Editorial

Women of Impact in Today’s Jewellery Industry

Jennifer-Lynn Archuleta and Olga Gonzalez, FGA DGA speak to industry actors in different fields on the growing visibility of women and other issues in the gem trade. This article was published in the Spring 2024 issue of Gem-A’s Gems & Jewellery Magazine.

 

The gem and jewellery industry has long been considered a male-dominated field; in fact, in a 2020 interview with Catawiki, jewellery designer and gemstone specialist Naomi Howard pointed out that ‘The gemology world is very small, and it’s still 90% men’. Yet it is also true that women are deeply embedded in the artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM) of gemstones, and that they play important roles all along the supply chain. It is also apparent that the number of women in front-facing public positions is growing. The following eleven women, who work in different aspects of the trade, discussed matters that affected their own development as industry actors.

ADRIANNE SANOGO – Co-Founder and Education Chair, Black in Jewelry Coalition (blackinjewelry.org)

Can you share your journey into the jewellery industry?

My introduction to the gem and jewellery industry does not come from a background of legacy or heritage. It has been a journey spanning nearly five decades! Since childhood, I have avidly collected rocks, minerals and jewellery. The spark that ignited my gemology path was the unexpected find of an unmarked tennis bracelet in a charity shop, priced at $89. It turned out to be an 18K yellow gold, ten-carat diamond piece valued at over $20,000! This discovery motivated me to delve deeper into diamond knowledge through education. Simultaneously, I was battling cancer, which led me to celebrate my second chance at life with a Graduate Gemologist (GG) diploma from GIA. This pursuit played a significant role in my healing journey. I achieved a delicate balance of treatments, recovery, full-time work, raising two teenagers and recuperation from major surgery. At one point, my GIA instructor sensed something amiss, but I chose not to disclose my illness. After twenty-five months of unwavering effort, I proudly graduated with a hard-earned GG diploma.

Can you tell us about a project or achievement in your career of which you are particularly proud?

There is a list of projects and achievements I have been involved with, but in the interest of space, I will share these highlights. Being chosen by Raquel Alonso-Perez, Melanie Grant and Susan Jacques to moderate a panel at the first State of the Art Jewelry Summit at Harvard University in 2023 marked a significant milestone in my career. It is an excellent example of women elevating and supporting other women. I am truly proud of the access, opportunities and scholarships that BIJC has created through partnerships with industry collaborators. In Spring 2024, BIJC’s partnership with Jewelers Mutual (sole sponsor) holds special significance to me in my role as the education chair. This initiative aims to introduce high school students at Brooklyn Steam Center in New York City to the art of jewellery making, inspiring them to explore career paths in the industry from an early age.

How do you use your platform to contribute to positive changes within the trade?

As my mentor, Cheryl Wadlington, wisely said, “take up your full space.” Without doing so, advocacy efforts will lack impact. I have been privileged to participate in influential settings where I advocate for those who are marginalized or may not have a voice in significant conversations. Having experienced exclusion and being overlooked, I recognize the significance of advocacy; without this support, progress becomes challenging. It is
crucial to maximise this opportunity.

What advice would you give to young women seeking to enter this industry?

In addition to cultivating genuine relationships and connections throughout the supply chain, seek out a mentor whom you deeply admire. If you hold this person in high regard, chances are you already know a fair amount about them. If not, familiarise yourself with their background, accomplishments and significant roles. Actively network and propose exciting collaborations to expand your horizons. Be open to taking risks and forging your own path when necessary. While tradition and heritage are integral to the industry, there is always room for growth. Keep yourself engaged through reading and course enrolment. Never shy away from asking questions to enhance your understanding and cultivate a continuous learning mindset.

 

“I am truly proud of the access, opportunities and scholarships that Black in Jewelry Coalition has created through partnerships with industry collaborators.”

 

ASHRAFI CHALISA- Indian Diamond and Colorstone Association (idcany.org) and The Diamond Manufacturer & Importers Association of America (dmia.diamonds)

Can you share your journey into the jewellery industry?

