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Kassandra Lauren Gordon Fund awards £21k in grants to 21 Black jewellers, to support business growth and reduce financial hardship

26 Aug 2020

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The Kassandra Lauren Gordon Fund (KLG Fund) has awarded a total of £21,000 in grants to Black people working in the jewellery industry who need support for their businesses and have faced financial hardship because of the current crisis, following a review by a panel of five independent industry judges, who said they were “overwhelmed by the talent, creativity and enthusiasm of the applicants”.

In June, Black jeweller and activist Kassandra Lauren Gordon successfully raised £19,483 on a Go Fund Me page, exceeding the original £14,000 target. 328 people, businesses and trade organisations made donations ranging from £5 to £5,000. Kassandra also started a collaboration with the Goldsmiths’ Company, with its charity donating £6,000 to the Fund, taking the total value of the KLG Fund to £25,483. The Goldsmiths’ Company Charity team has provided pro bono support for the application process and administered the grants on behalf of the Fund.

The KLG Fund was set up in the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement to provide immediate financial relief to emerging and established Black jewellers. The Fund was created in response to feedback from the Black jewellery community about the challenges, discrimination and racism they faced in the jewellery industry, following Kassandra’s open letter to the jewellery sector (first published by the Jewellery Cut on 6 June).

Kassandra said,

“I was getting a lot of Black jewellers messaging me on social media in response to my open letter. They shared their own experiences of racism and discrimination, as well as the financial difficulties they were facing due to Covid-19. Many wanted advice and support for their businesses and their practice, but there just wasn’t anything available from the industry specifically for black jewellers. So, I decided to launch a Go Fund Me page to raise money to do just that, inspired by all the people who had contacted me. Initially I planned to support 10 Black jewellers with £1,000 grants, no strings attached, and to fund some social research. But the campaign was so successful, that with the support of donors large and small, we have been able to support 21 Black jewellers. I am so grateful to all of the donors; we simply couldn’t have done this without them.”

Alex Monroe says Black jewellers in Britain ‘face a unique set of challenges’

An independent panel of judges made up of industry experts – Melanie Eddy, Satta Matturi, Victoria McKay, Alex Monroe and Roxanne Rajcoomar-Hadden – reviewed a total of 44 applications in August and reached a unanimous decision.

Speaking on behalf of the judging panel Alex Monroe, one of the UK's leading jewellery designers, said,

“It was strikingly clear to all of us [the judges] from the applications, that Black jewellers in Britain face a unique set of challenges and that the Coronavirus crisis has caused exceptional hardship. We were impressed by the talent and passion of all our applicants and are pleased to be able to award 21 grants to those we felt would benefit from it most at this time.

“The successful applicants demonstrated real talent, both in craft and design, and had well considered business and marketing plans. We acknowledge that many of the applicants have had difficulty accessing other support: the KLG Fund grants will help businesses through an exceptionally difficult time and contribute towards their success.”

Alex said that the judges had learned a lot through the process.

“We learned so much about the discrimination and racism faced by Black jewellers in the UK. There is a problem of visibility for many Black jewellers in our industry. Access to the press, buyers and social media and marketing support can also be challenging. Many black jewellers come into the jewellery industry through less conventional routes, which can throw up barriers of access to what we understand, and have experienced to be, a small and often closed industry. The specific hardships faced by Black jewellers are real. They exist and they won’t go away unless we all get involved. A fairer, more inclusive industry will benefit everyone.”

The KLG Fund was originally set up to offer support to Black jewellers who are self-employed, sole traders, or running micro-businesses. However, the judges saw a demand for grants from graduates and hobbyists who were just setting out. “We felt it was really important to support the next generation of Black jewellers who need help to get started in business. There were some strong and compelling business cases among the applicants, and we are pleased to be in a position to support them, with the help of our donors,” Alex said.

Black Jewellers Survey launches today

The KLG Fund is also conducting one of the UK’s first research projects into the experience of established and emerging Black British jewellers, supported by the Goldsmiths’ Company and the Goldsmiths’ Centre as well as Fund donors. As part of the research, a survey of Black jewellers is launching today, and Kassandra is encouraging as many people as possible from the Black jewellery community to participate in the survey. 

Kassandra said: “This is a very important moment in history – an opportunity to really understand the experience of Black British jewellers in our industry. The need to improve equality for Black people in the jewellery industry and address systemic racism does not begin and end with awarding 21 grants. We need data, knowledge and information about the UK Black jewellery community to create long term change that will support the next generation. Your contributions can help shape the actions that the jewellery industry should take to improve access, training, and support for all Black jewellers. So please have your say and complete the survey.”

Complete Survey

The deadline for submissions is 6pm on Tuesday 8 September. All survey respondents will be entered into a prize draw to win one of five sets of Cookson Gold gift vouchers worth £100 each. The survey findings will be released at the end of October 2020.

 

Source: The Goldsmiths' Company