The Gem

Katie Bartel's love of jewelry began at the age of 18 months in Connecticut when she started wearing a plastic pearl necklace everywhere--pajama story time, play dates, etc. During a trip to Barcelona, Spain, Katie stumbled upon a gemstone store and the rows of colorful gemstones changed her life. She purchased several strands and began making necklaces for herself. After receiving countless compliments on her pieces, Katie decided to start selling her handmade designs.Her designs began selling in Fairfield County, CT, boutiques and two years later, Katie left her job at a New York City law firm to pursue her passion for jewelry design full-time. In the summer of 2010, Katie received a graduate gemology degree from the Gemological Institute of America. She now creates her designs in her Manhattan studio. Katie's designs are inspired by her world travels and love of color.

What is your personal definition of success?

My definition of success has shifted so much over the years. If you had asked me this question when I first graduated from college, my answer would have focused on job title and salary as indicators of success.Success to me now is much more multifaceted. Rich and meaningful personal relationships are an incredibly important component my notion of success. When it comes to work, I measure my success by my business’ growth and the number of new opportunities available to me. Happiness and a sense of satisfaction are also very important.

What was your first job and what did you learn from it?
For my first real job (besides babysitting and being a camp counselor in high school), I was a teacher at REACH Prep. REACH is a not-for-profit that helps exceptional black & Latino students from underserved schools get placed in elite private schools after completion of a year-long rigorous academic program. The most important lesson I learned from this job was to be more aware of people’s struggles and to be sensitive to the impact this can have on their performance. One of my students had difficulty completing his homework every day and I assumed he was just lazy or irresponsible. When I learned a single mom that worked the night shift was raising the student, I realized that I had completely misjudged the situation and I felt horrible. This was a very valuable lesson in empathy for me.

What is something you wish you had known when you were beginning your career?

I wish I had known that a lot of the self-doubt I experienced when starting my business was imposture syndrome. I wish I had done a better job of focusing on ways to build my confidence as a designer and entrepreneur. I am proud to say I haven’t had any significant moments of self-doubt in nearly a year, but when I did it made an impact on decisions I made, risks I took, and my ability to be creative. Being confident is so important when you are running a business. I fortunately have learned to surround myself with people who will support me and give me confidence. There are always going to be challenging times when you run a business and having cheerleaders is the way you get through these times

How did you know when you had found your ideal career path?
When I was in my early 20s, I was in Barney’s on Madison Avenue and I had on a necklace I had designed. A very fashionable woman approached me and asked where I had purchased my necklace. I told her that I designed and made the necklace myself and she then asked where I sold my designs. I told her I had just made the necklace for myself and that I did not sell my designs. Honestly, I had never ever considered selling my pieces. The stylish woman encouraged me to sell my pieces and told me I had talent. I knew in that moment that this was something I needed to pursue. I wasn’t quite sure what my roadmap would be and it would be more than 6 years before I went full time with my business. But I knew that jewelry design was my passion and what I wanted to pursue as a career.

What does the term ‘job satisfaction’ mean to you?

Having once had a corporate job that had a very negative impact on me emotionally (anxiety, trouble sleeping, etc.), I can truly say that being happy is a critical part of job satisfaction. There are always going to be less than fun moments with work. I have plenty of these moments (being a solopreneur can be tough), but overall I’m really happy. I get up in the mornings excited to go to work and enter my colorful office.

Any other thoughts or words of wisdom to share?

I recently read the book “Joyful” by Ingrid Fetell Lee and it had a big impact on me. In her book, Ingrid talks about the importance of objects and practices that bring a person joy. I have really begun to focus on surrounding myself with objects of joy. As an example, I have three neon lights in my office: a flamingo, a pineapple, and a rainbow. These bring me great joy and I really appreciate my morning routine of turning these lights on when I first enter my office. I have moments when I get a frustrating email or a piece of bad news from a supplier and I will look at my lights and feel better. There is so much in life that we cannot control but why not do little things to bring ourselves joy where we can.

Make it your own


Ameliora pieces were created to match. Our luxe Italian fabric and silk lining is seamless from piece to piece. So, go ahead and build your dream wardrobe.

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