Personalities

Memes from Alex Sepkus’ Jeff Feero Are Giving Industry Life During the Coronavirus Pandemic

New York City. March 26, 2020. Since jewelry isn’t exactly a priority for most during this current worldwide health crisis, many jewelers have resorted to other activities in their newly acquired free time. Consider Jeff Feero, one of the principals in the esteemed brand Alex Sepkus, known for its masterful miniature wearable gold sculptures with a mosaic-like signature style. Feero commutes between Manhattan and a home on an organic farm in upstate New York, and it is from this country residence, with now ample time on his hands, that Feero is contributing some of his most valuable industry savvy yet: comedy. To see it, queue up his personal Instagram handle at @jeffreyfeero. (To see Alex Sepkus jewelry, visit the handle @alexsepkus.)

Jewelry from the Alex Sepkus brand

Jewelry from Alex Sepkus

A post on March 13 shows a collage of photos of Tom Hanks in various movie roles with a headline “Never Travel With Tom Hanks.” The first photo shows Hanks as the ship captain in “Captain Phillips” with the caption “His ship got hijacked,” and the second photo shows Hanks as “Sully” with the line “His plane crashed.” A third shot shows Hanks asleep in the airport as Viktor Navorski from “The Terminal” with the subtitle “He got stuck at an airport,” and the final photo shows Hanks as the Fed Ex staffer stranded on a deserted island in “Castaway” with a caption pointing out that fact. The punchline? “And now Tom Hanks has COVID 19,” which reflects the news report that Hanks and his wife, while traveling in Australia, contracted the virus.

Meme from @jeffreyfeero on Instagram

Good, right? Well, there’s more—a lot more.

A post on March 12 shows a small blue bathroom with walls covered in rolls of toilet paper and the caption “I’ve finally finished my panic room.”

Meme from @jeffreyfeero on Instagram

On March 22, Feero posted a picture of hot pepper plants with the text “Will train you to stop touching your face … and other places.” On March 23, he showed a comic strip featuring a man asking his dog to shake hands—above a newspaper with a Coronavirus headline—with this sentiment from the dog in a hovering thought balloon: “No effing way.” And on March 24, Feero posted one to which many of us—and our dogs—can likely relate. A photo a of a passed-out pooch with surrounding copy “That’s the sixth walk today, WTF is a Corona?”

Meme from @jeffreyfeero on Instagram

Feero maintains he can’t take credit for the creation of the memes—they come from friends all over the world—but he willingly circulates them to share the relief they offer. “People say there are three cures to anxiety—alcohol, sex, and humor,” he says. “Well, I can’t provide the other two, so I’m going to go with the third for as long as I can.”

His favorite meme to date? The twins from “The Shining” standing at the end of supermarket aisle with bare shelves.

Meme from @jeffreyfeero on Instagram

Memes aren’t the only satire evident on his social media. Feero also makes how-to videos that combine farm life with survivalist-infused guidance. Among them: how to make your own toilet paper, which has been in short supply because of hoarders and panic shoppers. Feero’s suggestion, which he illustrates in his home workshop? Use a hack saw to slice one roll of paper towels into three TP-size ones.

Yesterday’s video tip was entitled “Bee Safe” and showed Feero in a beekeeper’s suit lined with a heating system filter. “This serves three purposes,” he explained. “Clean air, keeps you from touching your face—your eyes and your mouth—and when you go to the grocery store and walk down the aisle, it’s amazing how the aisle clears out.”

Ring in gold with watermelon tourmaline from Alex Sepkus

Ring in gold with watermelon tourmaline from Alex Sepkus

Finally, a few simple photos with clever punchlines round out the laughs. A photo of Feero in an industrial gas mask has the caption “Happy Wednesday! Time to go into town for a few supplies. On the upside didn’t have to shave or comb my hair.”

Photo from @jeffreyfeero on Instagram

Another image shows Feero in a clear face shield holding a giant bottle of hand sanitizer that he’s about to pump into his mouth. Line? “A quick snack before getting the 5:50 train out of Grand Central. #purellbuzz.”

Photo from @jeffreyfeero on Instagram

About that Purell? Feero’s wife bought a bunch of it upstate before mass panic set in. “I handed them out around the shop, and it was as if we were handing out Christmas bonuses,” he says.

