Jewellers shine as they put rivalry aside to learn instead

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UK gemmologist delivers firs-of-a-kind training sessions to industry representatives and students. Emily Moore finds out more

SHE has delivered countless training sessions to thousands of jewellers and gemmologists around the world over the past decade or so, and yet, for Kerry Gregory, there was something ‘incredibly unusual’ about the courses which she delivered in the Island a couple of weeks ago.

Indeed, as she visited Jersey for the first time to deliver four training sessions as part of the Brilliance Festival’s education drive, the founder of Gemmology Rocks was struck by the collaboration and proactive approach of local jewellers.

‘It is incredibly unusual to get a group of businesses – and particularly jewellers – who sit right on each other’s doorsteps to collaborate for education,’ Kerry commented. ‘Working with collaborators who are also competitors isn’t something I have done before and it’s absolutely brilliant to see them putting their rivalry aside and coming together to educate themselves so that they can provide better experiences for their clients.

‘Jersey is leading the way in this collaborative approach, and I hope that jewellers in other towns will be inspired by, and learn from, what Brilliance has achieved.’

And Kerry is not the first person to be struck by the way in which the industry has come together.

Last year, the Brilliance Jersey Jewellery and Watch Festival won the Customer Event of the Year category at the UK Jewellery Awards, with the judges saying of the inaugural two-week festival: ‘This is what can be achieved when whole areas and local businesses work together towards a common goal. The Brilliance Jersey Jewellery and Watch Festival should grab the attention of everyone in the jewellery sector.’

Founded in 2021 by Jersey Pearl director Julia Williams and Rivoli director Melanie Mayer Davies, Brilliance was designed to ‘showcase the depth and breadth’ of Jersey’s jewellery offering, shining a light on the full spectrum of the local industry, which includes the Island’s Celtic coin hoard, traditional multi-generation businesses, leading international brands and local designer-makers.

While Julia and Melanie knew that their initial aims were ambitious, even they didn’t realise quite how innovative Brilliance was.

‘It is lovely to hear that we are offering something unique,’ reflected Julia. ‘I think Jersey has that collaborative approach in many fields. As an island, it makes sense to work together and to celebrate competition and excellence rather than being wary of it. It goes back to the saying that when the tide comes up, all boats rise. By working together and promoting high standards, we can enhance the reputation of both the industry and the Island, which is why it is so wonderful to have the support of Visit Jersey.’

While festival participants recognised the ‘brilliance’ of Jersey’s jewellery industry, one area where they identified a gap was in education and training.

Kerry Gregory found her calling by starting in a small jewellers Picture: ROB CURRIE

‘We know that the variety, expertise and reach of the sector is something of which the Island should be proud but we also recognise that training people can be both difficult and costly,’ Julia added. ‘Accordingly, one of the goals of Brilliance was to improve access to education and the simplest way to do that was to bring a trainer to the Island.’

After discussions with the National Association of Jewellers, the women were given Kerry’s details and plans quickly started taking shape.

‘It is the first time that an event like this has taken place in Jersey, so it is hugely exciting,’ said Julia, ‘and we had everyone from local makers and retailers to Jersey Heritage research experts on the courses. Kerry also delivered a training session for our sponsors, Rossborough, about loss, replacement and valuing, as she also has a great knowledge of the insurance industry.’

Having worked in the jewellery industry for more than 20 years, Kerry’s introduction to the sector happened ‘by accident’ after she became disillusioned with her previous role.

‘I was running a pub in Newport, covering for the manager, and working 70 hours a week while being paid for 40 hours,’ she recalled. ‘I realised it was time for a change but, not having been to university, I needed to find a position which offered on-the-job training. I was thinking about becoming an estate agent or a travel agent when I saw an advert for a jeweller in a small independently-owned business in Newport.’

Within a month of taking up the role, Kerry was offered the opportunity to study gemmology and quickly ‘fell in love with the gemstones and the science behind them’.

‘It is now literally all I do,’ said the former Gemmological Association teacher who set up her own education business, Gemmology Rocks, five years ago.

The sessions delivered in Jersey catered for both newer and more experienced jewellers, as well as local students.

‘The morning sessions were aimed at those newer to the industry, focusing on all the exciting, glorious and emotional aspects of gemstones, which will enable them to deliver an amazing customer experience,’ said Kerry. ‘We touched on some technical areas but the course was really all about helping customers to find the right gemstone for them. In the afternoons, with the more experienced attendees, we looked more at gemstone treatment and the difference between natural, artificial and man-made gemstones.’

With more stones coming onto the market all the time, Kerry said that understanding the breadth of choice was essential to helping customers to make the right choice.

‘It is all about understanding what the customer wants and helping them to make an informed decision,’ she said. ‘With access to jewellery and information about gemstones becoming easier all the time, it is vital that those working in the industry have this knowledge at their fingertips.

‘The aim of the course, therefore, is to support people’s professional development in a way which both excites them and enables them to deliver an experience which leaves customers excited and wowed by gemstones.

‘After all, the emotional experience of jewellery cannot be forgotten. No one needs jewellery. It’s an emotional purchase, something which celebrates success, love and feeling, so the whole process needs to be exciting. And that’s where our retail experts come in because you can’t replicate that experience online.’

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