NAJ News

Conference 2019 Report

10 Oct 2019

Between presentations, workshops, discussions, award-giving, networking and just a little carousing, there was barely time to breathe at last month’s Conference. If you weren’t there, you missed a treat…

2018 CAT Graduates2019 CAT graduates

The incredibly popular weekend event was, as ever, a jam-packed learning fest. And while valuers have always been at its core, the whole industry world is represented – from jewellery and watches, to gemstones, silverware and designing – it’s totally inclusive and relevant to all.

We were treated to top notch guest speakers: Kerry Gregory (buying stones on eBay!); Steve Carson (late 19th early 20th century jewellery houses); Stephen Whittaker (auction house developments); Rosamond Clayton (jadeite jade); Harriet Kelsall (starting a creative business) and leading designer Fei Liu, who attended his first Conference with us this year and amazed the delegates with the story of his career and images of his beautiful bespoke work.

Encouraging others to become IRV members is key, so Shirley Mitchell IRV Fellow (a moderator on the IRV Registration Panel) introduced the Newcomer of the Year Award. Specially for new IRV members (MIRVs) who are monitored a year or so after they are elected, the silver trophy and £50 token to spend with the Gem-A (or similar), will be sponsored by Frank Wood, outgoing IRV chair.

Incidentally, congratulations go to Shirley who is this year’s winner of the prestigious David Wilkins Award, presented to long-standing valuers who have shown excellence in valuations.

It was a weekend packed with award-giving. This Conference was the last for Frank Wood as chair of the PTSI Steering Group (previously the IRV Committee) and at the next NAJ AGM he hands over the reins to Julian Cousins. In recognition of his contribution, to not only the Institute but also the NAJ and the NAG, the NAJ National Committee presented him with the Michael Norman Fellowship – originally introduced in 2009. The award, which is given in very exceptional circumstances, is held by the recipient for life. The first recipient was Michael Norman (1933-2010); the second was David Callaghan (awarded 2015).

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Frank Wood (centre) receives the Michael Norman Fellowship, presented by Harriet Kelsall (left) and David Callaghan (right)Frank Wood receives the Michael Norman Fellowship

Obviously we couldn’t let Frank ride off into the sunset without gifts, applause and a few tears (his as well as ours). It’s a giving sort of event – quizzes, raffles and an impromptu auction (thank you Mr Whittaker) raised an impressive £3,000 for the NAJ’s Educational Trust over the weekend. The ‘wear something pink’ dinner on Saturday, also played host to recognise delegates who had passed their 2018 CAT exams and received their certificates with rapturous applause.

The Conference can’t happen without its sponsors and we thank Gold Sponsor Holts Lapidary and Silver Sponsor Quantum Leap. Holts also took part in the Gemstone Market along with GF Williams and Ruppenthal (UK). They were joined by first-time workshop lecturers Ian Bone (Capricorn Gems, Queensland, Australia) and UK jewellery designer Lisa Smith.

Finally, the weekend wouldn’t happen without the tremendous coordinating, controlling and cajoling skills of Conference Organiser Sandra Page – we salute her! 

Why jewellery retailers should attend Conference

“I’ve attended the Conference since 1997. When I was invited into the family business my father said: “you’ll need to be qualified, capable, hard-working and earn your stripes”. So I embarked on every course and worked very hard.

“Undoubtedly the three days at the Conference was one of the most beneficial experiences. You learn so much about the industry and meet so many fabulous people who, however important, are so willing to help you and impart their knowledge. There’s such a mixture of talent, background and working skills – it’s fascinating!

“As a retailer it’s really useful to talk to customers about the Conference. As the jewellery world becomes more complicated and sophisticated, we sit in lecture theatres for three days absorbing industry information to help us sell and inform them properly. We learn of the history of jewellery and of current legislations, limitations and opportunities. We learn of the future: how to recognise new synthetics; how to give customers the best advice for their investment. I gather so much to help my everyday running of a small family business – for my staff, for my customers and for myself.

