New York — It didn't take more than a trip to a jewelry-supply store for Cristina Ferrare, who by age 52 has been a model, talk-show host, author and actress, to take on a new career.
"It was an epiphany. I brought home some beautiful stones, did two necklaces and said, 'I want to be a jeweler when I grow up."'
She had gone to the store with her mother, Renata, who kept herself busy since retiring as a jewelry buyer for Gucci by making crystal necklaces as gifts for her children and grandchildren.
Cristina Ferrare encouraged her mom to begin selling the necklaces at Tupperware-style parties and she offered to help in the not-so-glamorous designing and manufacturing process that was happening at the kitchen table.
But once she visited the supplier, Ferrare says she began to see the potential of jewelry as a business.
The mother-daughter duo created a few pieces, using a "signature" of colorful stones, and brought them to the Neiman Marcus store in Beverly Hills, Calif., Ferrare explains. The manager said the Cristina Ferrare Collection could be sold locally on consignment but he suggested a visit to the company's headquarters in Dallas to lobby for a trunk show.
"So after getting the approval of a woman younger than my daughter who had no idea who I was, we got the show," Ferrare, a former Harper's Bazaar and Cosmopolitan cover girl and face of Max Factor cosmetics, says with a laugh.
(Ferrare has a 25-year-old daughter, Kathryn, a 30-year-old son, Zach, 15- and 13-year-old daughters, Alexandra and Arianna, and three adult stepchildren, Mark, Denis and Anne.)
The jewelry, which is designed by Cristina Ferrare and managed and merchandised by Renata Ferrare, is now in seven Neiman Marcus stores and is beginning to pop up in specialty shops throughout the country. The plan, according to Ferrare, is to add a new store with every seasonal collection.
Almost all of the collection's pieces, which range in price from $300 to $3,500, are built around colorful stones and gems. "Colors make me feel alive, and they also bring customers over to the cases," says Ferrare.
The novice jewelry designer also says that tastes vary somewhat by region: Southerners seem partial to big, bold and colorful, while Californians favor more conservative jewelry.
Ferrare, who says she wears little jewelry beyond her wedding ring, is "totally in love" with turquoise and coral at the moment and chooses them for her special occasion jewelry. Her favorite piece in the collection was a five-strand turquoise necklace with diamond stars, but it sold before she had the chance to wear it.