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Sparkling Sea Oats for Sanibel

Jan 13, 2023 04:00PM ● By Kathy Montgomery

Mark Loren, a jewelry designer in Fort Myers for nearly 40 years, has found ideas for his iconic jewelry all around him.

A frequent runner along the beach on Sanibel, Loren says he has always been intrigued by the sea oats that grow on the dunes. About 10 years ago, he tried to devise a way to replicate the details of the beautiful seed pods in his jewelry. When he felt he could not get the look he wanted, he shelved the idea.

“I tried to mold them, but it didn’t work very well,” he says. “I wasn’t able to get the detail right.”

A few months ago, while he was running along the beach again, a windblown clump of sea oats had drifted into the parking lot near his car. He put them in his trunk and decided to try to create jewelry again using a new 3D, high-resolution jewelry scanner. It worked, and he started to develop the Sanibel Sea Oats Collection.

Courtesy of Mark Loren Designs


Then came hurricane Ian, decimating Sanibel and other Southwest Florida barrier islands.

“I decided to fast track the development of the line after the storm to create something that related to Sanibel directly,” he says.

The significance of sea oats to Southwest Florida’s islands was not lost on Loren. The long-lived, slow-growing, perennial grass is an important plant of the coastal community, protected by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection because of the vital role played in shoreline stabilization, particularly on barrier islands.

“Using the sea oat to support Sanibel made sense to me,” Loren says. “They are beautiful, and by nature help protect the beach and barrier islands.”

The significance of sea oats to Southwest Florida’s islands was not lost on Loren. The long-lived, slow-growing, perennial grass is an important plant of the coastal community.

Photo courtesy of Mark Loren Designs


Loren decided the collection was the best way for him to help support the area’s recovery. As he often uses jewelry to benefit nonprofits, he will be donating 100 percent of the profit from sales of the collection to Sanibel-based Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife (CROW), a teaching hospital and visitor education center dedicated to saving wildlife through state-of-the-art veterinary care, research, education, and conservation medicine. “The collection offers an ongoing way to support CROW without just writing one check,” says Loren.

“The team at Mark Loren Designs have supported CROW throughout the years, and this beautiful collection is a wonderful example of just how much,” says Allison Charney Hussey, executive director of CROW. “Sea oats protect the shoreline. Mark and his designers have protected our wildlife by consistently holding us up—with their designs, their financial support, and even bringing injured wildlife for care and recovery. We are so honored to be the recipient of the Sea Oats Collection proceeds, and with our recovery from Hurricane Ian, the timing couldn’t be more appropriate. Saying ‘thank you’ just seems too small a phrase to express our appreciation for all they do for CROW.”

CROW was hit hard during the storm and had to move animals and staff off the island. It now needs to rebuild its enclosures and other parts of the campus. Animal rehabilitation work continues in a temporary location, and some of the clinic’s resident animals have been transferred to partner clinics until the campus can be rebuilt.

“There is so much help that is being offered after the storm, so it made sense for us to stay in our lane. We can make meaningful jewelry and help,” Loren says. “Since CROW is animal-related, they may not have access to the funds that some other organizations might.”

Photo courtesy of Mark Loren Designs


Mark Loren Designs is known for creating custom jewelry, so the Sea Oats Collection’s pendants, earrings, and rings can be customized in gold or white gold, and with birthstones or other gems.

In addition, Loren offered Lily & Co. Jewelers space in the back of his studio to store and sort through inventory after the Sanibel store had six feet of water from hurricane Ian in its building and vault. Lily’s, which has been on the island for 16 years, has announced it will not be reopening it’s Sanibel location.

“We were so fortunate in our store and gallery,” says Loren. “We are grateful and need to do what we can to help our community.”

 Kathy Montgomery has been writing for more than 30 years about Southwest Florida and the interesting people who live in the region.