“It’s fun, it’s exciting, it’s informal and I always come away feeling enthusiastic, inspired and humbled; I realise there’s so much I don’t know and it gives me a thirst for knowledge! I remind myself I’m not just a shop girl, but a professional in what I’d describe as the most fabulous industry in the world!”

Fiona J Hopper FIRV

'Gemstones from Central Queensland’ – Ian Bone & Lisa Smith

Conference workshop

“This workshop was inspiring and engaging – a well-presented view of gem-from-mine-to-jewellery. The videos and descriptions of the processes were fascinating – a true insight into how the Queensland state government regulates mining and ensures that open cast mining areas are restored; as if the mines were never there, thus lowering the environmental impact.

“Capricorn Gems has worked hard to build a strong relationship with its miners, selling their gemstones in the global market, ensuring fair prices. They carry out the majority of the cutting of boulder opal and chrysoprase themselves and consider the needs of the jewellers who will be setting these. They even monitor the gems when they travel to Thailand to be cut and polished, ensuring traceability.

“Once the gemstones are shiny and pretty, Ian and his team bring them to the global market, targeting bespoke designers like Lisa Smith, who are passionate about the traceability of the materials they use and who seek gemstones with Queensland gems’ uniqueness.

“We examined Ian’s array of amazing gems, which gave us a hands-on feel for them. Today’s consumers are increasingly aware of the ethical issues facing jewellers and want reassurance that the pieces they’re buying are from ethical sources, with full traceability. Capricorn Gems is one company that’s helping this become possible."

Teresa Laker, MIRV

Fei Liu – value of the designer brand

Fei Liu Conference

“Fei is the most effervescent jewellery designer in the UK at the moment and we were spellbound by the imagery of the extravagant jewellery he makes for his personal clients. Twenty years earlier, as the first Chinese graduate from the Birmingham School of Jewellery, he designed cufflinks and powder compacts for Stratton's and since then his has been a voyage of self-belief and chance encounters, that has seen him elevated to the status he now commands.

"His jewellery is available in the USA, Europe, China and Japan. After a four-year spell as a retailer in China and doing everything retailers do, exhausted, he realised it was the happiness created by his designs that kept bringing the clients back. Since this epiphany, he’s breathing again, the store has gone, and he’s designing and making jewellery for the red carpet. Clients request versatile pieces that can be worn anywhere, any time. The values he works by are those of the materials, craftsmanship, his unique design and the ‘Fei Liu Fine Jewellery’ brand.

When the Miss China pageant knocked on his door for a new crown, he quoted a six-figure sum. They wrote the cheque on the spot. Fei produced a fluid headdress inspired by the Silk Road – jaw-droppingly beautiful, featuring a centre 88ct sapphire and valued at $5,000,000.00. There are more reasonably priced pieces from £50!”

John Henn, TA Henn MIRV

Peter Buckie & Barbara Leal – ‘Price Guides: their intended use and function'

“As I’m still relatively new to valuations, I felt it important to pick workshop topics that would be informative and build my confidence. Peter and Barbara’s presentation was a lifesaver!
“As a newbie I’ve found price guides a tad frightening – if I get this wrong, the value conclusion is out of the window. To date I’ve found using guides like playing pin the tail on the donkey; I’m blinded by information, but know that it’s in front of me somewhere!

“There are so many variations – Gemguide says one thing, Palmieri's another and then a dealer throws you a curve-ball – so I was hoping that the workshop would shed some much needed light. I wasn't disappointed; Peter is a fountain of knowledge, his valuing experience is immense. He’s happy to share his knowledge and does so in a clear, relaxed manner, belying the importance and seriousness of the subject. This gave me the confidence in the practical session to ‘give it a go’ – so what if I make a mistake here, it’ll help me learn.

“Both Peter, and Barbara, who assisted him, were amazing and only too happy to help. Any questions raised were listened to, considered and answered in an understandable, nurturing way. Thank you guys – your enthusiasm, knowledge, and generosity definitely helped me pin that tail in the right place.”

Nicky Acton, PJ Dip, Cert GA, Christopher Evans Goldsmiths

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