I started in this industry quite by accident, and very reluctantly. It was supposed to be a short-term gig, but now it is a twenty-year journey that has been exciting and rewarding. I was truly fortunate to come into contact with and work alongside some very decent and respectable people right from the beginning. This is why I ended up where I am today.

How do you see the role of women evolving in the traditionally male-dominated C-Suite of the trade?

To be honest, even though I see a lot of women in the younger generation playing active roles in the business, on this side of the industry the majority of them are still functioning as family-oriented traditional entities where the son follows the father into the family business. This kind of change is always slow and gradual. But I am happy that I had the opportunity to play a role in bringing in our first female board member who successfully runs her family business in coloured stones by herself and who also happens to be my close friend.
In your opinion, what qualities or skills are essential for success?
Patience to wait for change to happen, perseverance to keep working towards your goal, willingness to always learn and try new things and discipline to always keep this mindset.

 

BRECKEN BRANSTRATOR – Editor-in-Chief, GemGuide (www.gemguide.com)

Can you share your journey into the jewellery industry?

I wrote for a trade publication that covered the beverage industry, and while it was a great first job out of university, I did not see myself staying there long term. After two years, I knew I was ready for a new challenge. National Jeweler was looking for a coloured- stone writer a few months into my job search. It was not something I even knew existed — who ever thinks about being a coloured-stone journalist? — but as soon as I had my first interview, I knew I wanted the job. I knew next-to-nothing about coloured gems, and the learning curve was immense, but I give my editor a lot of credit for letting her team take their beat and make it their own. We had the freedom and resources to become the best in our areas, and I enjoyed making the coloured-stones niche my own. What misconceptions have you had to overcome, and how did you do that? People can the mistake of confusing a news or publishing platform for a press-release distributor. Just because something is pitched to me does not mean it will be published, and especially does not mean it will be published as is. News judgment is such a big part of true journalism, and though it is not easy to always sort through the voices to understand what the true story is and how to make it as balanced as can be, it is vital. I work hard to make sure I’m clear about the angle of the article I’m writing and communicate what will be covered to make it balanced, or make sure the articles that appear in GemGuide written by others follow the same guidelines and aren’t just marketing opportunities for business.

Has the digital era impacted the way you do business?

Today, everyone is playing that game of print versus digital media, and writers have had to adapt to writing for digital platforms. Luckily for me, I have been at trade publications that still have print components, but we have had to find ways to balance what both sides offer. At GemGuide, our wholesale pricing is in our print publication, but recognising how many people might want those prices in a digital format, we also have a GemGuide pricing app (which also works in an internet browser). GemGuide also launched a digital- only newsletter in early 2023; it is a bi-weekly article for our subscribers focused on various newsier topics important to the industry. What qualities or skills do you think are essential for success, both in general and in the gem and jewellery industry? I do not think you can get far in this industry without passion; it goes a long way in an industry that might be small but still has a decent amount of competition. That authenticity almost always shines through to those who you might hope to work with or to whom you want to get your messaging. And I think in this industry especially, honesty is also vital. A good reputation is as important as the goods or services you offer others.

What advice would you give to young women seeking to enter this industry?

I cannot stress enough the importance of networking and stepping out of your comfort zone to build connections. So many of the amazing opportunities I have had in this industry have come about because I decided to go to an event, even if I did not know anybody. I can say this: I have certainly never regretted taking the time to attend a conference, evening event or any other opportunity to meet people.

 

“I do not think you can get far in this industry without passion.”

 

CHIE MURAKAMI Founder, Diamonds for Peace (eng.diamondsforpeace.org)

Can you share your journey into the jewellery industry?

