Joanna Hardy Composes a Passionate Tale of Ruby

Following the success of 'Emerald, the first singular book commissioned by Gemfields, a leading supplier of coloured gemstones, comes 'Ruby', an impressive survey of the king of gems, published by Thames & Hudson, in association with Violette Publications

By: Niyoshi Shah

Posted on: October 9, 2017

Gemfields commissioned book Ruby with Joanna HardyLuxury spend is shifting from goods to experiences, but certain isolated products — closely connected to self-expression and social signalling — become the sole object of everyone’s desires, and rubies have emerged as a clear winner in this ensuing shift. A rare gemstone, that evokes a rarer passion in most. The illustrious lineage created by brands like Gemfields can be distinguished from their competitors due to the strength of the communities they have been able to build through such unveilings. Their success with young consumers underscores an approach that has as much in common with Instagram savoir-faire as the traditional product launch tactics. 

Gemfields, therefore, commissioned ‘Ruby’, a coffee table book, as part of its endeavour to educate the jewellery trade and the general public about coloured gemstones. Authored by Gemmology expert Joanna Hardy, she has over 30 years’ experience in jewellery trade, working for De Beers and Sotheby’s as both a senior specialist and an auctioneer. She is a fellow of the royal society of arts and a regular jewellery expert on the BBC Antiques roadshow.

Some magnificent 60 pieces are featured in the book, many of which are previously unseen designs from royal and private collections. Historic creations sit alongside pieces from major modern jewellery houses including Boucheron, Cartier, Chaumet, Graff, Mellerio Dits Meller, and Van Cleef & Arpels. The book examines extraordinary jeweller techniques employed by expert houses, as well as guidance on qualities of rubies.

We had a tête-à-tête with Ms Hardy to get an insight into the gemstones trade and the Gemfields legacy

Niyoshi Shah: Gemstones have a cosmic allure and certain metaphysical properties, can you throw light on its ensuing relevance to consumer purchase behaviour?
Joanna Hardy: Everyone’s belief in gemstones is extremely personal. What might be lucky for one, might not necessarily hold true for someone else. One must feel the energy. If they feel the cosmic power of Ruby then it will work for them in every way. Rubies have a very strong energy and I have personally experienced its effect. They are an incredible magic of nature. I have a personal connection to this gemstone because I researched on it so intensely for two and a half years. 

NS: Could you let us know more about your experience being a historic and contemporary jewellery lecturer, grader, valuer and a goldsmith.
JH: You can’t put 25 years into one sentence. I have been very privileged to enter and archive countries, museums, peoples and collections. It has been an incredible journey. With gemstones and jewellery, one must feel a connection with the people who create the stone to accomplish the whole experience of it. Because it isn’t just about the stone or the jewellery. People who make it, mine it and cut it are very important in the whole scheme of things. It’s about collaboration, trust, passion and reputation, and that’s the message I want to send across. All those ingredients play a vital role in making fabulous jewellery and cutting fabulous gemstones.

Gemfields commissioned book Ruby with Joanna HardyNS: Gemfields is a big name globally for coloured gemstones. To what extent do you think people buy jewellery based on brand reputation?
JH: I think with any brand name, like Gemfields, Cartier, Boucheron, Van Cleef & Arpels, etc., people buy from them because they are trusted brands with integrity. You are buying into a legacy not just the stone. Everybody wants a designer piece of jewellery. You can sit behind the computer and design something incredible, but that’s not what it’s about. Great brands are built on integrity, knowledge and passion. Once a purchaser becomes knowledgeable about gemstones and their valuation, clarity and grading, then one can purchase from a non-branded designer. Because he/she understands the product and can decide for oneself. But at the beginning, it is always more advisable to buy from more reputed brands.

NS: Your point of view on the paradigm shift in the gemstone industry from diamonds to coloured gemstones? What about the emergence of rubies as a preferred gem?
JH: De Beers launched a campaign called “Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend” and “Diamonds are Forever”. A lot of these things were about marketing and promotion to build a strong image. I used to be the rough diamond sorter at De Beers at that time and everybody understood that it was a big educational campaign and it was a huge hit. But no one was putting a ruby, an emerald or a sapphire in front of the consumer. Gemfields was the first company to start educating people about colour. Colour was the king of gems before diamonds because they could not cut a diamond until 1400. So up until the 1400s, it was the ruby that was the most precious, then there was the sapphire, after which were pearls. Diamonds came a lot later. So, the consumer needs to start looking at history and stop looking at marketing or trends - this is the paradigm shift as we know it. People are more familiar with diamonds than they are with colour. 

Coloured gemstones are rare and precious. They are rarer than diamonds and people are now understanding and appreciating that. Not for trends but for genuine rarity. And who doesn’t like colour? Imagine a world without colour? Black and white, that would be pretty dull. Colour speaks to people and red calls out to everyone. It evokes passion and emotion. It is the colour of love and blood. The deposits that are being found at Mozambique are absolutely essential. Now more people can have the opportunity to own ruby.

Ruby, by Joanna Hardy, published by Thames & Hudson, in association with Violette Editions is available for £75

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