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Monthly Overview

Soapbox: The voices of Australia's jewellery industry

Each month Jeweller's Soapbox presents the various voices of Australia's diverse jewellery industry. From young gemmologists to bench veterans, explore the multi-faceted challenges and observations of others in the trade. 

Let’s communicate – if only it was that easy!

Joshua Zarb

Position: CEO
Location: Sydney, NSW
Years in Industry: 17

Contact is key when it comes to retail, but too many retailers – and suppliers – are overwhelmed by the many different channels of communication, writes JOSHUA ZARB. Read more »



Giving Australia’s national gemstone the respect it deserves

Damien Cody

Position: Director
Location: Melbourne, VIC
Years in Industry: 23

For too long, stubborn myths have plagued the Australian opal market – unfashionable, cheap, too fragile – and it’s now time to set the record straight, writes DAMIEN CODY. Read more »



There are many e-commerce opportunities for retailers – and suppliers are here to help

John Rose

Position: General manager
Location: Melbourne, VIC
Years in Industry: 23

With the acceleration of e-commerce during COVID-19 lockdowns, the time is right for retailers to integrate and invest in this side of their business, writes JOHN ROSE. Read more »



It’s time to build a cross-generational bridge

Richard Mayo

Position: Director
Location: Auckland, NZ
Years in Industry: 1

The jewellery industry is facing the challenge of generational change – and it’s a case of evolve or get left behind, writes RICHARD MAYO. Read more »



The importance of kindness post-COVID

Helen Thompson-Carter

Position: Founder and director
Location: Auckland, NZ
Years in Industry: 10

When figuring out a strategy to survive the new reality of retail, the jewellery industry’s greatest strength is in our kindness and loyalty to each other, writes HELEN THOMPSON-CARTER. Read more »



Learning from the past, looking to the future

Darren Roberts

Position: CEO
Location: Sydney, NSW
Years in Industry: 18

It is all too easy to fall into despair during tough times, but jewellery retailers and suppliers alike shouldn’t lose sight of opportunities or be afraid to adapt, writes DARREN ROBERTS. Read more »



Jewellers should heed these pearls of wisdom

June Mann

Position: Director
Location: Queensland, and Europe
Years in Industry: 6

There are numerous opportunities for jewellers in the pearl category, particularly in providing care and maintenance services for strands and jewellery, writes JUNE MANN. Read more »



Jewellers need to embrace new opportunities in the watch category

Catherine Craner

Position: Managing director
Location: Central Coast NSW
Years in the industry: 26 years

Consumer behaviour has changed due to COVID-19, writes CATHERINE CRANER, who advises watchmakers and jewellers to adapt and take advantage by focusing on watch services. Read more »



Where is the accountability and integrity in the jewellery industry?

Emil Ozer

Position: Owner
Location: Castle Hill, Sydney NSW
Years in the industry: 45 years

The number one thing that frustrates me about our industry is the Jewellery Association of Australia (JAA), because I want them to create some accountability in the jewellery industry, as there is in other sectors. Read more »



For the love of natural diamonds

Louise McManus FGAA DipDT

Position: Manager
Location: Adelaide, South Australia
Years in the industry: 35 years

I’m often asked a pertinent question in the industry: “Why don’t you stock synthetic diamonds?” I usually reply that true love, or at least the kind that’s synonymous with engagement rings, deserves... Read more »



Why are retailers so hesitant to invest in marketing?

Georgina Staley

Position: Owner
Location: Merimbula, Bega, Narooma and Batemans Bay, NSW
Years in the industry: 30 years

Marketing is one of the highest priorities your business can have. If you’re not marketing it correctly, you’re not going to survive in the current retail environment. Read more »



The only way to succeed is to put customers first

David Hollanders

Position: Director
Location: Sydney, NSW
Years in the industry: 36 years

It’s easy to look at the current state of things within our industry and feel a sense of doom. Every year, another list of jewellers and manufacturers close their doors, some of which only a short time ago would have been considered good solid businesses. Read more »



