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Working in the diamond industry

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Porridge

Ideal_Rock
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So we''re all diamond obsessed (or at the very least curious!), and I thought it would be interesting to start a thread where we could get to know what life is like behind the scenes! Anyone who works in, or has knowledge of life working in the diamond industry, could you tell us what it''s like? Cutters, vendors, designers...scientists, businessmen and everyone in between...What does your job entail? What do you love about it? What do you hate about it? What is mediocre about it? How is life in the diamond industry??
 

crease123

Rough_Rock
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I''m not in the business, but just wanted to post that I love your JRT! (yes JRT owner as well)
 

Porridge

Ideal_Rock
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Date: 2/24/2009 2:58:52 PM
Author: crease123
I'm not in the business, but just wanted to post that I love your JRT! (yes JRT owner as well)
I love him too! He's such a smart dog, he's almost human! Best pet ever! {End threadjack
}
 

Rockdiamond

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Great thread subject ( and really cute doggie too!)

The business has really changed so much over the years.
I see a lot of folks taking GIA classes, as it seems like a great job.

Honestly, I have a hard time calling this work- I love what I do so much.
But getting to this position took incredibly long- and it was incredibly difficult.

If I had to advise a young person today about going into the diamond business, I'd be very cautionary.
Finding a job can be very difficult- especially now.
Once you do, you find that a lot of folks in this field are....more colorful.
That can be a good thing, or a pain in the butt, if your boss happens to be more "colorful" than you like.


When I was starting out as a road salesman, I had such a boss.
"Put the line in the car, drive to Boston, and go directly to see Joe Shmoe (the buyer for a large jewelry company.)"
When I got to Bean town, I was a bit nervous to walk into the large company, so I stopped in a smaller store first. I had previously sold to the owner, who was a nice guy.
Before I went to see the big buyer, I call the home office.
"OK boss, I stopped off at Eddie's store, and I'm ready to walk over to see Joe"


"Did I tell you to go STRAIGHT to Joe, stupid??? ( that was his pet name for me)"

"Yes sir, but I thought......"

"Your job is to do what I say, not to think- get back in your car, and drive immediately back to NY"


Of course, I really wanted to succeed, so I did what he said.

It is really a long road from the GIA courses to making a living in the field.....
 

mausketeer

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Hmmmm - I''m really interested in this subject as well (was interested in getting into bench jewellery a few years ago and then my attention turned to gemmollogy. Still thinking about it)

I''m surprised there hasn''t been much interest in this thread (thanks to David for his reply!) Maybe it''s in the wrong folder?

- Jodie -
 

shimmer

Brilliant_Rock
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I am very interested! I just finished my first GIA course, took the final today in fact.
 

Savvymon

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This is a great idea for a thread!!!

 

purrfectpear

Ideal_Rock
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My ex was one of three sons. My FIL had three jewelry stores in town and gave one to each son. We paid sales associates just above minimum wage, but they could purchase jewelry at cost +10%. Everything was marked up keystone x3 for retail back then. No one gets rich working retail (except the owner). I loved going to the big wholesale show in Texas once a year to do the buying. My uncle in law was our bench jeweler and he taught me to size rings (thank heavens I never melted one
) and he did all the diamond setting and custom work. We used to have trunk shows from Laykin et Cie twice a year. They brought in some fabulous celebrity quality rings. We sold Keepsake diamond rings (heavy advertising). It was a lot of fun working with nice jewels all day. My speciality was Mikomoto unmentionables. I must have sold a strand to every well-to-do matron in the city
My favorite ring was a beautiful imperial jade platinum and diamond ring I bought for the store. I've never seen another jade like it since. Wire frame diamond ballerina cocktail rings were all the rage then.

The part I hated...cleaning the glass cases over and over and over again. That gets old real fast.
 

Porridge

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Great info David and Purrfect! Jodie maybe you''re right about the folder, but I figured most of the experts would be hanging out here! If we don''t get some more replies I might ask admin to move it over to Hangout.

Thanks everyone for the replies - keep the info coming! Lets get this thread off the ground!
 

Pandora II

Ideal_Rock
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I landed a job as a jewellery designer for a large gold jewellery company in Italy. I have a degree in Textile Design (which is a very flexible design degree) and had worked as a designer for 4 years in the fashion industry and then spent 4 years doing half design and half as a buyer and business manager for a very big textile multinational. Through a roundabout series of events I happened to meet someone who was looking for a designer/buyer/business person and I was looking for a new challenge.

