Contemporary Jewelry Design Group Tastemaker Interview: Marion Fasel

“Jewelry is the most personal thing we own, we have. Jewelry tells a story.” –Marion Fasel

I had the recent pleasure of meeting with Marion Fasel, author, jewelry expert, and Contributing Editor for InStyle Magazine. As an admirer, and also as an editor, I wanted to tell her story for the Contemporary Jewelry Design Group. You can also view the interview at CJDGJewelers.org.

Marion Fasel’s career with jewelry began as serendipity. It turned out to be a very fortunate twist of fate. Her first job out of college—figuring she needed “office experience”–was as an archivist for a very important collection of American and French jewelry. Her position grew to include curating that collection.

It turns out that we all benefit from this happy accident. First, we have the gorgeous books that Marion has published independently and with her friend and colleague, the late Penny Proddow. And then we have her position as a contributing editor to InStyle Magazine that has allowed Marion to be an arbiter of jewelry design and style since 1996. InStyle is a touchstone of design and fashion, and has become an intriguing window into the lives of celebrities (check out Marion’s recent #RocksMyWorld feature here). To have an influential editor as deeply knowledgeable as Marion about jewelry design—both contemporary AND its illustrious history—is a true gift. She has a rich understanding of where we’ve been as jewelry collectors and designers, and an innate understanding of current jewelry design and trends. She gets just as excited about an emerging designer as she does when interviewing, say, Elsa Peretti (ok, nearly so).

Marion Fasel and Monica Stephenson

Marion Fasel and I compare notes about jewelry, and writing, at Cafe Cluny.

Marion Fasel Interview

Over coffee and breakfast on a recent snowy morning at Café Cluny in New York City, I had a chance to ask Marion a few questions about her career and “talk jewelry” for a lovely suspended moment.

CJDG Editor Monica Stephenson: You started out as an archivist, then curator, for an important private jewelry collection. So did the jewelry come first, and then the writing?
Marion Fasel: It was simultaneous. When you are archiving and documenting, you are transforming a story, a narrative, to the computer. Words are always present.

So the jewelry and the words come together? Could you ever separate one from the other?
Jewelry is so rich with content, the words come with it. Jewelry tells a story of a life and documents history. It is personal and tangible.

Marion Fasel With This Ring

Some reading material by Marion Fasel: With This Ring, and Bulgari Serpenti.


Your beginnings with jewelry were with 20th Century jewelry design. How has knowledge of this era of jewelry translated to trend forecasting—an important part of your role as a contributing Editor for InStyle–for current jewelry design?
Well, clothes come first. Jewelry history has to start with the clothes. Academically, you have to look at fabrics, and necklines. Was the fabric substantial, to hold a brooch? What sort of necklaces graced those necklines? You can’t look at jewelry in a vacuum.
For trends, you look at runways, and you look at historical context. You develop a sense for knowing jewelry and colors, and seeing how things play out. That is how trends start to become almost obvious: it’s usually history repeating itself. If you look at current fashion, you can predict based on the past.

Good point, you need to know the past to predict the future. How would you characterize our current fashion landscape?
It seems that we are in an era of safe clothes that lends itself to innovative jewelry, which is exciting to me.

Besides innovation, what jewelry trends or directions do you find exhilarating right now?
With the advent of CFDA, and a real influx of the Fashion world with jewelry design, jewelry is no longer lumped into the world of “accessories.” This has changed as more jewelers and designers are recognized as artists, including young and up-and-coming designers. There is a new creativity represented in jewelry.

Marion Fasel #RocksMyWorld InStyle

Marion Fasel writes a recurring #RocksMyWorld feature for InStyle Magazine.


What do you geek out on?
Ha, pretty much everything! I’m really into photo research: I love finding great pictures of jewelry being worn.

Yes! I love your Instagram feed—you have the very best TBT (Throw Back Thursdays)!
I have lots of tearsheets, files, and books to pull from!

You and I share a love of good old-fashioned tearsheets, as we’ve discussed on social media…speaking of files, you have interviewed some pretty incredible jewelry personalities in your career, both collectors and the designers who create them. Does anyone stand out as a favorite, someone whose life you truly admired or had a connection with?
Wow, I’ve been enchanted by so many designers, particularly their perspectives on life and why they do what they do. I interviewed Paul Flato, who worked with Fulco di Verdura in the 1930’s. Even very late in his life, he still had a sparkle in his eyes. Elsa Peretti blows me away. I cry after interviewing her. Gianni Bulgari is in his late seventies, and he’s still as devastatingly handsome as when he was in his twenties or thirties. The one thing in common with these designers is that they continue to look to the future; they are not living in the past. You can FEEL THE BURN when you speak to them. They are passionate. And every time I interview them, it’s just like it was the first time.

What do you feel is more rewarding: publishing books—solid, tangible–versus the slightly more ephemeral online and print world?
Hmmm….when you work on a book, your time and mind are not your own. There is a process to doing a book. Then when it’s done, you have to promote—I never liked that part much. It’s almost like postpartum depression when you finish. For so long you are firing on all cylinders, and it is so exciting. You never know a subject as well as when you research it for a book.
The hard part is writing it. It will humiliate you every day of the week! The work builds on itself, so you have to have the foundation factual, or it all falls apart.

You have acted as a consultant to a number of premier jewelry brands. What advice (besides your Designers and Books List for jewelry designers) would you give to an aspiring/emerging jewelry designer to get noticed by editors and grow their brand or business?
You must be original and true. It is extremely important to focus on what your vision is and what works best for you. Not because you see it somewhere else or someone tells you to do it. This is important. If you are looking to the left or to the right, it’s hard to keep your head down and be truly creative. As a designer, you must have a message and narrative, succinct and clear. I can’t emphasize that enough: Editors are very busy, to be heard you must be specific and CLEAR. And remember that sometimes success appears to be overnight, but usually it takes a minimum of five years to begin to be successful.

What’s next for Marion Fasel in 2015 and beyond?
{Laughs} I never like to talk about current projects. I finished the third book in the Bulgari Trilogy, Monete Collection, in 2014, and I’m still unwinding from that. Seriously, I subscribed to Coin Weekly! Nicola Bulgari began collecting coins as a boy, and designing around them in the late 1960’s. All of the centerpieces are actual coins, spanning from ancient Greece to twentieth century American coins. They were extraordinary, and I lived and breathed coins while I was researching and writing. I’m still captivated.

Thank you so much, Marion! I want to leave my designer friends, or any artist, with her important message: you need to know how to tell your story.

Marion somehow manages to span this divide between Historian and Pop Culture. She fully embraces, and celebrates, the modern while honoring and revering the past.

She is still a curator–her job as an editor and author is really curating our modern aesthetic. We are in good hands.

Marion Fasel

Marion at work.

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