The race towards an ethical future

Benn Harvey-Walker

Position: Director
Location: Sherwood, Brisbane
Years in the industry: 12 years

To put it bluntly, the Australian jewellery industry isn’t playing catch-up when it comes to ethics. The truth is, we’ve barely left the starting line – and we really need to pick up the pace. Read more »



Snapshot of the modern jeweller

Brett Low

Position: Owner-operator
Location: Burleigh, Gold Coast
Years in the industry: 15 years

We have all heard the saying, ‘Things aren’t the same as they were 20 years ago.’ That’s largely because of the Internet; not only is there competition between local jewellers, businesses are also competing with the rest of the world. Read more »



The jewellery community lacks opal knowledge

Atheka Le Souef

Position: Director
Location: Lightning Ridge Opal Mines, 63 Elizabeth St, Melbourne 3000
Years in the industry: 29 years

One of the biggest challenges for opal dealers is that a lot of jewellers don’t understand much – if anything – about opal, in terms of the nomenclature, how to identify them and how to value them. Read more »



Accessing spare parts is the worst part of the watch industry

Dennis Coleman

Position: Owner and watchmaker
Location: Balwyn, VIC
Years in the industry: 51 years

The big brands want us watchmakers to repair their watches, but they make getting the necessary spare parts maddeningly difficult, prohibitively expensive, or completely impossible. Read more »



Time to embrace and participate in our industry

David Paterson

Position: Managing director
Location: Moorabbin, VIC and Bangkok, Thailand
Years in the industry: 23 years

The decision by two of the major buying groups to cancel their respective buying days and encourage their members to attend the three days of the International Jewellery & Watch Fair (IJWF) is a very positive move for the greater industry. Read more »



The luxury watch market can't support competing trade shows

Martin Foster FBHI

Position: Freelance journalist
Location: Sydney, NSW
Years in the industry: 61 years

With new CEO Michel Loris-Melikoff set to the task of rebuilding Baselworld, now is the time for the Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie (SIHH) to set aside petty historical differences and return under the umbrella of the Baselworld show. Read more »



Time for the industry to grow again

Colin Pocklington

Business: Nationwide Jewellers
Position: Managing director
Location: Sydney, NSW
Years in the industry: 46 years

The jewellery industry is now in its third consecutive year of difficult trading conditions, and most people may not be aware that the current downturn has resulted in a greater drop in jewellery sales than in the recessions of 1974/75, 1983/84 and 1991/92. Read more »



We can't afford to get complacent about security

Michael Oboler

Business: Oblo Jewellery
Position: Director
Location: Box Hill North, Victoria
Years in the industry: 45, including 30 in Australia

Over the past few years, I’ve visited and spoken to many jewellery retailers who have been the victims of crime – ranging from theft to break-ins and armed robberies. Read more »



Diamonds marketers, retailers are dragging our industry down

Hugh Kronenberg

Business: Kronenberg – Breathtaking Gems
Position: Director
Location: Sydney, NSW
Years in the industry: 6 years

Behavioural analysts, researchers and social commentators have written profusely about the different generations of consumers and their buying habits. Read more »



Preparing for change means sharing knowledge

Chris Botha

Business: Pallion
Position: Operations Manager – jewellery division
Location: Marrickville, NSW
Years in the industry: 27 years

Back in 2012, I wrote about how Australia tends to be up to 10 years behind other global jewellery industries in terms of technological innovation in the mass production industries. Read more »



Master social media to get consumers offline

Andrew Ioannou

Business: Guild Jewellery Design Pty Ltd.
Position: Managing director
Location: Adelaide, South Australia
Years in the industry: 14 years

Online shopping has absolutely affected my business, as it has the entire industry and retail landscape. Read more »



Technology is a double-edged sword

Anthony Nowlan

Business: Evotech Pacific
Position: Director
Location: Petrie, Queensland
Years in the industry: 26 years

As a teen growing up in the 80s, if someone told me I’d be working in a career that involved lasers, computer-aided design and 3D printing, I probably wouldn’t have believed them. Read more »



Let’s not lose the mystique of custom made jewellery

Alfie Gryg

Business: Allgem Jewellers
Position: Master jeweller
Location: Perth, WA
Years in the industry: 38 years