I got interested in diamonds after receiving a ring upon my engagement to be married. I was shocked to learn there were many issues associated with diamond mining. I started thinking what I could do as a person in the field of international development. I visited Sierra Leone in 2014, but I didn’t see much room for a new, small group to start a programme. A friend who had worked in Liberia introduced me to a trusted ex-colleague from that country; this person arranged my 2015 trip to mining communities. I also met the then- deputy minister of the Ministry of Mines and Energy, who was leading the ministry into developing a policy to organise all the miners into cooperatives. I felt that the Liberian government and I were working in the same direction. I founded Diamonds for Peace (DFP), a nongovernmental organisation that provides artisanal miners and diggers with technical support so that they can be empowered and become self-reliant.

Have you faced any challenges unique to women in the gem trade? How did you overcome them?

The Liberian government allows both men and women to have mining licenses as long as they are Liberian nationals. Yet there are some Liberian mining communities, especially along the border with Sierra Leone, that do not allow women to enter a diamond mine, as they do not know the science of diamond formation. Instead, many locals believe that a female devil who puts diamonds underground gets angry when she sees another woman in a mine and won’t leave more diamonds. Thus, in such a community a woman who has a mining license will be denied access to enter her own mine. While DFP does not currently work in such a community, we know that when we expand our projects, we will need to educate and convince tribal chiefs, leaders and women so and women can work at the mines.

What role do sustainability and ethical practices play in your approach to business?

While we always think about sustainability when planning a project and its implementation, we need to accept that there is no such thing as ‘sustainable mining’, as minerals will be exhausted someday. Our projects aim for miners/diggers living in these communities to be self-reliant even after the diamonds are exhausted. That’s one of the reasons we have introduced beekeeping and other projects to the community — to provide an income after the minerals are gone.

What advice would you give to young women seeking to enter this industry?

My advice would be to have various experiences, whether or not they are related to the trade. Seeing different countries, talking with different people and trying to do a variety of things will give you more perspectives, which will be helpful in forming your career.

 

“Our projects aim for miners/diggers living in these communities to be self-reliant even after the diamonds are exhausted.”

 

CHRISTINA MALLE – Christina Malle Jewelry (christinamalle.com) – President of the Board of Directors, Ethical Metalsmiths (ethicalmetalsmiths.com)

Can you share your journey into the jewellery industry?

It has been quite a winding road on my path from human-rights lawyer to gemmologist and goldsmith! I’d been practicing law, representing people seeking asylum in the United States. I had successfully represented an asylum client from Sierra Leone. She was in her early twenties and had worked seasonally as an artisanal gold miner. The entire family was persecuted based on their ethnic group, and the woman’s hands and arms bore the permanent brunt of physical torture. I had never met a miner before, nor had I thought about where gold was from. Meeting this client, who subsequently won her legal case, created a connection from jewellery to individual people to mining conditions. One day, I spotted a sign announcing a class called ‘Goldsmithing for Absolute Beginners’. I enrolled, had the great fortune of meeting master goldsmith Donna Distefano and subsequently changed my life. I now see the jewellery industry engaging with human rights and environmental issues. It’s heartening to see our industry waking up and taking responsibility for the impact we’ve had on people and planet.

Can you tell us about a project or achievement in your career of which you are particularly proud?

Pure Earth, a nonprofit mitigating pollution worldwide, honoured me in 2022 with its Force of Nature award, which is bestowed upon women who
work on lead or mercury abatement. Many industry actors are appalled at how mercury is used in our gold supply chain, while not wishing to punish the impoverished and marginalised people who are using it. Pure Earth is working to solve this problem.

What role do sustainability and ethical practices play in your approach to business?

Let’s take a minute to consider the word ‘sustainability’ when we see it, especially in the context of jewellery. We work with extractives, which are finite materials.. That said, the ‘S’ word poses problems for our industry, as it can lean close to greenwashing. The Jewelry Glossary Project provides helpful definitions of several words, including this one. Overall, I suggest that if we use ‘sustainability’ in the context of jewellery, we also provide a definition.

If you mean sustainable in terms of development goals, let your reader or listener know that, too! The same challenges apply to the word ‘recycled’. If it is technically correct, but not what most people understand the term to mean, we undermine our own credibility.