I designed for their five factories - each of which specialised in a different technique which was really interesting as I got to learn all the different manufacturing methods and above all limitations. I was allowed to go and play at the bench from time to time, but had a few minor disasters - worst one involving my fingers, a load of tiny gold dolphins and a bottle of industrial superglue - and after that they were a bit wary of letting me near things.


I also designed my own line plus individual commissions and lines for specific customers.

I started using gemstones and diamonds in a lot of the pieces in my own line and individual clients normally wanted e-rings etc. As the company didn't have a stone or diamond buyer I got the job - mainly because I spoke English, was travelling to Antwerp every other week anyway and I was interested.

I bought a few books and then just picked information up as I went. Some of my regular dealers taught me a lot, especially the diamond guys in Antwerp. I saw some beautiful coloured diamonds and occasionally got to buy the odd decent sized stone, but mainly I was buying melee. Visiting the cutters and looking round the equipment shops in the Diamond Quarter was fascinating though.

I had a great time, but found working at the market level of the company rather depressing. Most of the things I designed were for the USA TV shopping markets and frankly the quality wasn't what I wanted to work with - we sold by the kilo not the piece
and it's hard to do much with a bracelet when you have to stay under 7 gm and the clasp takes up 3 gm on it's own.

I had a bit more leeway on my own collection, but again, we would end up with beautiful prototypes and then the actual production wasn't up to the same standard which drove me crazy. My first major collection did make the front cover of the leading Italian goldsmith magazine which was nice for my portfoliio, but I wouldn't have been seen dead in the stuff myself
.

I'm working in a completely different sector at the moment - fell into it rather than planning to - but my heart is definitely with gemstones. This time I'm doing things properly and getting a formal qualification - the FGA. I'm in no rush and will wait for the right thing to come along (and preferably not in a recession), but I'll be suprised if I don't end up back in the trade - although this time I have definite ideas of what I want to do and it won't be designing for TV shopping channels or buying stones that it pains me to hand money over for!

Getting a foot in the door is not that easy - it's a VERY family orientated business and you need good contacts and a good dose of luck. The industry certainly has more 'odd' people than many others that I've worked in, and it's not without its risks. A guy I worked with had a gun put to his head in LA. I was lucky and never had any real problems, but I was very security concious - never used the same routines when I was travelling with goods, always stored everything in a client's vaults overnight and never in my hotel etc
 

oldmancoyote

Brilliant_Rock
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Thank you, Pandora. From your insight and knowledge, do you think that it''s possible to "set up shop" on one''s own as a jewellery maker/designer, or one needs to work for others, given capital requirements and network (I''m thinking of someone like yourself who - to my eyes at least - has done the grunt work already)?
 

Rockdiamond

Ideal_Rock
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Cool history Pandora!
Good point about security, and how it affects your life in this industry.
When you''re out on the road, you are a target- and have to be SUPER careful.

I used to sell diamonds to stores in the Caribbean.
One day I had just finished, and was headed back to my hotel to lock up the goods at a vault there.
It was about 7pm....dusk- but there were a lot of people on the street.
I saw a buddy of mine- another jewelry salesman standing in the street about 20 years from the hotel.
I stopped to say hi.

"How was your day?" I asked
"Not too bad, I did some business" he answered.
I mentioned I was going to dinner, would he like to join me.
"Wait here" I told him, I''m going to lock my stuff up"

When I cane out of the hotel less than 5 minutes later, he was lying on the ground.
He had been shot.
He was approached by a guy with a gun.
He did as you are supposed to do- just give up the stuff, don''t be a hero.
After he gave the guy his bag, the scumbag fired.

Lucky for my friend, he turned just as the bastard shot the gun.
The bullet went into his chest, and case out by his underarm.
A miracle as there was NO internal damage, and he was on a plane home within 48 hours.

I don''t miss that part of the job at all.....
 

Pandora II

Ideal_Rock
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We were always told to keep our passports, tickets and cellphones separate from any goods or bags just in case. If anyone pulled a gun or a knife to just hand everything over etc but we also knew that we were the No. 1 suspect in any robbery and our bank accounts would be watched as a result.

I have a few stories from those days... sitting in Brussels airport after they''d made me check my case in Rome (normally I managed to sneak it on as hand-luggage) which had over $250k of sample collection and stock in it. It didn''t turn up when I got to Brussels and I sat there for 3 hours absolutely worried sick as it wasn''t covered by the insurance if it wasn''t in my hand or in a secure vault.

