Hammers on a workbench

International Women’s Day: Meet The Women Behind Our Craft

This International Women’s Day, we're spotlighting the special women behind the scenes, who bring the pieces you love to life. Diamond expert Anne, jewellery specialist Gaby and watchmaker Mandy tell us what IWD means to them and how they’ve made their mark in a formerly male-dominated industry.

08 March 2022 Editor - Ernest Jones

International Women’s Day is all about celebrating inspirational women and the role they play: whether that’s creating a better world for all of us or crafting a piece of jewellery you’ll treasure forever.

From restoring a watch back to its former glory or sourcing that ‘I do’ diamond, Anne, Gaby and Mandy are the women responsible for the magic behind the memories you’ll make. Read on to discover how this highly respected and incredibly talented trio mastered their craft, along with their tips for becoming a stronger, better and more empowered version of you.

What do your respective roles entail?

Anne: My job entails sourcing diamonds and gemstones, particularly with a focus on replacing those lost from existing jewellery pieces or have been submitted for repair.

Gaby: I’m jewellery specialist, which is quite a varied role. No day is ever the same as I oversee everything from repairs, resizing and performing alterations on both pre-owned and new pieces.

Mandy: My official role is watchmaker but I’m predominantly responsible for restoring timepieces, which involves replacing batteries, the restoration of water resistance and minor watch repairs. It’s quite technical, but I really enjoy it.

How did your love of jewellery, gemstones and watches begin?

Anne: My love of diamonds and gemstones began while studying an apprenticeship in diamond mounting at college. At that point, my main interest was in decorating gems and enhancing designs. I went on to study gemmology – the science of gemstones – later, as the identification of a gemstone became important to me when choosing how to mount them or repair an already-set item.

Gaby: My love for jewellery began just before finishing school as I was deciding what subject to pursue and found myself drawn to art and jewellery studies. I thought it’d be really interesting to actually design and make a piece of jewellery by myself. It didn’t take too long after starting my course to fall head over heels in love with jewellery.

Mandy: I have family in Canada, who have a watch business, so I spent some time out there working with them in my younger years. This introduced me to the world of watchmaking and allowed me to learn my craft and hone the skills that I’ve been able to bring to my role.

Are there certain protocols you have to follow to make sure you’re doing your role effectively?

Anne: As my role entails sourcing diamonds, we have to make sure that diamond and gemstone dealers that supply to us follow our ‘Responsible Sourcing Protocol’. This requires that diamonds and gems are traded from legitimate sources that aren’t involved in conflict. All product comes with a declaration on the invoice along with delivery notes that state this.

When sourcing stones and diamonds which ones ‘make the cut’ and how important are the 4Cs?

Anne: The 4Cs are incredibly important as all diamonds are graded for carat, cut, colour and clarity. That’s the criteria I use to check every item of jewellery so that it’s of the highest standard that we expect at Ernest Jones.

What does it take to truly excel at your craft?

Gaby: There are so many skills needed to be a good jeweller or watchmaker. It goes without saying that it takes years of experience and practice to learn and hone technical skills, so every day is a lesson – whether you’re new to the world of jewellery or a seasoned professional. Overall, I would say that a craftsperson needs to be passionate and have a lot of patience. You need to pay attention to small details as great things takes time, so you can’t rush the process or compromise on quality.

What is the best bit about your job?

Mandy: There’s a great satisfaction in repairing, restoring and then returning a cherished item back to its owner. I also enjoy the challenge that comes with creating something I’ve never made or repaired before. It can initially be daunting, but it’s honestly a great feeling to enhance your skillset, surpass your own abilities and expectations, and gain the confidence needed for future work.

What does jewellery mean to you?

Gaby: It’s definitely my main passion in life. I absolutely love making, repairing and designing jewellery. I even spend my spare time reading about jewellery processes and watching YouTube videos to develop and learn new skills and discover new jewellery trends.

What do watches mean to you?

Mandy: Watches are quite personal to me as I have family who work in the watchmaking trade. I’d say the thing I value the most is being able to repair watches that customers thought were impossible to fix and seeing their faces when they receive their watch back – fully restored and brimming with memories. I consider this my gesture of love to our customers.

What does International Women’s Day mean to you?

Anne: Women have always worked quietly away behind the scenes and stepped up to the mark when needed – whether that was during the war or at the workplace. The fact that there’s now a day recognising how inspirational women are signals that times have rightly changed, and will motivate the next generation of young women to aim even higher than the previous one.

Gaby: It’s very sentimental for me as I’m Lithuanian and in my country International Women’s Day is considered a real cause for celebration. Tulips are given to mark the occasion, which brings back memories of my dad coming home with red tulips for my mum and yellow tulips for me, so it’s definitely a very special day.

The IWD theme this year is “Break the Bias” to encourage a gender equal world. What does this mean for you in your workplace?

Gaby: In what used to be a traditionally male-dominated industry, I hope to inspire my fellow women to break the norm. Whether you’re telling the story of the craftsmanship of a diamond or how you made it in the jewellery world, tell it your way.

Mandy: Once upon a time, women struggled to get jobs in watchmaking and jewellery craftmanship, but our workplace is making a real effort in providing equal opportunities regardless of gender, which is something I’m really proud of.

Why do you think diversity in the workplace is so important?

Gaby: Diversity is essential for the workplace because all people deserve equal rights and the same treatment regardless of their age, nationality, gender, colour etc. Not only this, but diversity encourages innovation and creativity thanks to people’s different backgrounds and education, and allows for a positive and collaborative workplace. Most importantly, it highlights that times are changing, as the industry has made such positive progress compared to a decade or so ago.

What are your top tips for women who want to follow in your footsteps?

Anne: Never stop learning, find something you love doing and go for it.

Gaby: Forget about nail varnish and manicure! But on a less practical and a more motivational note, be proud of yourself and your abilities. Rise above any sexism you may face – if anything, use it as inspiration to become a better, stronger and more empowered version of you. Keep pushing yourself and remember to keep smiling.

If you could have dinner with one powerful woman – dead or alive – who would you choose and why?

Mandy: There are so many truly amazing women I could choose from: Madonna for being an absolute trailblazer in the entertainment industry, Mother Teresa for her endless compassion and devotion to charity, or Angelina Jolie for her incredible work with the UN. I’m going to pick my mum though, who moved from India to England unable to speak a single world of English and worked hard to raise four children, opening doors for us to be the successful people we are today.

Mark this IWD with the expertise of Ernest Jones

We hope you’ve been left inspired by Anne, Gaby and Mandy’s encouraging words. Whether you want to get a much-loved item repaired or are seeking a diamond piece sourced by Anne’s watchful eye, you can discover a host of services and expertly crafted pieces made for women by women this International Women’s Day in store on online at Ernest Jones today.