Mark Loren Designs: Keeping Things Fun While Taking the Utmost Care of Customers' Prized Possessions
Feb 21, 2018 07:28AM ● Published by Kevin
Gallery: Mark Loren Designs [6 Images] Click any image to expand.
It all began in the 1980s, when Loren originally worked at a trade shop in Fort Myers. He partnered with jewelry stores that were selling wholesale to the public, and had a few jewelers working with him at the time. He worked for 15 different jewelers in the area. No one had access to them individually, as they worked out of a private, secured space for the wholesaler. Yet, when customers generally asked for specialized rings, the trade shop would send it to Loren, even though that's not what he was supposed to be doing.
As time went on, Loren started working for different retail jewelry stores, which would hire him to do specialized pieces. When he was perfecting his trade, he had trained as a goldsmith with person-to-person expertise. He was working for large companies like JCPenny and Zales, but really craved working with individuals directly.
Loren is now a trained goldsmith and platinum-smith. As these are different metals, a different type of training is involved. He prefers to work with gold, appreciating the 18K - 14K properties.
He takes great joy in educating people on the realities of where their jewelry goes. Pieces are not always worked on in the shop, he advises. Oftentimes, he says, pieces are shipped to someone else to be worked on, which, for obvious reasons, can be a major liability. Not a lot of people know this, he explains. At Mark Loren, all jewelry is worked on at the shop.
About 65 percent of what they do is work on pieces brought in by clients. Loren understands how important it is for clients to want to leave valuables where it's properly taken of. "If we don't treat your valuables with care and appreciation, then shame on us," he told us.
A recent example is a story he told of a customer who needed his wife's ring fixed. The customer asked if he could watch his wife's ring being worked on, because he wasn't able to at another store. He was happily surprised when Loren agreed and brought him back to watch.
"There is no mystery about what's going on in the back of the shop," Loren said. "We are working with clients on the most sentimentally precious things they own. Our staff is trained to know to be on point and aware of this when someone comes in. We need to pay attention and handle with the utmost care."
Mark Loren Designs is not only a jewelry store, but an international award-winning custom jewelry design gallery, according to its website. The goldsmithing studio/gallery is located in Fort Myers between College Parkway and Cypress Lake Drive on McGregor Boulevard. They offer a full range of services including certified jewelry appraisals, five-point jewelry inspection and cleaning, diamond setting and recutting, consignment and estate jewelry sales and watch repair and watch batteries.
"We are nationally known for our offerings of unique and rare gemstones, innovative diamond rings, exceptional engagement [and] wedding bands, expert jewelry repair and our own Toe-Touches Locking Diamond Toe rings!" the website continues. "When you are looking for a luxurious diamond necklace, hard to find estate watch, custom wedding rings, rare gems or even ancient antiquities - we've got you covered."
Loren also held a promotion for Valentine's Day this year. On the Monday before holiday, Loren went on a helicopter ride, dropping coupons for the store, that placed in small bottles, into the ocean. He said he didn't want much media attention, so he told people by word of mouth to simply walk the beach, enjoy the company of their partners, and keep an eye out for his messages in bottles. As of this writing, none have been found... yet.
"We do fun stuff here, usually treasure related," he said, noting that on their 10-year anniversary, they buried a treasure chest and created a map to find it.
Loren believes a holiday like Valentine's Day should be fun, and that it shouldn't a holiday where he pushes people to buy things for someone to show how much they love them.
"It should be about walking on the beach, holding hands, and enjoying each other," he said. "Even though I'm with a jewelry store, this is what I tell people."
Despite its reputation for gift-giving and romance, Valentine's Day typically isn't a big day for Mark Loren Designs, he said. However, this year, he was happy to serve a customer that spent $40,000 on a piece of jewelry. They are hoping that the woman he gave it to liked it!
Loren recalls a memorable moment for him as a goldsmith, where he realized that doing work for clients didn't mean it had to be something of extreme value like a gem or diamond, but something sentimental.
"A woman came in and brought her mother in with her. She apologized and said it may be emotional," he said. "[She] wanted to have a pendant designed for her mother. She opened a box that contained a button, about the size of a silver dollar. The woman's grandmother and her family were rounded up in Amsterdam, sent on a train, and eventually landed in Auschwitz. Her grandmother's parents were immediately separated, and later she was separated from her mother. As she was taken from her, her mother tore a button off of her coat and handed it to her. And she kept it. That's all they had left of the woman's grandmother. By this point, we were all crying. You could have 15K diamond and it wouldn't be as valuable as this button. We came up with a simple little sketch for the pendant, that her mother could wear, with the button in the middle."
For Loren, everyday things can be made precious. It just depends on the meaning we give to them.
Loren said he's always had a fascination with ancient material - Egyptian, Roman, or Viking, to name a few.
"When you walk in the store, you will find fossils, cool things that guys appreciate," he said. "It's not just a regular jewelry store. We use a lot of unusual gemstones."
Mark Loren Designs is also known to participate in big events. One of which occurred yesterday: the Love Your Neighbor Live Auction by The Heights Foundation, which is a fundraiser and 10-year anniversary celebration. Loren donated a necklace for the cause. The necklace, according to the foundation's website, is "created with a large Black Coral branch holding a rare, 6.69ct cushion-cut, Golden Natural Zircon (cut by nationally known gem cutter Clay Zava). The Black Coral is suspended from a chain of Baroque Freshwater Pearls with an exceptional, highly iridescent, large, Yangtze River Pearl drop that is removable from the bottom of the coral and can be worn separately as a pendant. With .65cts of diamond accents to finish this truly special necklace from Mark exclusively for Love Your Neighbor."
Loren said he donates custom jewelry for fundraisers frequently. He's worked with the Bobby Nichols-Fiddlesticks Charity Foundation for the past 20 years.
Amongst Loren's favorite pieces are his national award winners. As a matter of fact, he just picked up his trophy from the Spectrum Awards by the American Gem Trade Association, where he came out on top of 500 entries. He submitted five pieces, one of which was the prize winner.
"I do that so I can bring it back and show clients that it's not just anyone working on your pieces, but award winners," he said.
Overall, Loren is just proud to service his customers in Southwest Florida.
"We are really blessed. A lot of our clients come in, wanting to get something special for their girl or wife and take the time to ask me questions," Loren said of his clientele. "They want to learn, and they're not afraid to drop the coin for something special."
For more information, visit marklorendesigns.com, or call 239-482-4664.