Diamonds in the Rough: How Passion and Hard Work Led to Success
Sisters, jewelers, and powerful #girlbosses. Maribeth Cruz and Catherine Tan are shining gems in the jewelry industry. This is their story.
Maribeth V. Cruz and Catherine V. Tan are sisters and inspirational figures in the jewelry industry—to say the very least. It all started when both sisters were inspired to enter the jewelry industry by their grandmother and mother. And being part of the third generation in their family business meant that they had big shoes to fill.
While both only a year apart, they’ve taken two different paths in the field of jewelry: Maribeth manages the family business Hiyas Jeweller, while Catherine owns her own business—Cath’s inStyle Jewelry & Gift Shoppe. Despite that, these women of style have been at the top of their game since their early 30’s.
And they did just that with their wealth of skills and experience.
On Inspiration and Talent
“I opened my business [Cath’s inStyle Jewelry & Gift Shoppe] in October of 2003. I was first inspired by my grandmother, Paz Bañas,” Catherine shares. “She paved the way for the family’s succeeding generations to be in this line of business. My mother eventually opened her own shop after gaining more experience.”
“Just like my mom, Emelda Villacorta, I love designing. I inherited my talent and eye in design from her,” she continues. “A few years of working with her also led me to the same fate of starting my own jewelry business. The decision was inspired by my husband, whose support and love really pushed me to believe in myself and my talent.”
On the other hand, Maribeth, who currently manages the family business, shares the secret for her inspiration. “I derive inspiration from nature. I pay special attention to the shapes, textures, and colors [that] I find in a natural setting. Whether it be rock formations or flowers, I examine it thoroughly and from different angles,” she shares.
“Nature truly inspires my creativity because it tells a story. Anything involving nature has a rich back story to delve into, therefore it is my go-to source for great ideas. My love of nature was inspired by my mom, who was, in turn, inspired by my grandmother and great aunt. I’m very grateful for them—to mothers and every woman who has worked to conserve the beauty of nature. I owe my inspiration to them,” Maribeth adds, on a fond note.
Continuing the Family Business
While Maribeth has two sons, Catherine has three daughters. When asked if their children have any plans on taking over the business in the future, Maribeth says, “I can see Riel and Michael continuing on in the business. My older son is more on sales, while the youngest will be more on the marketing side—which he will be conducting online.”
In the jewelry business, it’s very important to trust the people who will be handling both the jewelry pieces and the business itself. Most especially because of its delicate nature, the value of the goods, and the level of confidentiality needed. Thus, it is common for family members to join the practice.
On this note, Catherine tells me that she wants her daughters—Cassie, Camille, and Catarina—to continue her legacy. Not only does she have their full loyalty and trust, but she also wants them to share in the experience of talking to great people, building connections, and seeing beautiful diamonds and gems. “I believe that when you see and touch beautiful things every day, you also attract positivity into your life,” she says with a smile.
Essential Pieces for Your Jewelry Collection
As experts in their field, Maribeth and Catherine share their different, yet equally important views on what you should focus on when building your jewelry collection. For Catherine, a pair of south sea pearls should be your first buy. “You can never go wrong with the timelessness and versatility of it. It’s very easy to wear and pair. But ultimately, it must always be about what makes you feel most confident.”
Maribeth, however, has something else in mind. “For me, diamonds definitely [are your must-have]. Pearls, to me, are sentimental, traditional, and romantic. But I prefer diamonds because they have a special look that’s always attractive—not to mention more valuable.”
“Though I honestly look better in pearls which make me look more sophisticated and sexy. This is one of the hardest questions to answer because I seriously love both as a jeweler. But if you give me an engagement ring, I would prefer a big diamond on it,” she adds, laughingly.
On Fashion Trends and Buying What You Love
As for their opinion on fashion trends, Catherine says, “Fashion is an expression of who you are. It’s a medium that allows you to experiment, evolve, and show the different facets of your personality and style. It’s about enjoying the things you like and feeling great in [them]. So my advice is to spend on jewelry that ultimately satisfies your happiness and adds to your confidence.”
Maribeth adds, “My rule of thumb for fashion is that you can make subtle use of jewelry pieces to spruce up and accentuate certain aspects of your look. You should be cognizant of the ways in which you mix and match because there’s always a delicate balance at play when it comes to accessorizing.”
While some rules exist on pairing jewelry pieces, Maribeth explains that these can easily be changed—within reason, that is. “For instance, you should be aware that gold and platinum can be a match made in heaven. That bold necklaces can be subdued by subtle rings and earrings and that twin sets are no longer compulsory. Ask yourself if the interplay of elements serves to push the look you were going for. If the combination of these elements is perplexing, that usually dictates if you’ll end up with an overall look that’s elegant or unrefined.”
“Make a decision that works for you by using pieces that draw attention to different parts of [your] body and outfit—creating a seamless aesthetic expression of your current mood while creating something stylistically new and refreshing in the process. [Also], choose jewelry that allows your personality to shine. Make a statement with it and don’t be boring,” she continues, emphasizing the importance of self-expression in the end.
Wise Words of Advice
The ongoing pandemic has hit their shops hard and has caught both sisters off-guard, as it did with a lot of other businesses. Nevertheless, Catherine slowly shifted to selling online and doing house appointments. Thankfully, her daughter has the skills and abilities to manage the business well. But mostly she is just very grateful for her clients as they continue to be supportive amidst these trying times.
In regards to giving advice to the next generation, Catherine shares, “They have to love their work and be dedicated. They have to be good role models to their employees and build good relationships with them in order to have harmony in the workplace. People stay if you treat them like your own family and know that you’re concerned about their welfare.”
Ultimately, both sisters want to surround themselves and their children with great people who are caring and generous. Instead of rushing things, they want to take things one step at a time and instill in their children that their name and brand are there for them to protect. Because for both Maribeth and Catherine, integrity means everything.
But beyond making a living and surviving, both sisters want their children to be happy, to work with passion, and to be in love with life. But with that comes the importance of treating all people the same—whether they be rich or poor. Having character and respect in life is just as important as doing your best.
On that same note, Maribeth and Catherine emphasize the importance of being grateful and humble in whatever role you play. To think big, act with humility, and give everything you have. And most of all, to never give up. That no one will do the work for you.
And as we wrapped up the interview, both Maribeth and Catherine remind me that without their grandmother, mother, and each other, they would not be where they are today.
And that is what I call Women Empowerment.
Photos ED SIMON
Makeup JACQUELINE DIZON
Styling CANDY DIZON