Legacy of Leadership

“GIA alone is such a vast and in-depth repository of knowledge.”

Richa Goyal Sikri, Creative Strategist, Journalist, Photographer and storyteller specialising in gemstones, diamonds, vintage and contemporary jewellery

Your LinkedIn profile describes you as a “Creative Strategist, journalist, storyteller specialising in gemstones, diamonds, mining, contemporary and vintage jewellery and a curator of educational gem and jewellery travel experiences.” Before you branched off in pursuit of your passion in gems and jewellery, you pursued a career in the aviation and tourism industry. Can you talk a little bit about how you discovered your passion for gems and jewellery? And, how has your journey in the industry so far?

In 2017, I had my first brush with the gemstone industry at the ICA Congress in Jaipur. Back then, I was unknown in the industry and knew no one. It has been an unbelievable journey that started around 2010 when I almost got cheated while buying a ruby necklace. This incident triggered my curiosity for coloured stones and led me on a quest to learn more.

It was around that time that I moved to Singapore and met a French gemmologist who wanted to visit sapphire mines in Sri Lanka. I organised a trip, despite having no connections in mining or knowing much about mines myself. This marked the beginning of my fascination with gemstones and my involvement in the industry. In 2014, I curated an educational trip, and that’s when I became a gemstone addict, falling under the spell of precious stones.

In 2016, I created my very own Instagram account, intending it to be my personal social scrapbook where I could curate and share my encounters with gems. The following year, I made my account public. Alongside these adventurous experiences, I also enrolled in the GIA distance education course, gaining formal education in gemstones.

Fast forward to 2020, and I was commissioned by Gemfields, a renowned company, to write a book, curating historical moments and the human stories behind the discovery of coloured stones deposits in Africa.

Typically, individuals begin their journey as students and eventually make their way to a mine. My path, however, took a different course. I started directly at the mine and gradually maneuvered my way back into the industry.

Young consumers are said to be choosing brands that embrace responsible sourcing across almost all product categories. Can you explain what these terms – ethical and responsible sourcing mean? How does the gem and jewellery industry – particularly coloured stones – measure up to the expectations from them on this count?

The topic of responsible sourcing, ethical sourcing, and sustainable sourcing is often discussed in the industry, and it can be quite confusing. Personally, I find “responsible sourcing” to be a more fitting term in today’s industry compared to “ethical” or “sustainable” sourcing.

When it comes to sustainability, I struggle to comprehend how it applies to gemstones since they are finite resources. Once a deposit is depleted, it’s gone. Therefore, it’s crucial to clarify what we mean when we use the term “sustainability” in this context.

In an interview I conducted with Feriel Zerouki, President, World Diamond Council (WDC), she explained that responsible sourcing means meeting international standards. Ethical sourcing takes it a step further by incorporating best practices in social responsibility, human rights, and labour practices. Sustainably-sourced gems encompass all of that and additionally focus on providing enduring socio-economic benefits, environmental protection, and longevity beyond the life of the mine. This distinction highlights the various levels of responsibility within the gemstone industry and emphasises the importance of considering factors such as sustainability and lasting positive impact.

In my view, responsibility and responsible behaviour in the industry resemble a layered cake. The foundation of this cake should be the integrity of what we sell. Before we delve into the origins and sourcing of stones, we must ensure proper disclosure to customers, employees, and the community. It’s essential to disclose accurate information about the stones, including treatments they may have undergone. This introspective phase should precede the exploration of external sources and their responsibility in the supply chain.

Your unique storytelling style lies at the intersection of education and entertainment – or edutainment as it’s called. A strong knowledge of the subject combined with a flair for sharing compelling narratives is crucial for success on social media. What’s your advice for the jewellery designers wanting to tell engaging stories to the consumer?

The biggest challenge for jewellery designers on social media is dealing with copycats. Many designers struggle with how to share their designs and products without it being copied. It’s a common concern, even I have experienced my content being copied repeatedly. To address this issue, there are a few approaches to consider.

Firstly, designers need to accept it and must have a strong brand story. They should understand that customers buying from copycats are not their intended clients. For example, an Indian company based in Jaipur has iconic designs that are often copied, but those purchasing the imitations are not their target audience. Accepting this reality is one way to navigate the challenge.

Alternatively, if jewellery designers are hesitant to share their designs on social media, they can focus on sharing their inspiration and creative process. Talking about what inspires them, such as specific architecture, and showcasing their creative process through videos and visuals can engage viewers without revealing the entire piece. Creative storytelling techniques and visually appealing content can provide a sense of the jewellery without giving away too much.

Also, overthinking is a common issue among content creators, including myself. Sometimes, simplicity and authenticity resonate better with the audience than meticulously crafted posts. Putting oneself in the viewer’s shoes is crucial to capturing attention. In today’s age of instant gratification, where people multitask and consume content simultaneously. Finding ways to stand out amidst the constant stream of information is essential.

Every legacy business has core values that keep it rooted. Through ‘Gem Journeys’, you would have come across many national and international legacy brands. What according to you are those core values that perpetuate the legacy of a brand across generations of businesses and consumers?

In my experience, the foundation of any successful company in the gem and jewellery industry lies in self-realisation. It’s crucial to know who you are as a brand and what resonates with your customers. Protecting the core values should be the first step, ensuring that the essence of the company remains intact.

As a second-generation entrepreneur in the aviation and tourism sector, I understand the desire of the new generation to make their mark and contribute something meaningful. To facilitate this, it’s essential to provide them with independent projects that align with the brand’s values and vision. Gradually building on these initiatives can help them carve their own path while maintaining the brand’s identity.

Excerpts taken from GIA India’s Legacy of Leadership Knowledge Series interview conducted live on Zoom. Attendance by invitation only. Register on collective.GIA.edu as GIA alumni to get notified about upcoming events.

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