Today we’re sitting down with our Founder, Catherine Cason to chat about her journey with Gem Breakfast – how it all started, her favourite jewelry styles, how she finds those one-of-a-kind designs, and her advice for new female entrepreneurs!
Where did you grow up and go to school?
I grew up in Marin County. We moved around a lot, but eventually landed back in the Bay Area when I was 8. I went to University in Los Angeles for Political Science and then moved back to San Francisco where I live now!
Were you always a jewelry lover? How did it start?
I used to live near this gorgeous jewelry store in the Marina (in San Francisco). The woman who worked there was always completely iced-out, just drowning in jewels. She would humor me while I tried on every piece in the store.
Then, once I received my engagement ring, I was completely hooked. Mesmerized by the diamond (it’s an Asscher cut), I disappeared down a deep online research hole learning about the cut, the setting, and everything about fine jewelry. I started coming across all these insanely talented indie designers on Instagram and finding unique pieces I never even knew existed.
At that point, there was no turning back – I was fully obsessed.
What's your jewelry style? Are there pieces you wear everyday?
I love layering and stacking. Whether it’s necklaces or rings – I like mixing metals and textures and switching up my look every day. I own a ton of wedding bands and I’m always moving them around, swapping them out, and creating new stacks.
And of course, my engagement ring – my forever favorite!
Sum up your personal style in a few words.
More is always more
What did you do before Gem Breakfast?
I worked for years in Merchandising at brands like Levi Strauss and North Face, and then eventually found my home at Sephora, managing beauty brands in their corporate office. While I loved my job, after a while I felt burnt out, like I needed a change – something that would give me more autonomy.
Not knowing what was next, I left my corporate job without a plan. Soon, many of the brands I’d worked with at Sephora reached out to me about consulting. I worked as a Strategic Brand Consultant for a while and really enjoyed it.
At the same time, I had a jewelry blog/Instagram account called Gem Hunt. I was meeting & interviewing independent jewelry designers, showcasing artisan pieces, and just building a great community of women who loved jewelry.
How did Gem Breakfast get started?
It started with my blog, Gem Hunt – I launched a small collection of ten rings from ten very talented independent designers. All priced at around $3,000, the rings sold in record time to buyers all around the world!
It was very exciting and I knew right away that we had something special. A few months later, Gem Breakfast was born.
What's the biggest reason Gem Breakfast has succeeded?
Instagram has played a big role in our success – from our community of jewelry lovers to the talented designers we’ve found through the platform.
It’s such an amazing place to connect with likeminded people, to share your message, to get feedback directly from your clients, and to be inspired by the many talented creatives posting their art.
Sum up the Gem Breakfast philosophy in three words.
Independent, ethical, unique.
How did you come up with the name 'Gem Breakfast'?
I’ve always loved the quote ‘eat diamonds’ – it’s fun and cheeky and has always been my unofficial jewelry motto (it's now the Gem Breakfast motto).
So, when I was brainstorming names for my business, I wrote down about 500 names inspired by that quote, and ‘Gem Breakfast’ just felt right. It embodied that girlfriends-shopping-together, dessert-for-breakfast, eclectic, one-of-a-kind vibe that I love.
To me, it feels fun, lighthearted, but empowered – like the kind of woman who buys jewels for herself, for no reason, just because she loves the shine on your finger!
How do you decide which designers to partner with?
Our designers are all incredibly talented artisans. What they have in common is their ethos of ethical sourcing, immaculate quality & craftsmanship, and a deep connection to their craft. In terms of design aesthetic however, they couldn’t be more diverse – no two designs are alike.
I always know when I’ve found someone special - when their designs fascinate me, when they’ve created a style or a detail that I’ve never seen before, or a piece that I can’t stop looking at – finding new details with every glance. Most of the designs on our site is one-on-a-kind with no repetition – every Gem Breakfast designer brings a completely unique perspective and style to our collection.
