How has jewellery collecting changed in the past years? An exclusive interview with Joanna Hardy

CPP-LUXURY.COM has recently interviewed Joanna Hardy, Historic and Contemporary Jewellery Lecturer, Jewellery Advisor and Freeman of the Goldsmiths Company and a Fellow of the Gemmological Association, with over 30 years of experience in jewellery.

With globalization and the internet how has the luxury jewellery sector changed in the past 5 years? – product development, expansion of retail to emerging markets, growing cost of raw materials

Jewellery of the low to middle range has been helped with the increase of on-line buying luxury web sites. This has increased more mass produced, CAD (Computer Aided Design) generated jewellery and almost every luxury brand whether it be selling clothes, luggage or shoes has now a jewellery range to offer. There has been a growing cost of raw materials but making jewellery through mass production has managed to steady the prices. The emerging markets have embraced luxury brands which in my opinion have kept many of the jewellery brands still in business.

Which are the main reasons that motivate people to buy and/or collect high jewellery?

When the economy is not so stable, high end jewellery has always come into its own. People are more discerning with their money and want to spend their money on an item that they will enjoy wearing and that it will stand the test of time. They are the people that do not want to walk around with a brand label around their necks, but want to be seen wearing something that is unique and different. Jewellery should be collected with passion and not because it is something that may be an investment. That is always a dangerous word to use when it comes to jewellery and stones. When I say high end I do not mean just bigger brands with bigger price tickets on diamonds, high end to me means bespoke jewels that are beautifully hand made and the gemstones used are untreated.

To what extent do you think people buy jewellery driven by the brand reputation?

People buy brands because they need reassurance that what they are buying is what it is. It takes a confident, discerning person to buy an item of jewellery that is not a well known brand.  

In many emerging markets, many nouveau riches would not have the knowledge about craftsmanship and materials. Which is the strategic approach jewellers should take in such markets?

More education is needed for the sales teams who can then pass their knowledge onto their clients.

Are there trends in jewellery design, much like in fashion? Why a certain colour of diamond is more fashionable this year than last year?

Fashion is not my area of expertise, but it seems more fashion houses are designing their own jewellery range and they seem to bring out jewellery collections, like a clothes collection. The appreciation of rarity is what makes a gemstone or a jewel more ‘fashionable’

Traditional jewellery houses have diversified into fragrances, eyewear, cosmetics, accessories or even hotels. What is your view on diversification?

I think it is fine to diversify so long as the product is of a high standard to compliment the jewellery.

Which are the challenges a young talented jeweller faces in setting up business these days?

Young talented jewellers are just that, they are not PR or marketing machines and therefore it is very hard for them to get noticed. There is a fine line between making a living while at the same time keeping their integrity and to not compromise their workmanship.

How can small, contemporary jewellers expand abroad to reach a larger consumer base?

Probably the best avenues are exhibiting at international fairs.

Please share with us some of the most talented contemporary jewellers you believe have the potential to build a large scale international brand?

Its not that easy to answer this question as I look at talented contemporary jewellers as individuals and I do not see becoming or wanting to aspire to being an international brand an accolade to aspire to and also it would seem to contradict the principles of the artist jeweller. If you go large scale you will most certainly jeopardise quality.

What are your plans for 2013 – Master Classes, Lectures ?

I have always enjoyed lecturing and talking with people about what to look for when buying or just appreciating jewellery and I realized that there was no where in London where people could go and learn about the appreciation of jewellery. So I have set up The Jewellery School of Excellence, where I run jewellery masterclasses for people who want to learn more about jewellery and gemstones. No previous knowledge is required, just a shared passion in gemstones and jewellery.

The classes are small and intimate, held at the Capital Hotel in Knightsbridge where I have a private room and the topics covered are gemstones, antique and contemporary jewellery. The idea is so people can go away at  the end of the day feeling a little more confident about looking at jewellery when deciding what to buy. If someone says to me at the end of the day that they will never look at jewellery in the same way again, for me my mission has been accomplished.

It is a very special day where we have the opportunity to look at pieces of the period we are talking about accompanied with fine wine and food, and of course you can pick my brains all day long too… there are about eight different themed days and my lectures are always changing as there is always something new to add. I have classes throughout  the year and I also conduct private one to one masterclasses. I will be filming for the BBC Antiques Roadshow again this year as well as lecturing all over the world.

Joanna Hardy