While more funnies are in the works, Feero says he doesn’t intend to force them. Fortunately, life has been delivering nonstop ironies and easy jokes. Consider the photo of beachgoers in Miami, which Feero captioned, “The 2020 Darwin Award Winner is: Springbreakers! #thintheherd.”

Photo from @jeffreyfeero on Instagram

The silver lining and unifier in all of Feero’s efforts is togetherness. “We are all in this at the same level,” he explains. “We are all equally broke or challenged right now, and we will climb out of this by doing things jointly. I had an old boss in the 1980s who sold expensive jewelry during the Depression. So, I know that if he could do it during the Depression, we can carry on when this is all over.”

Editor’s Note: I conducted a live Instagram interview with Jeff Feero yesterday, and this article is a summary of our chat. Follow me at @jenniferheebner to see more live talks with jewelry insiders.

Drop earrings in 14k yellow gold with purple garnets and diamonds, $1,300 at K.Jon’s

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Personalities

Alison Nagasue’s Early Rockhounding Ways Paved a Path for Gem-Intense One-of-a-Kinds

New York City. March 23, 2020. As a child, Alison Nagasue’s prospecting ways around her northern New Jersey neighborhood were a harbinger of her future career. The budding artist scavenged for pretty little rocks on the streets of a growing community that doubled as an ongoing construction site. Her finds—little quartzes, among other stones—fueled a passion that has continued to the present day. Now, as a jewelry designer, uncommon gems always find a home in the eponymous maker’s collections.

“Once I get a stone, that’s the beginning of a design for me,” she explains of her process. “I love natural characteristics and using unusual stones.”

Today, Nagasue sources gems the world over, ultimately earmarking the most unique ones for one-off creations. Think indicolite tourmalines from dealer Robert Bentley (who sources many rocks from Brazil); custom, ginkgo-leaf-shape opals sculpted by a female lapidary out of Canada; and cool quartzes with pockets of air and visible water droplets. All are set in oxidized silver or 18k gold with her signature 18k green gold accents and ginkgo-leaf-silhouette motifs.

Recent finds include quartz crystals with funky inclusions, raw-looking uncut gems like emerald, and dumortierite with fireworks-inspired fingerprints. “I love movement and surprises,” she notes about her selections. “No two gems are ever alike.”

Find her most recent pieces on Instagram at @alisonnagasue.

Pendant necklace in oxidized sterling silver with a 50 ct. colorless but included quartz, $1,050; email alisonknagasue@gmail.com for purchase

Pendant necklace in oxidized sterling silver with a 50 ct. colorless but included quartz, $1,050; email alisonknagasue@gmail.com for purchase

Rings in 18k yellow gold with a 5 ct. enhydro (water filled) quartz and an oversize Brazilian-origin dumortierite cabochon, $2,275–$3,520; email alisonknagasue@gmail.com for purchase

Rings in 18k yellow gold with a 5 ct. enhydro (water filled) quartz and an oversize Brazilian-origin dumortierite cabochon, $2,275–$3,520; email alisonknagasue@gmail.com for purchase

Drop earrings in 14k yellow gold with purple garnets and diamonds, $1,300 at K.Jon’s

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Personalities

Meet Laurie Kaiser and Her Rustic Romantic Feminine Style

New York City. Jan. 30, 2020. Designer Laurie Kaiser has been turning out gorgeously executed gold designs with noticeable stylized nature motifs—think lemongrass leaves and bark-like surfaces—for the past 14 years. Previously, the Nashville, Tenn.–based artist headed up her own advertising agency, but when a jewelry-making class taken with a friend opened her eyes to a different type of creativity, she shifted gears to jewelry design.

Nature plays the biggest role in her work, with flora and fauna dominating themes and finishes. Expressive gemstones like agate, jasper, and azure-malachite, with their gloriously eart-tone veins and impressionistic portraits of color, blend with aquamarine, topaz, diamonds, uniquely shaped pearls, and dreamy rainbow moonstones, among other gems.

“I love the unusual gems that are fine but casual in appearance and can’t be reproduced. “You’ll see leaves and vines in my work—sophisticated, precious versions of nature.”

And while Kaiser loves to sketch out designs, goldsmiths bring her largely fabricated or hand-crafted and hand-engraved works to life. Pieces are made in Jaipur in 18k gold and sterling silver.

Merchant Mary Leppert, co-owner of Metalmark Fine Jewelry, with stores in Carmel, Ind., and Denver, says she and her staffers fell for Kaiser’s styles at a trade-only Melee jewelry show in New York City last year.

