Forbes Jan 2020

New York-Based Designer Stella Flame Sells Her Handmade Jewelry On Upmarket Cruise Ships That Sail The Seven Seas

     Many companies that mass produce luxury-branded jewelry burnish their brands and compete to increase market share by providing VIP customers with culturally choreographed, immersive retail sales events. During these experiences, jewelry lovers view new collections, try on designs at leisure, and have the opportunity to shop till they drop. Cosmopolitan jewelry designer Stella Flame, however, takes a more subtle and customized approach by personally presenting her creations on luxury passenger ships during cruises that cater to a well-educated, high net worth; over 40 demographic. What’s more, Flame creates pieces that specifically reference certain cruises by including souvenir motifs in the design. “In 2019, I crossed the Atlantic on the Regent Navigator while selling my jewels,” Flame recalls. “The experience was so positive that I will always say yes to combining jewelry business with maritime adventure.”
     Flame is presently showing her jewels on the Viking Star, which carries 930 passengers and specializes in culturally programmed guest experiences. Working on this ship under the auspices of Harding Brothers Retail Limited, Flame observes, “Showing and selling jewels at sea on intimate cruises is an enjoyable, educational and relatively rare experience that all parties enjoy. It gives me the chance to meet adventurous people from all over the world, study their individual styles and learn which designs resonate the strongest with my customers, and why.”
    Flame’s distinctive adornments are hand-crafted by master artisans in Istanbul, Turkey, and sold in her eponymous gallery in the heart of the Hamptons, on Long Island's East End. Differentiated by intricate mixed metal work in 24-karat gold and sterling silver, along with artful setting of ethically sourced diamonds, perfect pearls and other precious gems, Flame’s designs feature highly refined, hand-hammered finishes and proprietary patinas. While her creations retail at New York’s Museum of Arts and Design (MAD), Flame’s jewels were featured in the International New York Times in 2019, among other publications of record. She also speaks regularly on the luxury jewelry design circuit and has appeared on panels at New York's Fashion Institute of Technology (F.I.T.)
     In terms of jewelry history, Flame’s creations are important because of their cross-cultural and historically influenced designs, ethically sourced materials, highly refined production values, and there are the Fair Trade wages that she pays her artisans, who have been working with her for the last ten years. “All of Stella’s collections have a rare and distinctive look and quite a sumptuous feel,” says Beverly Hills, CA.-based jewelry designer Hutton Wilkinson, Creative Director of Tony Duquette Jewelry. “Her artisans apprenticed in a rich, traditional and expert jewelry culture that stretches back thousands of years. Thus her jewels embody European, Persian and Turkish influences, cloaking the wearer with an aura of timeless refinement.” Bangkok-based artist and jewelry designer Matthew Campbell Laurenza of MCL Design notes, “Stella has pioneered a nature-based aesthetic that fuses antique cultural motifs with her sophisticated yet sustainably-oriented, 21st century sensibility. Variously set with diamonds, colored sapphires, lapis lazuli, pearls, topaz and other precious gems,” he continues, “Stella’s creations mix sterling and high karat gold in the manner of Ottoman Empire jewelers.”
     According to the raven-haired designer, who also owns and operates an eponymous gallery in Sag Harbor, New York, Flame sees several unique advantages to selling jewelry on culturally programmed, small luxury cruises. For starters, there is the heightened curiosity and consciousness of the guests. “Ships like the Viking Star cater to thinking, curious and genteel people,” Flame says with a smile. “I love spending time with adventurous men and women who come from all over the world. Some of them have never spoken to a jewelry designer face-to-face before,” she reports. “Showing them my collections and discussing their finer points is just as much a pleasure for me as it is for them.”
     Equally important, Flame observes, “When you’re on a ship that’s rocking back and forth on the waves, you’re liberated from typical day-to-day life and likewise free from standard retail pressures. It’s a separate, somewhat dreamy reality.” Indeed, the languid oceanic vibe, Flame continues, puts everyone in an expansive, more contemplative mood. “Because they’re so relaxed,” she ventures, “customers on the Viking Star or other ships are free to ask as many questions as they want about the design, materials and artisanship of the jewels,” she says. “When they find out that my jewels are made by master artisans in Istanbul, some of whom are eighth generation jewelers, they understand so much more about the cross-cultural heritage that goes into making my jewels, and they realize that there’s a complex human and artistic story behind my brand.” What’s more, “Cruise ship passengers appreciate how unusual it is that I’m helping support the transmission of cultural heritage by selling on the high seas,” she reports. Undeterred by occasionally rough weather and rolling seas, Flame says, “Having the opportunity of showing and selling my jewelry on discerning luxury cruises is a fantastic boost for my imagination, my artisans and for my business.”