What advice would you give to young women aspiring to enter the gem and jewellery industry?

Join groups or associations, such as Fair Luxury and Ethical Metalsmiths. If you do not see one you like, create it! Meet as many people as you can and ask them how they entered the field. Stay in touch with colleagues and fellow graduates from Gem-A, GIA, or other programmes you have attended. If you are lucky enough to meet someone who has your dream job, ask which skills and characteristics are most helpful for that position. Then set about acquiring those skills and nurturing those characteristics.

 

CRISTINA M. VILLEGAS – Director of Sustainable Jewelry, Pact (pactworld.org)

What inspired you to pursue a career in the trade?

I work within jewellery companies and organisations to maximise their social impacts worldwide. This usually means I work hand-in-hand with gem-mining communities in far-flung areas. I have always been interested in the nexus of mining, rural development, human rights and global supply chains. Following early work in the international human rights world, I pursued some unique opportunities and eventually found myself working with artisanal and small-scale miners (ASM). Currently, I specialise in jewellery supply chains such as gemstones, diamonds and gold. I am motivated by what is possible when you work together with the right allies. When I first entered the mining sector, the world’s newest gold rush was underway, spurred by the 2008 global financial collapse and the corresponding dramatic rise of gold prices. My early clients were conservation organisations struggling to cope with the influx of ASM gold miners into conservation zones. One of these same clients was dealing with both gold and diamond miners entering a protected area that it managed, which is how I visited my first diamond and gold mines in West Africa. I’ve been in this space ever since.

Have you faced any challenges unique to women in the gem trade? How did you overcome them?

Even now, with my name relatively well known in the mining and jewellery sectors, I still face a lot of ‘mansplaining’, particularly within the trading community. I still have people talk ‘at’ me with their opinion, which is usually thinly considered. Luckily, there are also many allies. Pivoting to women writ large, and especially the miners that I work with: Study after study demonstrates that women miners – whether in gold or gems – face tremendous challenges. They are often considered bad luck on mine sites, or they are seen as not serious miners and are routinely pushed to marginal locations. Well-meaning but inexperienced researchers or other observers can overlook women in the gem trade because of their own biases. From an employment perspective, about ninety percent of all mining worldwide is ASM, and one-third of these miners are women. The World Bank created a  tool back in 2012 to overcome the invisibility crisis of women miners†, and it remains one of my favourite research tools. For many reasons, women in the trade rarely receive business investments or business mentoring for their mines or other businesses. This can create a vicious cycle, where women’s participation in the trade remains small. What nearly every study agrees upon is that targeted supports for women producers are desperately needed. That is why I so often start with women: if you do not start with them specifically, they will always be an afterthought. This is the only way to get to gender parity in this sector.

What role do sustainability and ethical practices play in your approach to business?

I would like to flip that question around. I like to ask “how can sustainability methods serve as a winning business strategy?” The answers used to be that reform will help you from a marketing/ product differentiation and reputational risk perspective. These days, with increasing regulation in Europe and other markets, good sustainability practice is also a legal compliance strategy. Based on your approach, it can provide the elements of, or solution to, due-diligence questions that the European Union (EU) and others are now requiring. These include that you prove that you investigate and stop modern slavery in your supply chain and that you understand your own environmental impacts. All this means is that sustainability is no longer simply a ‘nice-to-have’ and a ‘feel-good’ endeavour. It is an essential partof your ability to be in business.
Can you highlight any collaborations or partnerships that have been significant in your career?
I was humbled early in my career by representatives from the Tanzanian Women Miners’ Association (TAWOMA). I was in Tanzania and asked their opinion about my project. They told me that I had designed it backwards, and that it would not give me the results that I wanted. Of course, they were right. I was so impressed by them and their commitment to their members that I knew that I wanted to work with them directly. A few years later, I found an opportunity to do just that through a collaboration on gemstones with GIA. I continue to be humbled by that group.

 

“From an employment perspective, about 90% of all mining worldwide is ASM, and one-third of these miners are women.”

