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Why can anyone call themselves a jeweller? Should specific qualifications be required before someone can open a jewellery store? | Source: Freepik
Why can anyone call themselves a jeweller? Should specific qualifications be required before someone can open a jewellery store? | Source: Freepik

Musings of an unlicensed publisher

Why can anyone call themselves a jeweller? Should specific qualifications be required before someone can open a jewellery store? Afterall, you need a license to be an electrician, right? COLEBY NICHOLSON believes he has the answer!

I was recently involved in an online discussion in which a group had been asked to define the term ‘studio jewellery’ or ‘jewellery studio’. The debate that ensued reminded me of a much larger issue I dealt with years ago, one that is probably more relevant today than it was when I first raised it in 2008.

But first, let’s deal with the original question! As an editor I have to deal with words and their meaning every day. Because Jeweller is an industry magazine, we must be careful with the words we use and how they’re used.

For example, we stopped using the words ‘wholesaler’, ‘agent’, ‘distributor’, ‘importer’ and ‘manufacturer’ a decade ago in preference for one descriptor – ‘supplier’.

There was a time each of those words were important, and meant different things but, as the trade evolved, how retailers get their product is today less important. Each of the above business types still ‘supplies’ products or services to a retailer, who then on-sells them to the consumer, so the catch-all term we use is ‘supplier’.

There is another reason for this. Too often we find that ‘jewellery manufacturer’ (a supplier to retailers) is confused with ‘manufacturing jeweller’ (usually a bench jeweller making specialised pieces to be sold directly to the consumer).

Referring to everyone in the wholesale channel as ‘suppliers’ overcomes most of the confusion.

The discussion about studio jewellery inevitably turned to the definition of a jeweller. Again, this is particularly important for this magazine because we need to identify our audience. We have three descriptors: a retailer (has a physical shop/store), a manufacturing jeweller (the tradesperson or bench jeweller) and a jewellery designer (who might design but not necessarily make the items).

[Mind you, these days the term retailer is increasingly used for online businesses too.]

One person could be all three: he or she could design the jewellery, make it themselves and sell it from their own retailer store. When it comes to manufacturing jewellers, we don’t differentiate between, so-called, qualified and non-qualified jewellers.

That is, anyone can call themselves a jeweller, unlike trades where you need to be licensed such as electricians and plumbers. Or, for example, you don’t need to be licensed to be a carpenter but you do need to be licensed to be a builder.

And for good reason! Because of public safety issues there are laws covering some trades; however anyone can work as a jeweller and anyone can open a jewellery store.

Certified jeweller
"Accreditation is intended to acknowledge and promote industry best practice in dealings with consumers and other businesses within the industry."

No qualification is required to do either, just like anyone can call themselves a ‘mechanic’, which brings us back to my 2008 story where I proposed that the JAA should have two levels of retail membership – JAA member and JAA Certified Jeweller.

I proffered that, in order to promote yourself as a ‘certified jeweller’ you would need to complete specific training and without this relevant qualification, you could not call yourself a ‘certified jeweller’.

This idea also solves an ongoing issue for the industry purists who believe JAA membership should only be open to fine jewellers as it would set a higher standard for membership and, hopefully, consumer confidence. It would be something for which to aspire.

Was my certification idea new? No, not at all!

Like all good ideas, I stole it!

Many years ago I was given the task to redesign a magazine for another professional body. It was in dire need of a complete overhaul and the magazine’s reposition was part of the re-branding of the entire industry.

Back then the particular profession was suffering from the same issues to which the jewellery industry suffers today. You see, believe it or not, you don’t need to be licensed to call yourself an accountant – anyone can start an accounting business!

Sure, there were different types of accountants, with different levels of expertise however, there was nothing stopping any Tom, Dick or Harry from calling themselves an accountant.

So the Australian Society of Accountants (as the professional body was known at the time) devised a certified practising accountant program. It then developed a national marketing campaign to encourage the use of Certified Practising Accountants and, as history shows, the strategy to differentiate CPAs from everyday ‘bean counters’ was so successful the association changed its name to CPA Australia.

Even though there is still nothing to stop someone from calling him or herself an accountant, they cannot call themselves a CPA without the required qualification.

The JAA is now seeking support for an industry-wide accreditation program to set regulations for people and businesses to operate to a best practice standard. The peak industry body says the aim is “to set standards that consumers can rely on - it is about consumer protection.

“Buying an expensive piece of jewellery is not like going into the local restaurant where, if you don’t like the meal or the service, you can decide not to go again and you haven’t wasted a lot of money. With expensive jewellery you only have one shot and you want to be certain of the retailer before you buy.”

The self-regulation program would mean that the JAA would set, what it believes, to be the required skill levels, qualifications, systems, procedures and experience for a person or business to operate to the industry. Its discussion papers states, “Accreditation is intended to acknowledge and promote industry best practice in dealings with consumers and other businesses within the industry.”

While such an idea is beset with complexity, let’s hope it gains industry support.

Afterall, I seem to recall all those years ago, many, so-called, pundits saying. “There’s no way this certified practising accountant thing will take off.”

Harry is a very smart man, isn't he?


Coleby Nicholson

Former Publisher • Jeweller Magazine

Coleby Nicholson launched Jeweller in 1996 and was also publisher and managing editor from 2006 to 2019. He has covered the jewellery industry for more than 20 years and specialises in business-to-business aspects of the industry.

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