Jillian Sassone is a trailblazer in the male-dominated jewelry business by being the founder of Marrow Fine. With its primarily all-women team, Marrow prides itself on redefining fine jewelry by creating meaningful custom pieces and reworking family heirlooms into something elevated. Utilizing only the best quality diamonds and gemstones, it's no surprise that Marrow’s designs are truly awe-inspiring. Sassone opened up to Moder Luxury about her inspiration, her creative process, being a woman in the jewelry industry and her thriving business. Read on for more.
Your grandmother, Mary, was how you first started redesigning heirlooms. In what ways did she inspire your business and you as a designer?
My grandma was the historian of the family. Most families have someone who knows all of the old family folklore, she was 100% that for our family. Where we came from and who we were was so important to her.
Marrow started when I reimagined a few of her heirlooms she left me after she passed. She would absolutely love that Marrow started by reimagining family heirlooms and honoring the pasts of my clients’ families. That is where the name “Marrow” stemmed from, honoring the “good old bones” of past jewelry pieces.
Besides restoring heirlooms, how does Marrow stand out from other jewelry designers?
I don’t come from a typical jewelry background. I’m self-taught, and because I never knew the design rules, I wasn’t afraid to break them.
Mixing semi-precious and precious stones felt natural, especially because I never liked traditional high ring settings. When I started, there weren't many designers creating low-profile, closed basket rings, but those designs still resonate with clients because it makes the jewelry easy to wear daily without catching and snagging while looking clean and classic.
What is the creative process like with your customers?
Typically clients work with one of our talented stylists to narrow down the ideas and concepts. First, we want to get a feel for the client’s style, and then my design team and I meet to work through our ideas for each project and typically provide three design options. The client then might tweak their design a bit until it’s perfect.
Once the design is finalized we create a CAD, or computer-aided design, rendering before bringing the piece to life, so our clients can visualize what their piece will look like once the stones are set and the project is complete.
From start to finish, our custom design process takes about 8-12 weeks.
After looking at your raving customer reviews, how are some of the ways that you ensure that everyone leaves happy?
Thank you, we are really proud of that. It sounds so simple, but we always accomplish what we promise we are going to do. We often talk internally about “meeting the moment”, clients and Instagram followers have an expectation when they walk through our doors or shoot us a DM on Instagram, and we really strive to meet and exceed that moment.
Our client experience managers welcome every client into our showrooms like they’re inviting someone into their home. Our spaces are designed to make clients feel comfortable and avoid the intimidating aloofness that you may find in other luxury jewelry retailers.
It sounds fulfilling to turn dreams into reality and bring life back into beautiful pieces. Has there ever been a redesign that stuck with you?
Absolutely, it feels like a dream. I work directly with our clients who are usually grieving a loss and want to create a piece to honor a loved one or life situation. It can be very emotional, but it is by far the most meaningful part of my job.
I still get goosebumps thinking of my sweet client Josie from Australia, whose daughter was stillborn. I created a sapphire ring for her that is still one of my favorites to date. My only design note from Josie was to “create something so beautiful that people won’t be able to help but complement it, and then I can decide at the moment if I want to talk about Tessa.”
A theme I hear around grief is that people are afraid to talk about it, and sometimes a beautiful jewelry piece honoring them can open that door.
What has it been like working in a male-dominated field?
That’s a phrase I heard a lot when I started: “I got a guy.” No one ever said, “I’ve got a gal” when talking about a diamond dealer.
That is changing, though. We’ve created over 15,000 rings, which is still insane to me. We’re a team of 21 women, plus my husband and co-owner Tim, and I don’t know of a stronger team. We pride ourselves on doing the right thing, offering fair prices and pushing the design envelope.
The jewelry designing process can be time-consuming. What are some things that keep you and your team motivated?
Being in a creative field, it’s hard to know when inspiration will strike. However, there are a few things we do to create an environment that is more likely to inspire. The number one thing for me is creating a safe space to share ideas, have fun and laugh as a team. Beautiful things derive from joy!
For example, we hold silly contests internally, like our March Madness Ultimate stack challenge. We start with 16 team members who compete in a bracket-style stack-off, with the winner being named the queen of stacking. It’s so fun for me to watch how much everyone gets into and wants that trophy.
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Is there one thing you wish you knew before starting your business?
I wish I knew the importance of building an incredible team and trusting in them. In the beginning, I did everything myself and was worried about hiring and handing off responsibilities. However, every time we brought on someone new, the business would flourish, and I had more time to focus on my gifts. I also have more time with my family, which is priceless.
What's your favorite piece of business advice to give?
For anyone contemplating starting their own business or taking a career leap, the most important thing is being 100% in love with whatever that thing is.
There will be a ton of people who will tell you all the reasons why it won’t work, but do not listen to them. If you are passionate and pour love into your dream, the right people will be drawn to you. It will absolutely work out for you. I know it!
Photography by: © Copyright 2021 Hailley LLC; Courtesy Marrow Fine