Collector and dealer of modern, vintage and antique fine jewellery Katherine James runs her eponymous brand from her home in London. Here she talks to Abigail Hodges about social media, her experiences of working in traditionally male-dominated industry, and creating a nail varnish from crushed gemstones
1. Do you remember when you first became interested in gemstones?
I grew up in London in the eighties when the jewels were physically bigger, and they completely captivated me. My Dad was pretty terrible at buying presents, so he would give me jewels, and so I was hooked from a young age. I even used to sell mood rings at school. To this day I still get a funny feeling when I look at a beautiful gemstone – jewels draw me in like magnets.
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2. What made you want to deal jewellery and how did your business start?
In some ways, jewellery is like a sparkly bank account; buying it can feel guilt-free because you are investing. Jewellery is also a way to connect. A lot of people come to us when they have lost someone, and that doesn’t necessarily mean buying heavy Victorian mourning jewellery. I had a woman who wanted an aquamarine to match her deceased husband’s eyes. Jewellery is an object that can express a personal feeling, and it can represent important milestones in people’s lives. It’s wearable art that gets passed down through families.
The business started on Facebook and grew to Instagram with some persuasion from my kids. It is usually a male-dominated industry, whereby everyone is very matter-of-fact about things, but I was selling as I bought in, and it gave me the freedom to talk about how much I personally loved a piece. It grew and grew on Facebook, and we are now at about 15,000 people. Before it was heavily a female demographic, but we are now also dealing with male clients, which is very exciting!
3. What has your experience been like working in a traditionally male-dominated field?
The jewellery trade is a funny old place; it is a singular sort of profession. You don’t have a shop as you are mainly trying to source jewels, and as I have been social media-based, I tend to build a relationship with people very quickly, in a personal way.
It was initially daunting for me at the fairs. People always assumed that I was part of the public rather than a dealer. I am lot younger, and most of the people I deal with in the industry are men. It was necessary for me to be taken around and given an introduction, and it was from there that I was able to build relationships.
4. Do you think your position as a younger woman accounts for your online success?
A lot of the old guard don’t use the internet at all, and it is the kids that are taking social media on, and doing really well. Unfortunately, I have heard that recently quite a lot of the old trade has had to shut up shop. The internet is taking over, but at the same time, it gives women a safe space in the jewellery world. So you could argue that going forward, women are going to have an advantage over men in some ways. As a woman, I wouldn’t want a shop as you inevitably put yourself at risk; I don’t know anyone in the trade that hasn’t been robbed in some way.
5. Have you noticed any jewellery design trends emerging recently?
Yellow gold is coming back with a bang! Whilst there has certainly been a big demand for platinum in the modern day, it is almost impossible to work with as it has to be heated to such a high temperature. There is also a trend towards minimalism in terms of materials; contemporary consumers want the thing to be the thing that it says it is.
6. What’s next for you?
For years, my nails were always shocking because I couldn’t see beyond the ring I was wearing and so we decided to make a nail varnish. We are going to crush up gemstones and use them to make a nail varnish which also doesn’t chip. You can have nails to match your ring and vice versa. It also means you can get an emerald on every finger for way less than the price of an actual emerald. We are trying to recreate that magnetism that comes from being in the presence of a great gemstone, but with nail varnish.
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