 

ISABELLA YAN – Gems and Jewellery Journalist Founder, Art Meets Jewellery (artmeetsjewellery.com)

Can you share your journey into the jewellery industry?

My background is in art history, and I began my career in the world of fine-art auctions. To me, jewellery has always represented a miniature art form, fostering a more intimate and personal interaction compared to painting or artefacts. My fascination with diverse materials extended to snuff bottles. I was captivated by the array of materials used – ranging from tourmaline and jadeite to porcelain, glass and cinnabar lacquer – especially during the Qing dynasty, when guilds and craftsmen were commissioned to source materials. I used to juggle a Saturday job at an antique jewellers in Central London alongside a full-time job while studying gemmology in the evenings. When I moved to Bangkok, I immersed myself in various aspects of the industry; I worked at a gemstone lab and school before transitioning to a jewellery manufacturer and brand. At the same time, I was always writing and creating content. Eventually, I made the decision to focus on gems and jewellery journalism, covering the entire supply chain. This decision allowed me to live on a tropical island with frequent travel to the main Asian hubs. I feel fortunate that I have the flexibility to work from anywhere.

What misconceptions have you had to overcome, and how did you do that?

People from the industry and media sometimes mistake me for working in public relations because of my ‘attire’, although I am uncertain of the specific reason behind this assumption. In journalism, it can be challenging to form authentic relationships because people often engage with you for opportunistic reasons, seeking to leverage the relationship for their benefit of gaining coverage or exposure. I make sure to effectively communicate boundaries and set the right expectations from the beginning.

Can you tell us about a project or achievement in your career of which you are particularly proud?

As a naturally reserved individual who takes time to open up, I have discovered a newfound sense of empowerment in making my voice heard. Whether through delivering lectures, giving talks and speeches or expressing myself through writing, I find it increasingly important to share my perspective. I enjoy collaborating on various projects, as it allows me to engage with diverse individuals across the industry.

How do you use your platform to contribute to positive changes within the trade?

I hope that through my articles and work, I can shed more light on the design talent across Asia. Art Meets Jewellery is named after my personal journey of discovering jewellery through art. I have a deep appreciation for unique, one- of-a-kind pieces and believe that design reigns supreme in the industry. Additionally, I hope my platform offers a fresh and unique perspective on the industry, providing insights that may be unfamiliar to those new to the field.

What advice would you give to young women seeking to enter this industry?

Take the time to understand yourself, identify your strengths and clarify your goals. This process unfolds over time, shaped by the rich experiences of life, including various jobs and opportunities, as well as the exploration of different cultures through travel. The gem and jewellery industry is incredibly international and diverse, so be open to exploring career opportunities beyond your current location.

 

MARY ENRIGHT, Mary Enright (ME) Jewellery (maryenright.com) President-Elect at Women’s Jewelry Association NY Metro Chapter

Can you share your journey into the jewellery industry?

Growing up in the west of Ireland, I had little exposure to the jewellery industry. After a very traditional route through college, I became a teacher, but I felt there was something else I was destined to do. One day I saw an advertisement for a jewellery and art metalcraft programme; somehow I knew that this was what I had been searching for. Two weeks and one big leap of faith later, I moved cities and started a new career. From the first moment I sat at a jewellers bench I felt like I had found home.

As a woman in jewellery, have you faced any unique challenges, and how did you overcome them?

My career has almost exclusively been as a goldsmith in male-dominated workshops. There have been occasions where I have faced stereotypes or biases based on gender. I learned early in my career to approach these challenging situations with determination and grace, proving myself based on my skills, expertise and passion for my craft.

How do you see the role of women evolving in the traditionally male-dominated C-Suite of the trade?

I have seen the role of women evolving in real time. More women are breaking barriers and assuming leadership positions within the trade. due to many factors, including increased access to opportunities, changing cultural attitudes and the recognition of the value that diverse perspectives bring to business and industry. By embracing and empowering female leaders, the trade can tap into a wealth of talent, creativity and expertise that will drive positive change and shape a more vibrant and resilient industry.