The industry sure has changed a lot over the years. Like many others my age, I started out in the business with my father, cutting gemstones and making jewellery by hand. Read more »



Time to rediscover the 'magic' of art and design

Tony Williams

Business: TW Gold
Position: Master goldsmith
Location: Dunedin, New Zealand
Years in the industry: 50

After I had a book written about me, it gave me an opportunity to reflect on all the changes that have taken place over the course of my career. Read more »



Remodel and recycle to survive and thrive

Ian Sharp

Business: Ian Sharp Jewellery
Position: Founder/Director
Location: South Yarra, VIC
Years in the industry: 42

You know things have changed in the jewellery industry when your profit on a diamond is only 10 per cent, or you keep losing customers to ‘better deals’ on the internet. Read more »



We've forgotten the customer

Bruce Rosewarne

Business: Bruce R Rosewarne, FGAA
Position: Owner/Director
Location: Mooloolaba, QLD
Years in the industry: 55 years

I’ve been through five recessions since I started my jewellery apprenticeship in 1963. There was a lot of pressure on jewellers during recessions; Read more »



Coloured gemstones are underrated

Charles Lawson

Business: Lawson Gems
Position: Owner/Director
Location: Brisbane
Years in the industry: 12

In Australia, coloured gemstones often play second fiddle to diamonds, and outside the big three – ruby, sapphire and emerald – the knowledge of the general population is lacking. Read more »



A fair go for gold

Zoe Pook

Business: Zoe Pook
Position: Owner
Location: Wahroonga, NSW
Years in the industry: 12

During my early days as a jeweller, troubling images of filthy mines with poor working conditions prompted me to research alternative gold sources. This led me to become Australia’s first licensed supplier of Fairtrade Certified Gold, Read more »



Miscommunication is out of control

Masis Agopyan

Business: Erebouni
Position: Owner
Location: Sydney
Years in the industry: 25

As a gemmologist who works in the jewellery industry, I’ve heard many terms used to describe gemstones. Some are correct and some are not. Read more »



Margin Call

Hayley Birtles-Eades

Business: Love Lockets
Position: Marketing and brand manager
Location: Brisbane
Years in the industry: 5

I’ve been in the retail industry my entire working life, both as a retailer and most recently as a supplier, and I’ve never seen the market as difficult as it is right now. Read more »



Rising stars need support

Brigitte Collins

Business: WorldSkills Australia
Position: General manager, technical delegate
Location: Sydney, NSW
Years in the industry: 20

WorldSkills Australia is dedicated to the promotion and the building of a skills culture that celebrates excellence. Read more »



Turning fear into power

Bryan de Caires

Business: Australian Security Industry Association Limited (ASIAL)
Position: CEO
Location: Sydney, NSW
Years in the industry: 17 years and 6 months

The recent spate of attacks on jewellery stores and other retailers in Melbourne has understandably generated fear among some business operators; Read more »



Insuring a better future

Chris Hood

Business: Metal Urges Fine Jewellery
Position: Owner
Location: Hobart, Tasmania
Years in the industry: 23

How my customers insure their jewellery has been on my mind for several years now. It’s also a popular topic of conversation in my store. Read more »



We're heading back to the bench

Tim Haab

Business: Haab Designer Jewellers
Position: Co-owner
Location: Launceston, Tasmania
Years in the industry: 33

We have just returned from our buying group conference where bespoke manufacturing was one of the main subjects of discussion. Read more »



Getting a grip on gemstone care

Doug Menadue

Business: Bespoke Gems
Position: Managing director
Location: Sydney, NSW
Years in the industry: 9

I offer lapidary services and, over the past several years, I have noticed a rise in gemstones coming in from jewellers to be repaired and repolished. Read more »



Future-proofing the diamond sector

Noah Gattea

Business: Gattea Jewellers
Position: Owner
Location: Sydney, NSW
Years in the industry: 13

The other day I was thinking about why the wine industry is kicking the diamond industry’s butt in terms of a value proposition, and I came up with my answer pretty quickly. Read more »



