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Recently I was contacted by a student of journalism who was gathering information and seeking opinions about women in the jewellery industry. She was writing a project on the subject, and it got me thinking…

Women drive the demand for 90% of the world’s jewellery and their tastes and demands shape the market and influence decisions in all the steps of the supply chain. Yet the jewellery industry has traditionally been a man’s world.

But it seems that things are changing.

Women are now breaking into traditionally held male positions whether it be in manufacture or mining, gemstone cutting or being the CEO of an enterprise.

Some large companies, including De Beers, Swarovski and Rio Tinto have made commitments to support gender equality in all parts of the industry, which include opportunities for advancement, equal pay, or hostility in the work place. This is an important and refreshing step in the right direction.

In Australia it is women who make up the larger part of jewellers working at the bench. The JAA data reveals that the gender of jewellers, taken from a 5.9K group, is 55% female and 45% male, the average of the male group being older than the female group.

I spoke with Kirra-Lea Caynes, winner of the 2019 Jeweller of the Year award, who is not only a superb craftsperson, but also a teacher. She holds classes in jewellery making and tells me that her students are almost 100% female.

From the aspect of consumers, jewellery has traditionally been seen by men as an investment and by women as a symbol of beauty, self-expression, ownership or affection. As one of my colleagues said to me the other day: men buy jewellery from the aspect of the wallet and women from the heart! Women understand what style of jewellery they want, whether it be coloured stones, something that matches an outfit, a memory, a tradition, or simply something that suits them. It is about beauty, style, invention or pure fantasy in design.

There is a surge of young women in the jewellery industry who are driving the boutique jewellery sector, whether they be designers, makers or entrepreneurs. They are inventive, on trend and business savvy.

Many of these women, along with their consumers, care about the origins of their jewellery and the impact that it has, from material origin to end product and means of promotion. They are conscious of ethically produced and sourced jewellery all the way down the supply chain. They embrace these principles, and their numbers are increasing year on year.

So, it seems that the industry is definitely changing in more ways than one.

I’m excited to see who will be the next Jeweller of the Year. Could it be you? Entries close 9 November. Visit jaa.com.au/awards for full details.

Jo Tory, JAA President

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