A Gem of a Jeweler

an interview with Mark Loren

by Cindy-jo Dietz

MARK LOREN IS A BUSY MAN. Between private showings at his gallery, philanthropic projects, and speaking engagements, Mark Loren is providing his customers a level of personal and community dedication not often found. Mark’s staff is also ready to help, working with their customers closely to provide the perfect piece one design at a time. The day I went to Mark’s studio to interview him there was a torrential downpour. It was one of those Southwest Florida summer weeks where it just seems to never lose its overcast. I parked the car and ran for it. After a few crossed wires (he thought we were meeting at another location) we got down to the interview.

Originating from the Chicago area, Mark moved to Fort Myers in 1982. “I was working in Chicago. My employer had me in a different store every day of the week taking appointments, meeting with clients and designing,” he explains. “I was already an experienced goldsmith, so I would also be asked to work with jewelers to troubleshoot difficult jobs.” Mark’s employer then asked if he wanted to help him open a store down in Florida. He continues, “We were only open a year and a half before my employer decided to close. I decided to stay, even though they wanted me to come back to Chicago. I saw the need here for a custom, high-end jewelry store. Plus – people were so incredibly nice. I saw an opportunity to make a living and a life here.”

Mark has been in business for 29 years, moving the company 6 years ago to their current location, a 1950s duplex at at 13351 McGregor Blvd. in Fort Myers. Noting he has several irons in the fire, Mark explained that he has plans to open a new location in the Mercato in Naples and also plan to extend the business to the lot they now own directly next door to their current gallery. “We’re looking to hopefully put in a time shop next door with pre-owned watches and a clock maker. I think it’s something our area really needs,” he says.

So, how does a jeweler find the right piece for the right person? Mark says, “It’s pretty visual. I try to figure out what they like and don’t like. What they don’t like is just as important as what they do.“ He adds “Is there something in the gallery we can customize? Sometimes we order in elements, making the design more economical. I’m a designing goldsmith. I know how to make it, take it apart, or start from scratch. Many times we carve wax models, do sketches and now use CAD. We have the ability to provide an image that looks just like a photograph. It closes the gap between guessing what it’s going look like and the final product. It was a hard thing to provide in the past.”

Winning several national and international awards for their custom designs as well as their service shop, Mark has five master goldsmiths on staff including himself. Quality and craftsmanship are taken quite seriously at Loren’s studio and can be delivered to eager customers as a rush purchase within two to three weeks. Normal delivery takes four to five weeks.

When it comes to the inspiration behind his designs he confesses to being influenced by a variety of factors. “My clients, their thoughts, their ideas, what they like. Collaborating with my staff is a big inspiration. It either enhances the design or it doesn’t, but everyone has a chance to throw their thoughts into it. I enjoy that as opposed to working in a vacuum by myself.”

Mark describes himself as a visual artist. “It’s the ground floor and foundation I work around. I prefer asymmetry although I can still design in and around symmetrical work. I’m also a minimalist, on a quest to design with as great of a dramatic impact using as little as possible.” He adds, “We know when you see our designs on someone, you’ll ask: Who made that? It’s not something you could have just walked into a store a bought.”

Being in the industry for so long, Mark seems to possess an innate ability to spot the latest trends and says color and custom design are in. He says, “Diamonds are still a big focus, bridal is still a big focus, but color. A lot of stores are unfamiliar with color. They don’tunderstand all the different colored gems. It’s not just ruby, emerald and sapphire. There are a lot of colored gems. If you like blue, we’ve got ten different ideas for you…

The latest trade shows, talks and seminars encourage more custom work and more individual delivery for your client.” Loren’s ability to provide this attention to personal service and style extends even through the internet. MarkLorenDesigns.com contains a library of images including everything from antiquities to one-of-a-kind pieces using ancient Roman, Egyptian and Greek artifacts. Mark notes, “Our new earing line ‘Ear Candy’ is doing really well. These are one-of-a-kind for under $1,000. I design each pair myself. We can’t keep those in stock. Our lucky diamond toe rings – ‘Toe Touches™ – are getting bigger and bigger. Building an online presence has been great.”

Loren’s company works with many charities, but prefers those dealing with kids. He says, “My wife and I are both firm believers children should be able to sleep safely in their beds at night.” Mark is an advisory board member for The Heights Foundation, sits on the board of directors for the Art of the Olympians and for the Children’s Advocacy Center.

Mark adds, “I also like to partner with friends like Norman Love. There’s more of an impact when we join together.” I asked Mark how he finds the time to fit everything in. “My staff supports me,” he answers. “They are dedicated to everything from tracking what donations we’ve committed and which speaking engagements are coming up to when we do special events.

“We’re doing a trunk show the beginning of December at the Colony, working in cooperation with the CEO of the Art of the Olympians, Bob Beamon (1968 gold medal winner for the long jump). This will be the first ever golf tournament. We’re looking forward to many famous Olympians attending. We don’t do many trunk shows off site any more because of security, but we’re committed to this event,” he says, adding, “We are all about building our brand, but also bring in well known gem dealers, gemologists, designers, pearl dealers, and people I know who have a special passion for the industry to interact with our clients. When people ask what we do, I tell them we design pieces that make a difference in the lives of our community, staff and our clients. When you come to work knowing that that’s what you are doing every day, it takes it to a different level. •

from the September-October 2012 issue

“We know when you see
our designs on someone
you’ll ask, Who made that?”
14k Yellow &
White Gold,
1.5ct Firelight Diamond
Blue Topaz,
Brazilian Geode
14k Yellow Gold, Tanzanite,
Mummy Beads, Padparascha
Damascas Steel, Kolgari Silver,
Desert Ironwood, Spessartite