Greg, the owner of the online shop Greg DeMark Jewelry, is a long time member of Esty’s Vintage Jewelry Team.
What I found out is that Greg is a talented jewelry designer and artist who is a long time collector of vintage jewelry. I am always fascinated how collectors start their collection. But as an artist, I am equally interested in Greg’s creative process and the fact he made his living off his art and talent. Not an easy thing to do.
It is my pleasure to introduce this artist, collector and Etsy’s Greg DeMark Jewelry owner to you.
Margie: Greg, what got you into buying and then selling vintage jewelry?
Greg: My fascination with vintage jewelry began in the early 1970’s while working at a traditional jewelry store that dealt with modern gold, diamonds, and colored gems. Gold had begun to trade in the free market. During this time, the store began to buy gold and silver from the public. Many pieces of Victorian to fairly modern jewelry started coming in. At the time, Victorian jewelry was not very popular. I started buying the jewelry for myself, in order to keep pieces from being melted,
In 1978 I opened my first jewelry store as a custom jeweler. My main business was creating my own jewelry designs in gold and sterling silver. I did this until I retired several years ago.
At my store, I had several cases of vintage jewelry from what I had accumulated. As my customers would bring in old jewelry to sell, I began adding additional pieces to my cases. When something came in that I liked, I added it to my personal collection.
Margie: Greg, I love your silver aspen leaf jewelry. I can only imagine the beauty of the jewelry you designed and produced during your jewelry making years. What, if any, did having those cases of vintage jewelry in your store, influence your own jewelry designs and workmanship?
Victorian jewelry was popular with some of my customers but most of what I sold was special order jewelry. When designing a custom-made piece, the customer has a great deal of influence over what I made for them. A lot of what I was making was more mainstream using gold and diamonds.
When I got to do my own work, I did enjoy creating work influenced by the mid-20th-century studio jewelers. The silversmiths of this period used mainly sterling silver. My jewelry was handmade and bold with unusual gemstones. And unlike the earlier silversmiths, what I design was in gold or in a gold and sterling silver combination.
My handmade one-of-a-kind jewelry was what I enjoyed creating the most. But it was my nature-inspired jewelry that became my most requested pieces. I made it using the lost wax method by carving designs in wax and then casting them. Using this process, I created my Colorado mountain rings. They became my best seller.
Beginning in the late 1980’s, my nature-inspired jewelry and my mountain rings became so popular that I set up a website called natureinspiredjewelry.com for just those designs. Today I still own that website name but now it points to my vintage jewelry website.
Margie: Back to vintage jewelry, what is your favorite type of jewelry, period of jewelry and/or designer?
Greg: As I said, for many years I collected Victorian jewelry. In the 1980’s, I began collecting Native American jewelry and Mexican silver. As I sold off many of the Victorian pieces, I added older Mexican Silver and Native American pieces to my personal collection. The pieces I collect now are all Native American pieces. I specialize in items from the first half of the 20th century set with petrified wood. Even though not always Native American made, I also collect older Fred Harvey era pieces.
Margie: What or who first got you interested in vintage jewelry?
Greg: I first became interested in jewelry during my teen years because of a family member that worked for a private security company that transported highly valued jewelry and gems. At the same time, I met a very creative silversmith. It would be several more years before I discovered antique jewelry. And I became passionate about saving some great old pieces from the melting pot during a time of rising gold prices.
Margie: I think I know your answer but I am going to ask anyway. Which came first: your love for vintage items or the dream of having your own business?
Greg: I grew up in a family that collected antiques so naturally, my love of vintage came first. However, I knew I wanted to have my own business when I was in my late teens.
Margie: Now, I am interested in what pathways lead you to open Greg DeMark Jewelry on Etsy?
Margie: What is your favorite piece of jewelry in Greg DeMark Jewelry and why?
Greg: That is almost like asking someone to pick their favorite child! But if I had to choose just one piece in my shop right now it would have to be the very whimsical brooch of a golfer. This is a quintessential piece of mid-20th-century modern jewelry. It was created in 18k gold, set with a large Mabe pearl for the head, has sapphire eyes, emeralds for the body, a diamond-encrusted collar and shoes.