It finally turned up intact on the last flight of the night. But it meant I got to Antwerp really late and couldn''t get hold of the client whose vault I normally used. It was the only time I have ever had to take a case to my hotel and I didn''t sleep all night - I even ended up putting the case in bed under the duvet with me.


I''m not sure I''d ever want to travel with gold again - it''s so blooming heavy and you can''t carry it discreetly. Although the look on one airport security guy''s face when he made me unzip a case in the private offices and there were 10 1kg bars lying there was truly memorable.

Anyone who has never held a bar of gold - if you get the chance it''s just incredible. The weight, the colour, just something really pirate treasure about them.


oldmancoyote - tricky one. Having moved back to the UK and so away from my former contacts/clients/employers, I have found that after 3/4 years of helping friends and relatives I''m starting to get the odd phone-call from people I don''t know asking for help with e-rings and other special pieces - all through word of mouth. However I still find that you come up against the ''never trust the friend of a friend who knows a guy who sells diamonds'' thing, or people just feel more comfortable going into Joe Bloggs Jewellers Est.1870 even if they are sold an opaque red thing that is apparently a ruby...

However with every project the word gets round a bit more. It''s not how I pay my bills so there is little pressure on me, but I wouldn''t want to be trying to earn my living this way right now. I probably don''t even cover the cost of my time - but, slowly over the last few years I have started to get some kind of a reputation for being passionate about rocks and someone whose aim is to spend the customers budget as effectively as possible and have them and their fiancee/wife truly happy with the end product. It''s still depressing when you get people who you do a load of research for and then they disappear off to some B&M and overspend because they feel more secure.

Designing on it''s own doesn''t make much money unless you are Roberto Coin or a similar big name. In my experience most people treat designers as a species of rather bad tempered but talented monkey and want to pay them the equivalent of bananas. Being able to design as well as know something about stones together with some kind of technical knowledge about what is and isn''t possible to do with certain species of stone and types of metal (can I tension set a sphalerite et al) is a definite asset though.

I''ve seen people on etsy etc who seem to have quite nice little businesses, but I don''t know if they''re businesses that pay for holidays and work well round childcare, or if they are the sort that you could actually live on.

I''ve also found that you are always learning, in the last few years I''ve seriously added to my knowledge base and every project I work on I learn new things, see more stones etc and generally realise how much I still don''t know. I guess that makes me quite risk averse and I''d prefer to work for others until I KNOW rather than HOPE that I could do it on my own

Sorry, not very encouraging am I... hope that is vaguely helpful. You''re based in Italy if I''m not mistaken?
 

Porridge

Ideal_Rock
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3,269
Thanks for everyone''s input. Pandora, I loved reading about your experiences, so interesting. I''m looking forward to hearing about where you end up working! Your designs are beautiful, esp your av. I think I read before that you designed that yourself? Channel set is my favourite - makes up the band of my e-ring!

David thanks for sharing that - what an eye opener. Was glad to read he survived without permanent damage.

I''m going to message admin and move this thread to Hangout - it''s not getting much traffic here, but I want to hear more!
 

Rockdiamond

Ideal_Rock
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Date: 3/8/2009 3:57:33 PM
Author: oldmancoyote
Thank you, Pandora. From your insight and knowledge, do you think that it''s possible to ''set up shop'' on one''s own as a jewellery maker/designer, or one needs to work for others, given capital requirements and network (I''m thinking of someone like yourself who - to my eyes at least - has done the grunt work already)?
I know you did not ask me directly OMC, but I thought I''d take a stab at this one...

Pandora''s answer was very good- to add a little bit...
There''s so many question marks when starting a business.
If one was starting from scratch, how would they know what to buy? This is a HUGE issue in the diamond business. Buy correctly and you''re can be top dog. Buy badly and you''re the rear end of a dog.

I was extremely lucky in that I was a road salesman for many years before going off on my own.
This gave me two strong advantages.
First of all, I knew exactly what my clients were buying.
Second, since I was already in the business, I was known to some large cutters- in 1998 there was more room to do business.
Cutters that knew me virtually put me in business by giving me credit.

But overall, it''s a horrible time to start a diamond business.......
 

oldmancoyote

Brilliant_Rock
Joined
Aug 22, 2008
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755
Pandora - thanks. Very insightful, again. (And yes, I'm in Milan at the moment - not quite sure whether to remain here or come back to the UK!)

David - thank you too; we cross-posted so I'm adding this afterwards. I think right now it's a horrible time to start any business. I have friends who have just bought a commodity manufacturer (fibreglass), and their sales are down 30% on last year - with a better team and product...
 
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