Wouldn’t it be easy to assume that any child of a jeweler would have several pieces she can call her own? Believe it or not, the opposite is true for me and my sisters, as I could recall the jewelry I’ve had since I was a child – a couple of pieces of ID jewelry and two pairs of cute, barely-there baby earrings. That pretty much made up my “jewelry collection” until my teens, because though it would have been easy for our parents to just hand us any piece of jewelry we want, their response to every “Can I have that?” always has been, “Sure, pay up!” with an open palm gesture to match.
If there’s any one piece of jewelry my mom eventually gave me that I was always so attached to, it would definitely be a pair of diamond studs I received when I was 18. My older sisters received similar pairs as they each came of age. However, although the earrings were a sort of rite of passage for us, they could at any moment be put up for sale, if a client were so inclined. It was heartbreak for me when I had to part with my favorite pair.
Now we all have an understanding that anything we wear is up for grabs. The rule can be quite funny, especially when we have to give up the jewelry we currently have on. It has happened to me, my mom, and my sisters all in one day – believe me!
Growing up, my mom made sure we understood the nature of the business, whenever she could. Some vacations were also partly business trips. We would go abroad to meet the suppliers. On Sundays at our old home, my sisters and I would help string beads. My mom would also ask for our thoughts on her sketches. I grew up in and with JMA Jewelry. Our workshop was literally steps away from where we used to live. It was the playground I spent the afternoons of my childhood in. The goldsmiths, the stonesetters, and the other staff – they were my friends. They’d pick me up from school and I’d sell them crinkles that I would bake. That’s just the kind of relationship I have with the company. I have no complaints: I love this company and much of the life I enjoy now is because of the work my parents put into it.
It was never a requirement for me and my sisters to immediately and solely work for JMA. In fact, both my sisters dove into the corporate world and put up their own ventures before even setting foot in the family business. But I always knew I wanted a fashion-related job, so immediately joining our business sat well with me. I started working for JMA Jewelry in 2015 to oversee operations and production, just weeks after I graduated from university. Since then, my work has expanded; it now involves sales, grading diamonds, and sourcing materials (such as gemstones and gold pieces) abroad. My job is all-around and extremely hands-on—that’s really how it has to be because working with jewelry is tricky. It’s a very personal business where trust is of the highest importance, so being aware of every aspect in the company is an absolute must.
Last year, I went abroad to take a Graduate Diamonds course, the first component of a two-part gemology diploma course with the Gemological Institute of America (GIA). The course on diamonds took only two months, but it was so tiring and tedious. The hours were long and attendance was strict, but the hardest part was really having to grade so many diamonds. Looking at them under the microscope or through a loupe, measuring facets and proportions, searching for and identifying inclusions—it was challenging. My eyes were so overworked that by the end of the course, the grade of my glasses had gone up.
I didn’t even think there would be this much to learn about diamonds, but it was all worth it because I now have the confidence to talk about one of the most precious objects there is. And as to where I’ll be taking the second half of the course—studying colored stones—and getting my full Gemologist title has yet to be decided on, but New York and Thailand are two destinations that excite me most.
It took awhile for me to truly appreciate the most intricate and elaborate of fine jewelry. It’s funny because as the daughter of a jewelry designer, you’d think that I would have always been into all that. I was the stick-to-the-classics and the-simpler-the-better kind of girl, and it’s only recently that I’ve come to enjoy picking out and piling on unusual kinds of jewelry.
My appreciation for such pieces started with my mom’s ferris wheel earrings. Now, I’m obsessed with a pair of baroque pearl studs I immediately had made at our workshop, soon after I saw the pearls during a jewelry show. This was such a surprise to many because for the longest time, I was never attracted to pearls; now I see the character and edge in baroques. I think the sudden liking for more unique pieces came with how I would see our goldsmiths put so much effort into creating jewelry. My constant exposure to their work has made me realize how much of an art jewelry design and jewelry making is.
In the future, my sisters and I want to come up with our own line of sorts—a jewelry starter kit for people our age that would help them see the value in investing in jewelry. So aside from our own dreams and goals (personally, I want to own a concept store for clothing someday), we’ll be working on the side to educate a younger audience on the significance of fine jewelry. After all, the most rewarding aspect of being in this industry is seeing other people enjoy their purchases.
I love jewelry for three reasons – how they’re made, why they’re bought, and what they do to the wearer. How nature formed these precious gemstones and how they’re worked into art is absolutely fascinating, how they always seem to be gifts (either to a loved one or for one’s self) make them special, and how they transform the wearer with glow and the feeling of being adorned is, really, such a sight to see.
Sittings by Mags Ocampo