes and cuts of diamonds in a way which they have never done before. We can already see a trend in demand for different diamond shapes. For example, pear shape and ovals used to really polarize people, but now they are being universally embraced as well as heart-shaped diamonds to east west to tilted pear shape diamonds thanks to Jessica. Our four Cs are collect, curate, craft and cult. Our clients are serious jewelery collectors.
Secondly, it is about trust. Educating the buyer on style, materials, sustainability and traceability is where the emphasis of any good fine jewelry brand should be. If someone doesn’t have a sustainability program today, they won’t have a business in 10 years. You have to recognize that this is going to be super important for young clients going forward, and rightly so.