Can you tell us about a project or achievement in your career of which you are particularly proud?

Designing and making jewellery comes very naturally to me, I had to work incredibly hard to learn, grow and develop as an entrepreneur. There have been many proud moments over the past twenty years, opening my ME Jewellery store and workshop is joint-first prize with securing investment after pitching a branded jewellery business to venture capitalists on Dragon’s Den Ireland.

What role do sustainability and ethical practices play in your approach to business?

I recently completed the NYU Stern School of Business Corporate Sustainability Program and applied some new learning to my business to ensure that day-to-day operations and decision-making processes have, at their cores, sustainable and ethical practices. This commitment reflects my personal values and vision for a better and more responsible industry. By leading with integrity and accountability, I believe we can create beautiful, meaningful jewellery that enriches lives while minimising our environmental footprint and promoting social justice.

What advice would you give to young women seeking to enter this industry?

One of my favourite aspects of this industry is that there is always something new to learn and someone new with whom to create a connection. If I could give just one piece of advice, it would be to embrace learning and educate yourself. Invest time in learning about the industry and the people in it, whether that is through online and print resources, through educational programmes, on-the-job training or through networking and mentorships.

 

PATRICIA INONGE ZITA MWEENE – Founder and Executive Director, Design Thinking Africa (designthinkingafrica.org) Founder and Creative Director, INONGE ZITA (inongezita.com)

Can you share your journey into the jewellery industry?

I grew up in Ndola, Zambia, and developed a love for gemstones in secondary school. I would spend my lunch money on beautiful earring studs in the government parastatal department store Zambia Consumer Buying Corporation (ZCBC) This sparked my fascination with jewellery. Little did I know at the time that there was actually an emerald-cutting factory in Ndola called Zambia Emerald Industries Limited (ZEIL), which was a joint venture between the Zambian government and renowned American gem dealer Eric Engel. I started making jewellery as a hobby in 2008. While pursuing my master’s in project management, I explored sustainable jewellery value chains in Africa as a thesis project. It was difficult to get accurate data. Along the way I learned that despite Africa having an abundance of raw materials used in jewellery manufacturing and skilled labour, those resources were exported, leaving African gem cutters and goldsmiths without materials to work with. This inspired my entry into the industry. Design Thinking Africa is a Danish NGO that uses design to support development in African extractive communities, while INONGE ZITA is a Copenhagen-based sustainable fine-jewellery brand, designed in Denmark and set with gemstones cut and polished by women gem cutters from Zambia. Ten percent of sales are donated to Design Thinking Africa for design-training programmes.

Do you think you have faced any challenges unique to women in the gem trade, and how did you overcome them? What misconceptions have you had to overcome, and how did you do that?

The gem trade can be capital- intensive, making funding a challenge. Instead of aiming for immediate scale, I focused on creating impact one gemstone at a time while working full time in project management. We also had to overcome the idea that African-cut gemstones are of inferior quality. Gemstones cut in the country can be good when people are given access to raw materials and machinery. The Design Thinking for Extractive Communities training programme, launched in partnership with Mejuri to train unemployed female gem cutters in creative skills for the lapidary sector, addresses this issue. My philosophy is that the design process must start in extractive communities in order to have an inclusive value chain. We are investing in training the community to cut and polish gemstones to the highest standards. The second cohort will train undergraduates of the first cohort, creating a sustainable model for female empowerment in the industry.

What role do sustainability and ethical practices play in your approach to business?

Sustainability and ethics are at the core of both INONGE ZITA and Design Thinking Africa. We prioritise responsible sourcing, avoiding environmentally harmful mining and human rights abuses. Our partnership with the LAJESO Multi-purpose Cooperative Society in Ndola empowers female gem cutters by teaching them the advanced gem cutting and digital skills essential for running businesses.

How do you use your platform to contribute to positive changes within the trade?

