“The Diamond Industry Picked Me:” Q&A with Jewelry Designer Karen Rosengart

From mine to market, women play an integral role in the journey of a diamond. This article is part of a series around International Women’s Day that profiles women working in each stage of a diamond’s journey and the impact it has on their lives.

Karen Rosengart is the CEO and founder of K. Rosengart, a certified diamond melee wholesaler located in New York with nearly 30 years of experience in supplying and consulting loose diamonds and diamond melee. As GIA certified diamond experts, they also provide services including diamond cutting, design, sorting and polishing.

We spoke to Karen about her nearly 3 decade-long career, the changes she’s seen in the diamond industry over the years, and her love of all things melee!

Karen Rosengardt, CEO and founder of K. Rosengart

How did you originally decide you wanted to be in the diamond industry?
 I think the diamond industry picked me! After graduating from The Art Institute of Chicago with a major in Fine Arts, I started my career by sitting at the jeweler’s bench with my father, who was a diamond setter, and watching him work. After seeing the joy that diamonds bring to people’s lives and the role they play in life’s most meaningful moments, I was hooked. My career ultimately led me to Tiffany & Co. where I became a buyer for the Engagement Ring Category.

When I started my family, I wanted my own company to allow me the flexibility I needed, but I wasn’t willing to give up my passion for diamonds. And so it began…my own diamond business. I wanted to create a destination where people in the industry — designers, manufacturers, retail store owners, buyers, and other professionals — could have access to their own diamond department, fully staffed by GIA Certified Diamond Specialists. My goal was (and is!) to forge strong, sustainable relationships and become the melee diamond source for these individuals, providing them access to specialists with decades of experience in jewelry design, diamond sorting, bench work, stone setting, and more. That was almost 20 years ago, and I’ve never looked back.

What was it like to start your own company as the first generation in your family to work in the diamond industry?

When I started, I had no idea what was in store for me — ignorance is bliss! As a rookie in a traditionally male-dominated industry, it took a lot of hard work and long hours to successfully get things started on my own, but what made it all worthwhile was my ability to bear witness to the most important events in people’s lives. I love being the first phone call after an engagement happens, or being a part of choosing a future family heirloom — it still excites me. A fascination with diamonds combined with my transparent and honest approach, I have felt supported by many people in the industry eager to help me succeed.

What are melee diamonds and how did you decide you wanted to specialize in them?

GIA defines melee as small diamonds, weighing less than 1/5 carat. I was initially drawn to melee diamonds due to their versatility within jewelry design. The minute you add diamonds to a piece of jewelry, whether it is gold, silver or an alternative metal, it adds multi-dimensional value. Melee is a beautiful way to enhance and add sparkle, and it also confers a high level of emotional value without substantially driving up the cost.

What trends are you currently seeing in the jewelry design space?

There is so much more creativity and originality. I am seeing a big lean towards ideal melee to give jewelry that extra touch of elegance and value. Clients are not afraid to use more diamonds and set them in alternative ways — upside down, only setting stones where the wearer can see them, or using fancy shapes in the smaller sizes–sky’s the limit.

What changes have you seen in the industry from when you started nearly 30 years ago?

There has been a drastic change with synthetic diamonds emerging in the marketplace, and I’m concerned about the lack of education and misconception surrounding them. Both consumers and the wholesalers need to properly understand what separates diamonds from laboratory grown products, which are not real gems.

It’s the incredible and romantic diamond formation story that brings meaning to these rare and brilliant stones. It’s not the simple arrangement of carbon atoms that give diamonds their meaning. Instead, it’s the long, improbable journey that creates their beauty, rarity, and enduring value. A reputable jewelry supplier and jeweler will conduct appropriate testing to ensure you are getting the quality — and truth — that you deserve.

Additionally, the Kimberley Process, implemented in 2003, has virtually eliminated conflict diamonds from the global supply chain. For suppliers like myself, these processes allow me to accomplish my number one goal — to guarantee my clients’ confidence in getting what they’re paying for.

What would you say is the best part of your job?

The people I get to meet and work with daily — a designer, store owner, a couple celebrating a milestone or a woman treating herself to a piece of jewelry. It’s always fun to show and speak about diamonds and I feel lucky to be able to be a part of people’s most special and authentic memories. Since diamonds play such an integral part of life’s most precious moments, I’ve developed so many personal, longstanding relationships with clients that mean the world to me.

What advice would you give to young women trying to start their own business?

Surround yourself with positive people willing to share information. Have a mentor, someone that can help guide you through the rough patches. Accept every invite and opportunity, even if you’re not sure about its immediate benefits. There is never a bad business trip, meeting, or encounter. It’s not about the destination of having a “successful” business, it’s about enjoying the ride. Work hard, trust your instincts, and believe in yourself!

Click here to read more articles from the International Women’s Day series