What's your favourite piece ever (so far)
That’s a hard one – I fall in love with new rings on the daily. But if I had to choose, I would say ‘Sweet Thing’. It was a hot pink sapphire & diamond ring with a gold band, and a diamond halo surrounding the center stone. The rutilations inside the sapphire made the ring feel very distinctive and truly-one-of-a-kind.
How much does customer input factor into which designs you choose?
We love getting input from our community – whether it’s getting votes on which diamond to use in a certain setting, or just chatting one-on-one about what styles they love or want to see more of!
And what about your favourite piece on the site right now?
I have to pick a few, it’s too hard to narrow it down!
First is ‘Oracle’ – it’s a rose cut diamond ring with Grecian-inspired details on the band. It feels almost spiritual by Jenny Norman.
Second is ‘Electric Magic’- I cannot stop looking at it. It’s a teal spinel and diamond ring with such a rich, vivid color and a setting that feels seriously royalby our in-house line, Made by Gem Breakfast.
Last, I love ‘Moonlight’, a pear cut opalescent diamond ring that feels like pure magic. It’s the Glinda the Good Witch of rings – regal, mystical, and dripping in diamonds by Porter Gulch.
From left to right: Oracle, Electric Magic, Moonlight
Is there a certain kind of woman who loves your pieces?
I think you attract what you put out there. So, like our jewelry, Gem Breakfast women are unique, stylish, independent, empowered, and very much themselves.
Do you ever get updates on your jewelry after you sell it?
I do! I love getting updates on my pieces – they’re honestly like my children! It’s so fun seeing the ring selfies, stories of proposals, and even just comments on how much someone loves their new jewels!
What's the most popular style on the website?
95% of what I sell is completely one-of-a-kind so once it’s gone, it’s gone.
But one style we have held on to is the ‘Stella’– it’s a classic solitaire in the most beautiful setting, with a delicate, ultra-thin band. We customize the gold and the stone to really capture the essence of each woman receiving it.
Everyone is also really loving our new engraved bands – they’re gorgeous for stacking, and of course perfect as wedding bands.
How involved are you in the design process?
I’m very involved with our designers throughout their design process – I give guidance on what our customers are looking for and what ideas stand out as new, innovative, and completely unlike anything else on our site.
We have a very different process than conventional jewelry retailers. Most retailers pick items off a standardized sheet – bulk designs that may be sold at multiple chains all over the world.
At Gem Breakfast, every piece is one-of-a-kind, handcrafted, and created & sold exclusively on our site. Our artisan partners design pieces that are inspired by the women in our community.
What's your favourite part of being a business owner? And about the jewelry business in particular?
I just truly love jewelry - I find it wildly exciting and that feeling never goes away. And the people are super interesting; I’ve met so many talented, amazing women through Gem Breakfast – customers, designers, and other retailers. We all bond over our love of jewelry.
And owning a business – I love the freedom and I love the challenge. It’s almost like a game – finding the hidden “gem” designers, sourcing the most beautiful, unique gemstones, and matchmaking each ring with the woman who it’s meant for.
Is there anyone you'd like to thank for their help along the way?
One Designer Emily Gill has been with me since the beginning – she’s insanely talented and endlessly supportive. Our businesses have evolved and grown together over the years.
Also, my Diamond Supplier, Ashkan Asgari has been a fantastic partner. He travels the world, building relationships with local miners and sourcing the best quality, ethical gemstones for our pieces.
Do you have any advice for other female entrepreneurs?
I think a lot of us feel we need permission to do what we want to do. Once you realize that the only permission you need is your own, all your perceived limitations go away.
What are some of your dreams for the business?
I want to keep growing – to reach more women. So many people don’t realize what’s available in the world of jewelry. Most of us just see the mass-produced, never-evolving styles in the big retailers, and think that’s where our options end. And that is so sad to me!
I want women to know they have options – that they can find pieces that truly reflect their style, and speak to them on a different level.