Margie: That’s some brooch, Greg, whimsical and elegant at the same time. Make me wonder how the designer came up with the idea.
I think one of the fun in collecting is finding the unexpected. Have you ever found any surprises after you bought something for Greg DeMark Jewelry?
Greg: Well, it was a piece that I still have in my personal collection. It is not in my shop right now but many years ago I purchased a cameo on a well-known auction site. The site had it advertised as a costume piece. When I received it and examined it closely, I realized that it was a finely hand-carved pink conch shell cameo. It was set in an 18k gold frame surrounded with gemstone doublets made mostly of colored glass and garnet.
Margie: Wow. What a surprise! What do you like about having Greg DeMark Jewelry on Etsy?
Greg: For many years I had a brick and mortar jewelry stores that required that I be there during open times each day. It is now nice to have an online business where I am open 24 hours a day but still able to choose the hours I work.
Margie: I know exactly what you mean. I do think an online shop does give the owner flexibility.
Greg, what is your best funny or heartwarming story that happened on Greg DeMark Jewelry?
Greg: After 45 years in the jewelry business, I have many heartwarming stories that I can share. The one story that has stuck with me the most is one that happened about 10 to 15 years ago. Through my independent website, a woman asked me to make a mountain pendant for her husband. She wanted it because he was originally from Colorado and the pendant would remind him of his home. Later, I learned that he had cancer. His wife believed having that pendant brought him peace during his fight. It gives me great pleasure knowing I could be a part of helping someone find a little peace and comfort during such a tragic time in their life.
Margie: Greg, that’s a wonderful story. We never know how the things we made can affect others.
What items do you buy that you have to keep for yourself?
Greg: I have been thinning my collection for some time now through Etsy, my independent website and with collectors that I have worked with for many years. But it is hard for me to resist well made Native American bracelet from the 1930’s to early 1950’s set with petrified wood.
Margie: You have some wonderful items in Greg DeMark Jewelry. Where do you find most of your best items?
Greg: Over the years I have worked with attorneys, accountants, and banks that did estate work settling estates. I also work with a few retired dealers that are selling off their inventory and I find interesting pieces from time to time at auctions.
Greg: I love the research and enjoy reading as much as I can about items that interest me. However, some of the best information comes from sharing knowledge with other dealers and collectors. Joining Etsy groups such as the Etsy Vintage Jewelry Team and Facebook groups of like-minded collectors can help too.
Margie: How do you market Greg DeMark Jewelry?
Greg: I did spend several years on Twitter but have now closed that account. I now promote my shop on Pinterest and Facebook. During the next year, I will be spending more time writing blog articles for my website.
Margie: Do you keep items on your site until they sell, or do you cycle them in and out?
Greg: It depends on the item. Some items I keep on my site until they find a good home. But others, I remove after a period of time, if they have not shown any interest with the visitors to my shop.
Margie: It is hard to develop good customer service online. Is there something you do special for your customers and if so, what is it?
Greg: Good customer service has not changed since the beginning of time. Treat people fairly, honestly and do what you say you will do and it will show. That is how I have always run my business.
Margie: What is the best advice you can give to someone else about selling vintage items?
Margie: What is the best advice anyone gave you about selling vintage items?
Greg: Always look over a piece very carefully. When something special comes along, the excitement of finding, it can lead to bad decisions. You need to slow down and examine the whole piece. Mistakes can be costly. You need to pay attention to the details.
Greg, It has been delightful talking to you about your collecting passion, art, and Greg DeMark Jewelry.
I think how we adapt to changes in our lives is what make us successful. Certainly, you saw the opportunity in the way you developed throughout your career and life. Even early, you saw the need to save beautiful Victorian jewelry from the melting pot. You keyed in on the popularity of nature-inspired jewelry (especially from Colorado). And then you discovered the usefulness and necessity of having an online footprint. It seems very natural now that you are selling vintage jewelry on Etsy and other places.