Accept change or flounder

Michael Tran

Business: Disney Couture
Position: Managing director
Location: Sydney
Years in the industry: 17

My career in this industry started 17 years ago as the co-owner of independent jewellery store Galleri Jewellers in Westfield Hornsby and Westfield Parramatta, Sydney. Read more »



Tale of cabbages, bread and jewellery

Brent Weatherall

Business: Brent Weatherall Jeweller
Position: Director
Location: Dunedin, New Zealand
Years in the industry: 37

Would you like to know what cabbage, fruit, bread and flowers have in common with jewellery? Nothing! Read more »



It's a world of metal madness

James Tyler

Business: James Tyler Jewellery
Position: Director
Location: Brisbane, QLD
Years in the industry: 30

At 47, I don’t class myself as old. Certainly I’m old to my 12 and 13-year old boys because I’m not up-to-date with current YouTube celebrity videos or memes. Read more »



Sapphire grading rules

Sash Gammampila

Business: Deliqa Gems
Position: Director, gemmologist
Location: Melbourne, Victoria
Years in the industry: 4

There is so much misunderstanding amongst the industry about coloured gemstone grading. The frustrations and misunderstandings are especially high for sapphire Read more »



Fight back this Christmas

Krzysztof Jakubaszek

Business: AJ Watch Repairs
Position: National brand manager and watch maker
Location: Canberra, ACT
Years in the industry: 20

The festive season is approaching and while jewellers may be tempted to lower prices to combat against those evil online competitors, I say, “Stop right there!” Read more »



Aussie through and through

John Miller

Business: John Miller Design
Position: Director
Location: Adelaide, South Australia
Years in the industry: 43

I began making silver jewellery about 43 years ago. Silver won me over from day one on a buffing machine. I still remember thinking, “Wow, I love this stuff!” Read more »



No time for stick-in-the-muds

Graeme Eckert

Business: Allen Jewellers
Position: Co-owner
Location: Adelaide, South Australia
Years in the industry: 39

I made a big decision in late August while attending the Sydney jewellery fair. You see, our store sells more men’s watches than women’s watches but the issue is that we definitely have more women entering the store than men. Read more »



Never lose your 'true' self

Jo Tory

Business: Najo
Position: Founder and managing director
Location: Sydney, NSW
Years in the industry: 30

Six years ago, I wrote a Soapbox column for Jeweller about the changes I had seen over 25 years in the jewellery industry. Read more »



Claw back sales with customer tracking

Judy Cameron

Business: Cameron’s Fine Jewellers
Position: Co-owner
Location: Swan Hill, VIC
Years in the industry: 19

I had an ‘A-ha!’ moment earlier this year. I was at a Nationwide buying group conference and the speaker was talking about the five fundamentals of sales – the first one was ‘customer tracking’. Read more »



Does customer loyalty even exist?

Catherine Pevy-Trewartha

Business: My Jewellery Shop
Position: Owner
Location: Nobby Beach, Queensland
Years in the industry: 39

Many jewellery retailers feel challenged to maintain consumer loyalty to the point where some are completely giving up. Read more »



We need to go big or go home

Brendan Cunningham

Business: Cunningham Jewellers
Position: Owner, manager
Location: Coffs Harbour, NSW
Years in the industry: Born into it but officially 12

I’m a second-generation jeweller. I’m not technically qualified but rather am a family jeweller who has ‘learned on the job’ and who has earned the title of jeweller via satisfied customers. Read more »



Setting the mark once and for all

Tim Peel

Business: Silvermist Studio
Position: Managing director
Location: Healesville, VIC
Years in the industry: 26

We have a problem. It’s not a new problem; it’s a long-held quandary that our industry has been grappling for years. Read more »



Everyone forgets the price

Robin Sobel

Business: Protea Diamonds
Position: Managing director
Location: Sydney
Years in the industry: 30

There’s no denying there are numerous concerns surrounding the jewellery industry right now but I firmly believe that one outshines all others Read more »



Why I only use recycled metals

Tanya Coelho

Business: Zefyr Jewels
Position: Designer and founder
Location: Sydney
Years in the industry: 15