By sourcing from female gem cutters and supporting the LAJESO Cooperative, I actively promote economic empowerment and gender equality within the trade. I also advocate for inclusiveness and supply chain transparency to create a more ethical and sustainable industry.

 

“My philosophy is that the design process must start in extractive communities in order to have an inclusive value chain.”

 

PIA TONNA Executive Director and Chief Merchandising Officer, Fuli Gemstones (fuligemstones.org)

What inspired you to pursue a career in the trade?

I had been in the luxury-goods industry for many years before being approached by another coloured-gemstone mining company for a role on their marketing team. I fell in love with coloured gemstones and have never looked back.

What misconceptions have you had to overcome, and how did you do that?

From personal experiences, there are times when it still feels like a male-dominated trade, but there are strong women who are helping to shape our industry and make changes for the better, from women in mining, superb designers, historians and lapidarists to geologists and gemmologists. Our vision at Fuli has always been to build one of the most innovative, creative and environmentally responsible gemstone-mining companies in the world. We have had to start from scratch to educate the industry and end-consumers on peridot, from its history to its gemmological characteristics and properties, and help explain the differences of each locality.

Can you share a memorable experience or encounter that has shaped your perspective within the trade?

I love the way the industry supports each other. We collaborate where we can; that includes supporting various initiatives, working with labs, sharing our knowledge and research and supporting designers. Taking professors, scientists and gemmologists to our mine in July 2023 was very memorable; getting their reactions as they stepped foot inside was amazing.

What do you believe is the future of the trade, and how do you envision your role in it?

As the world gets smaller via digital communications, I hope that our industry can go from strength to strength, through sharing knowledge and educating the next generation, I hope we can attract more people into the world of gems.

 

SUSAN CHANDLER – Chief Merchandising Officer, Citizen – Watch America (citizenwatch.com) – President, Women’s Jewelry Association

Can you share your journey into the jewellery industry?

My mother was an artist, and she gave me many hands-on experiences making things as a child. I was always attracted to bright and shiny vintage jewellery and stones as a little girl. Working with jewellery came naturally. Right out of college I went into a buyer-training programme at Mercantile Stores Company Inc., a department- store chain with 110 locations. Within two years, I was their corporate jewellery buyer. I did not think about being in the trade until that point in my life. After buying for about six years, I went to work for a manufacturer in Providence, Rhode Island, who used sterling silver, gemstones, alloy manufacturing and lost-wax casting. Once I was buying and learned the manufacturing side, I knew
I wanted to continue in the jewellery industry. I went to work for Avon as the director of jewellery and watches in early 2000, then switched over to
the fine-jewellery world. As a leader, what initiatives do you take to mentor or support aspiring women in jewellery? I enjoy mentoring within the companies where I work, as well as within the Women’s Jewelry Association. It is important to give the women around me confidence to think creatively. We each need to find our people – a group where we can be comfortable sharing and open to taking recommendations as well as criticism. WJA has been my platform for positive change. Over the last two years the board and I have re-imagined the structure so we can continue to build programmes, give bigger grants and scholarships and celebrate women in the jewellery and watch industry.

How has the digital era impacted the way you do business?

Strong brands tell their story on digital platforms and this story telling will continue to be important. You must give customers confidence, especially when they are not able to touch or try on a product before buying. The digital platform can enrich the experience for online purchasing while bringing clientele into the store. I am so inspired by women who are taking risks and building their jewellery businesses online. It is phenomenal to see so many new women-owned jewellery businesses on social media.

Can you highlight any collaborations or partnerships that have been significant in your career?

Bulova has been collaborating in the music industry for many years. I love when heritage is the basis for collaboration, but it must be authentic. When done well it becomes something bigger, allowing for connection with consumers on another level.

What advice would you give to young women aspiring to enter the gem and jewellery industry?

Young women need to feel comfortable in their decisions and go after their dreams. The industry is a wonderful place to learn and spready your wings. Jewellery makes people happy. Believe in yourself. Try different areas. Give yourself a chance to fail and enjoy the experience.

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