Conference 2019

26 Nov 2019

While the emphasis of Conference may be on the key elements of valuing, with sessions on various aspects of gemstones, precious metals, antique jewellery, watches, hallmarking, price guides, synthetics detection… there’s a holistic approach to the two days of insight and information gathering. Starting and growing a creative business, getting to grips with software, the reality of eBay, the value of a designer brand and taking perfect pictures were also covered this year.

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Ben Massey, the NAJ’s director of marketing and communications presented his first Conference workshop, unequivocally titled: ‘Seven Things You Absolutely Need to
be Doing to Market Your Business’. It’s a subject that can give small business owners in particular sleepless nights.

Knowing what to say and where to say it can be a challenge when presenting services to consumers, so Ben led delegates through the basics of marketing as a concept and the guiding principles. He talked about the need to influence and the tactics to use, the various channels to use for promotion (and which are most cost-effective), how to get to the top of Google SEO, social media, expenditure v. progress and what a website aims to do. He also reminded delegates that the NAJ can offer help with websites.

Rebecca Tucker of CW Sellors found Ben’s workshop very useful: “As a bit of a technophobe, I wasn’t sure what to expect from Ben Massey’s workshop on marketing, but when the first slide of his presentation came up with the words: ‘Marketing is like sex; everyone thinks they’re good at it!” well, I knew that it was certainly going to be entertaining! As it turned out, it was an invaluable source of tips and advice on how to best use marketing for your business; from tailoring and targeting your ideal audience on social media, to capitalising on a broader range of facilities (often at no cost) to further publicise what your company does best.

“Just one example of how I’ve profited from using some of Ben’s techniques is by making social media outlets a source of education, interest and entertainment, with only one in every 10 posts being a direct push for sales. As a result, my business’ social media stats have increased extensively. I now always remember that my audience is following the business first and foremost because they are interested in what we do – clinching a sale at the end of it is just the cherry on the cake!” 

Taking the Headache out of Gemstone Separation with Kerry Gregory

Kerry’s informative workshop concerned the complexities of similar looking gemstones and the best methods of quickly separating them without resorting to any pain-killers!
It’s becoming more evident that the growth of internet shopping and the fact that consumers are travelling further, has encouraged the emergence of more unusual gemstones on the market. Some of these have such complicated names that it’s a matter of learning to pronounce them let alone identify them.

With all gemstones the main issue is observation and learning to recognise distinguishing features before using any other gem-testing methods. Armed with
a loupe you can gain a lot of information by unusual inclusions, colour and lustre. There are also some informative websites, which have pictures of inclusions and other distinctive features of both common and more unusual gemstones. When examining an unusual gemstone, a gemmologist could be compared to a forensic scientist, listing and profiling distinguishing features, thus creating a database for future reference.

Gem testing equipment varies in technological complexities; however Kerry emphasised the polariscope as the primary gem-testing instrument to facilitate a quick differentiation between stones with similar features. Not only can it identify a gemstone with single or double refraction, but is also very useful for identifying paste, which exhibits a diagnostic double wavy line pattern which forms a cross as the material is rotated.

The polariscope may also be used in conjunction with a conoscope; this is a small glass rod which when rolled over the gemstone may reveal an interference figure. This is particularly significant when trying to distinguish between blue topaz and aquamarine, for example. Aquamarine will typically show a dark cross within a concentric circle, indicating that it is uniaxial and has one optic axis, whereas blue topaz will exhibit a pattern of two curved brushes because it is biaxial and has two optic axis.

The refractometer can be a difficult instrument to use, particularly if two gemstones have very similar or overlapping refractive indices. The main consideration when separating similar gemstones is not to make assumptions that the material can be identified purely by colour alone!
Hannah McWhirter

Welcome to Valuing with Shirley Mitchell and Tim Bicknell

This was my first Conference and at the beginning of the first of three workshop sessions we were eased in to the concept of valuing, what it is and who requires it. The different obstacles and issues, which can arise throughout the process, were highlighted. The take-in procedure and Due Diligence were explained, with visuals and examples of jewellery from Shirley's personal collection.

The second workshop session continued with description and mandatory cataloguing procedures and the importance of recording details correctly, effectively and the reasons why. Tim and Shirley shared their experiences with the delegates on these matters. A mounting and casting briefing included more visual, practice and describing, followed by a discussion on the contents to be included in a professional valuation report.

The final session was based on visual examinations and comparing diamonds and gemstones, with Tim taking charge of the diamonds section and Shirley handling the coloured gemstones angle of the session. Both explained and demonstrated the importance of noticing, examining, recording and using a colour grade chart. A visual practical was incorporated with rubies, tanzanite, emeralds, sapphires and diamonds for assessing and comparing colour and internal flaws. How and when to use Gemguide and price guide tools – which can assist – was explained.

This workshop was welcoming and relaxed, with Shirley’s and Tim’s expert, knowledgeable and detailed sessions aided by effective presentation and a Welcome to Valuing Booklet hand-out. The visual practices and observation within the teachings gave an insight into the examining and assessing aspect of valuing.

Even though I attended on Sunday only, I was overwhelmed by so much knowledge, experience and help from fellow delegates. It’s left me thirsting for more. Conference 2020 here I come!
Lavinia Pryce

Decades of Design – late 19th/early 20th Centuries, with Steve Carson

Design is almost never original – it’s a mere adaptation of something once already created in history. It can be easy to forget, in this fast-moving digital environment, the importance of historical jewellery design periods and movements. As a newcomer to the Conference, it was wonderful to learn that we must not forget the roots of jewellery design. Steve Carson produced a passionate and informative insight into design of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Highlights included a reminder of how culturally diverse we were in the early 1880s. For instance: women wore lockets featuring Indian gods, and at that time, diamonds were at one point mostly worn in the evenings. Setting the scene, Steve Carson factually explored and illustrated important jewellery sold at recent auctions, featuring designers such as Oscar Masin , Murrle Bennett & Co, Georgina and Arthur Gaskin and Theodore Fahrner.

Steve mentioned The Great Exhibition of 1851, a series of world fairs. William Morris described the exhibition as “wonderfully ugly”! The 1890s saw René Jules Lalique emerging, who continues to inspire designers to this day, Pierre Vievers, George Fouquet, Lucien Gaillard – an experimental designer. Art Nouveau, running alongside the Arts and Crafts movement, and importantly the establishment of the Guild of Handicrafts formed by Robert Ashbee, influencing Bahaus and Modernism movements and inspiring artists such as Phoebe Traquair were all highlighted.

The 19th century was a period of huge industrial and social change and jewellery design focus was in the past. We delved into the work of Murrle Bennet, a distinctive jewellery business established in London in 1884 and producing designs characterised by abstract motifs of both the Art Nouveau and the Arts and Crafts movements. Steve concluded his presentation with Theodor Fahrner, highlighting his use of a range of materials such as enamel, marcasite and gemstones. I look forward to further presentations by Steve, who conveys to valuers the importance of history in modern times.
CAT student Raji Ashwin, Watches of Switzerland

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