Unethical mining practices around the world are plaguing the jewellery industry but that’s the last thing consumers – and retailers – think about when shopping for a sparkler for the wife or a pair of earrings for mum’s birthday. Read more »



Stop feeding the thieves

Tony Peters

Business: Exquisite Jewellers
Position: Managing director
Location: Canberra, ACT
Years in the industry: 14

Security is always top of mind for people in jewellery, yet it seems as though incidents of theft are at an all-time high. Read more »



Don't hate man-made diamonds

Garry Holloway

Business: Holloway Diamonds
Position: Managing director
Location: Melbourne, VIC
Years in the industry: 41 years

Regarding the great man-made diamond debate, let’s take a quick trip down memory lane back to the 1960s and 70s. Read more »



That's not a blood tourmaline is it?

Charles Lawson

Business: Lawson Gems
Position: Director
Location: Brisbane, Queensland
Years in the industry: 9 years

Consumers are raising the subject of the responsible sourcing of diamonds and gemstones more and more these days; however, even though everybody wants it, not everyone is willing to pay for it. Read more »



Expect the unexpected

Alain Blanar

Business: Allucia
Position: Managing director
Location: Helensvale, Queensland
Years in the industry: 30 years

If I were a consumer looking to buy jewellery right now, the last place I would be heading is a jewellery store. Read more »



A jeweller’s right to boycott

Nicholas de Klerk

Business: de Klerk and Pinn Jewellers
Position: Managing director
Location: Sydney, NSW
Years in the industry: 22 years and counting

Jewellers are in the fortunate position nowadays to leverage the benefits of technology advancements. Never before have design possibilities and access to metals and gemstones been so great. Read more »



What ever happened to old-fashioned manners?

Helen Thompson-Carter

Business: Fabuleux Vous
Position: Director
Location: Auckland, New Zealand
Years in the industry: almost at the five-year mark

Remember that time you turned away a sales rep because you were too busy? It didn’t matter that he or she had travelled three hours to reach the store at an agreed appointment time – after all, you had other priorities! Read more »



The power of passion

Mark McGuire

Business: Celestial Fine Jewels
Position: Creative director
Location: Sydney, NSW
Years in the industry: 3 years

“My passions were all gathered together like fingers that made a fist. Drive is considered aggression today; I knew it then as purpose.” – Bette Davis. Read more »



Turn those lemons into lemonade

Mazin Kaddoura

Business: Mazin’s Diamond Jewellers
Position: Managing director
Location: Bunbury, WA
Years in the industry: 23 years

Let’s face it; despite your best efforts to please, there are some people who are never going to be totally happy with the work that you do. It might not seem fair but it’s a reality that we all have to accept. Read more »



Don’t hate; differentiate

Mollie Burford

Business: Mollie Burford Jewellery
Position: Managing director
Location: Flagstaff Hill, South Australia
Years in the industry: 11 years

What happens when you come across an advertisement for a big-brand bargain retailer advertising a deal that’s too good to be true? Most of us probably think, “Here we go again” and brace for the customer backlash. Read more »



Let’s play fair

Brett Bolton

Business: Bolton Gems
Position: Director
Location: Brisbane, Queensland
Years in the industry: 20 years

Australians are renowned for their fun-loving, courageous and adventurous spirit. We pride ourselves on having a positive outlook, living life to the fullest and bagging a bargain. Read more »



Competitive advantages

Jyothi Forman

Business: Georgies Fine Jewellery
Position: Apprentice
Location: Narooma, NSW
Years in the industry: 3 years

I started my apprenticeship as a jeweller at the beginning of 2012. I have always loved creative art forms such as painting, ceramics and woodwork, and I fell in love with the trade of jewellery as soon as I sat at a bench and began hand-making unique pieces. Read more »



Stand out and be social

Trevor Ross Brown

Business: Gold Jewellery 2000
Position: Managing director
Location: Auckland, New Zealand
Years in the industry: 18 years

At 72 years of age, and having worked in this industry for 18 years, one would think I’d have learnt everything there was to know about being a jeweller and operating a small business. Read more »



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