“The jewelry is so well made and beautiful,” she says. “We love that it is designed for women by a woman, and how she frames the stones with leaf work or branches. We even just had someone buy one of the crisscross rings as a wedding band.”

Another purveyor of Kaiser’s work also has high praise: Sundance recently put a pair of her earrings on a catalog cover.

Retail prices start at $500.

Lemongrass Bar necklace in 18k yellow gold and blackened sterling silver with 26.50 cts. t.w. azurite malachite cabochons and 0.10 ct. t.w. brilliant-cut diamonds, $1,900; email Laurie@lauriekaiser.com for purchase.

Lemongrass Bar necklace in 18k yellow gold and blackened sterling silver with 26.50 cts. t.w. azurite malachite cabochons and 0.10 ct. t.w. brilliant-cut diamonds, $1,900; email Laurie@lauriekaiser.com for purchase

Lemongrass ring in 18k yellow gold with a 0.61 ct. rose-cut diamond center and 0.04 ct. t.w. brilliant-cut diamonds, $2,370; email Laurie@lauriekaiser.com for purchase.

Lemongrass ring in 18k yellow gold with a 0.61 ct. rose-cut diamond center and 0.04 ct. t.w. brilliant-cut diamonds, $2,370; email Laurie@lauriekaiser.com for purchase

Fresco Stripe earrings in 18k yellow gold and blackened sterling silver with 75 cts. t.w. petrified wood cabochons and 0.25 ct. t.w. brilliant-cut diamonds, $3,840; email Laurie@lauriekaiser.com for purchase.

Fresco Stripe earrings in 18k yellow gold and blackened sterling silver with 75 cts. t.w. petrified wood cabochons and 0.25 ct. t.w. brilliant-cut diamonds, $3,840; email Laurie@lauriekaiser.com for purchase.

Drop earrings in 14k yellow gold with purple garnets and diamonds, $1,300 at K.Jon’s

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Personalities

Jewelry Family Creates Foundation to Honor Holocaust-Survivor Father

Livingston, N.J. Jan. 23, 2020. Ann S. Arnold and sister Isabella S. Fiske have much to be proud of in this life. Both are accomplished professionals in jewelry—Arnold is the chief strategy officer of BIG, a merchandising and inventory management solutions firm for retailers and manufacturers, and Fiske heads up her personal shopping and jewelry design business dubbed ISF Jewels—and they are the daughters of Mark Schonwetter, the former owner of wedding jewelry maker Lieberfarb. Their dad is also a Holocaust survivor who shared his deeply personal story of the Holocaust in “Together: A Journey for Survival,” a book inked by Arnold a few years ago. Now the sisters are honoring their dad in a way that can benefit even more people, through the creation of The Mark Schonwetter Holocaust Education Foundation.

The organization’s mission is to expand and support Holocaust education for students around the country and to provide funds for educators to include Holocaust studies in lesson plans. According to Arnold, funds “can be used to purchase educational materials, help subsidize field trips, speaker costs, or host assemblies and programs.”

Schonwetter, along with his mother and sister, survived the Holocaust as child in Poland by hiding in the forest and in the homes of sympathetic families. Schonwetter emigrated to America in 1961 with five dollars to his name and no English-language skills. He obtained work at a jewelry factory where he swept floors, learned English, rose to manager within five years, and bought the company within 10 years. He ran Lieberfarb for over 40 years.

In retirement, Schonwetter has been sharing his Holocaust story, discovering that one of the biggest obstacles schools face with Holocaust education is budget restraints. The Foundation aims to aid schools in bringing these important history lessons to students today.

Learn more about The Mark Schonwetter Holocaust Education Foundation online. Teaching institutions can also apply for grants.

Catch the family tomorrow in the 3rd Hour of “The Today Show” on NBC, where Schonwetter will share his story and talk about the Foundation.

From left: Ann S. Arnold, Mark Schonwetter, Isabella S. Fiske, and Luba Schonwetter

From left: Ann S. Arnold, Mark Schonwetter, Isabella S. Fiske, and Luba Schonwetter

Editor’s Note: I read “Together” and loved it! I highly recommend others read this incredible personal tale of survival. Never again!

Drop earrings in 14k yellow gold with purple garnets and diamonds, $1,300 at K.Jon’s

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