What would be your personal description of yourself?
Sparkle specialist. Designer by appointment, jewellery editor, real life gemologist, part time New Yorker sometimes Londoner, mainly Dubliner. In gold I trust. (When I’m trying to be a bit more professional, I’m a gemologist and fine jeweler!)
So, how does one become a gemologist?
I moved to New York and studied at the Gemological Institute of America – they are the foremost authority in gemology and are widely known from the work they do in grading many of the diamonds we see every day in shops. Behind the scenes, they are credited for standardising grading procedures in the industry, with their invention of the ‘Four Cs’. They are responsible for grading some of the most significant diamonds and coloured stones to ever come on the market. Becoming a gemologist involved spending all day, every day, behind a microscope, studying thousands of stones to be able to distinguish not just quality, but also to the difference between treatments and synthetics. It was very intense, but absolutely worth it.
Describe your average working day.
Every day is different! I start each morning by checking my mails, and catching up on the day’s papers, magazines and blogs. It’s really important for me to stay on top of all news – whether that’s changing commodities prices or fashion trends, it all feeds into my work. I’ll meet clients to show them stones, and to chat through design updates. I might be down in one of the auction houses casting my eye over newly-arrived collections, and depending on the day I could be prepping for an appearance on TV3 or writing an article for print. I also spend a lot of time talking to new jewellery designers – helping them with their pitches or just giving general advice on their collections. I will always call into my own stockists once a week to see how everything is going.
What advice would you have for someone else interested in going into the jewellery business?
Be prepared to work very hard, and be confident in what you are doing. It is a highly competitive market, so it’s important to know where you’re going as well – whether that’s fine, fashion or costume. It’s very hard to do everything! And if it’s fine jewellery, get the proper training to avoid expensive mistakes. Everything I do rides on my good name – it is an industry that is very much reputation-based. So be prepared to deliver, every time, to every one. Fine jewellery in particular is very sentimental, people are very attached to what it represents. So you must be prepared to go above and beyond for each and every client – you have to like working with people as much as you like working with diamonds.
You do so much, how do you juggle it all and stay sane?
I love what I do – I could talk about jewellery all day. I’m trying to make this the year I take proper weekends, but it’s so difficult – I could work into the night and not even notice because I do genuinely love my job. Friends and family are my saving grace though – they keep my sanity at vaguely normal levels.
You have appeared on Xpose, how did you feel the very first time you appeared on TV?
Being on TV has never really phased me – and the TV3 crew are great, they’re so easy to work with. Being in front of the camera doesn’t bother me – while I’m there. But I hate watching myself back! One of my favourite things has always been sharing my fashion finds – it’s one of the reasons I loved working in magazines. So to be able to share brilliant trends and designers with a nationwide television audience is just an extension of that.
What’s the best bit of advice you’ve ever been given?
Look at the solution, not the problem
Who is your number one style inspiration?
Jenna Lyons from JCrew – her sense of style is impeccable; her vision of high/low style is now being copied everywhere. Her tip to treat leopard print as a neutral is one of my favourites!
Have you got a quote to live by/favourite quote?
“The only place success comes before work is in the dictionary”. Cheesy but true.
What would be your biggest piece of advice for people on the hunt for engagement and wedding rings?
Don’t get caught up in lab/grading reports – they were developed for gemologists, not for the end customer! All that matters is that the ring looks nice on your finger, and it’s the price you want to pay. And if you must read reports, only compare like with like – you can only compare diamonds as graded by the same lab, as the standards vary too much otherwise.
What’s your favourite jewellery item you own?
My engagement ring – it’s very old, but brand new to me.
What jewellery item are you still on the hunt for?
A tiara! Dare to dream…
What most people don’t know about you
Given the choice, I would live in a hotel. A good, big, buzzy one. I’d take London’s Claridges or The Carlyle in New York, if anyone’s asking!
Idea of the perfect day off?
Spending time with family and friends. It doesn’t matter what we do, as long as I get to see them.
Chocolate-covered gingerbread men from The Bretzel. I’ve been eating them since I was very small, when my dad used to bring them home for me. Nearly thirty years on, I still love them as much – I don’t think the recipe has ever changed.
When you’re not working where would we most likely find you?
In my kitchen – I love cooking, particularly for other people.
Natasha Sherling and Sonia Reynolds are presenting their edit of the best jewellery and fashion at Showcase, Ireland’s Creative Expo which returns to the RDS from Sunday 18th January to Wednesday 21st January 2015. Attracting more than 5,000 trade buyers from Ireland and up to 26 countries Showcase has become a must-see event for retailers to source unique Irish design and will be the first international trade event as part of the year long programme for Irish Design 2015 (ID2015).
In conversation with @HannahPopham
Photography by Ailbhe O’Donnell