A tete-a-tete with Joanna Hardy – A woman who knows it all about gemstones

In an industry prominently filled with the male gender, it’s almost refreshing to witness a feminine touch. With an interesting experience of over 30 years, Joanna Hardy began her career as a goldsmith before progressing to become a rough diamond valuer and grader. After working in Antwerp, Joanna was one of the first few women to trade and deal in polished diamond markets such as Antwerp, Tel Aviv, Mumbai and New York. Her flourishing portfolio further entailed job descriptions such as an auctioneer at London’s renowned auction house Phillips and a 14 year stint at Sotheby’s as a senior jewellery specialist and auctioneer.

In addition to being an Independent Fine Jewellery Specialist; Joanna also administers Jewellery Master Classes and lectures worldwide. Her cap of feathers also include self-written published books such as ‘Collect Contemporary Jewelry‘, ‘Emerald’ and ‘Ruby’ published by Thames and Hudson, and a contributing author for ‘Cartier Panthère’ published by Assouline and GRAFF published by Rizzoli.

Joanna curates Contemporary Jewellery selling exhibitions, and is an accredited Arts Society lecturer (formerly NADFAS), a Fellow of the Gemmological Association, Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, a Freeman of the City of London, a Liveryman of the Goldsmiths Hall and is a regular jewellery specialist on the BBC Antiques Roadshow.

LL – What attracted you to writing about gemstones?
Joanna Hardy – I have always found gemstones fascinating, particularly looking into them and seeing the tiny world of inclusions contained within. Having trained as a gemmologist, my appreciation for gemstones has only increased; every stone is unique and their colours can evoke so many different emotions in people. Though many books have been written about diamonds and pearls, I felt that coloured gemstones should also have the attention they deserved, so I started writing Emerald and then Ruby.

– After the success of Emerald, what can readers and fans expect with your new book Ruby?
Ruby is a much more ambitious book than Emerald; I spent two years researching the pieces and places I thought were important to include and I was lucky enough to travel to ruby mines and markets in Myanmar, Cambodia, Thailand and Mozambique. The Travelogue section of the book I think makes the story of ruby even richer. Ruby also includes some of the most revered historic ruby-set jewellery from across the world, as well as contemporary designers who are creating ruby pieces that will also become as influential. It is a book that brings together gemmology, geology, history, the highest craftsmanship and incredible design; there is something for everyone to enjoy.

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– All the major brands focus on diamonds and very less on precious stones? How and why should this change?
I think the big jewellery houses have already started to appreciate the beauty of coloured gemstones and the instant attraction we all feel to certain colours. Through education about the importance and rarity of rubies, emeralds and sapphires, as well as other gemstones like spinel, these brands and their clients can only be further drawn to using coloured stones.

– Does the color of a gemstone reflect the personality of the person? kindly give your views on it.
Colour is the most important aspect of a gemstone for me. Everyone has a certain colour that really speaks to them and makes them feel great when they wear it or see it. For me, a bold red makes me feel empowered and I love wearing jewellery set with rubies, spinels and garnets.

– How do you think jewelry design in respect to gemstones has changed in the past decade?
I think designers are becoming more confident in using coloured gemstones instead of solely white diamonds; even the price of top quality coloured gemstones has completely overtaken that of top quality white diamonds. As consumers appreciate coloured stones more, so too do designers. I think designers are also becoming bolder in the colour combinations and the shapes of their jewellery: people want something exciting and to stand out!

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– Which is that one piece of jewelry that made Joanna’s jaw drop.
Earlier this year, I was lucky enough to hold Van Cleef&Arpel’s famous Peony clip. The flower’s leaves are set with diamonds, but the most striking detail is the bright red flower, created with lines of calibré-cut rubies in Van Cleef&Arpel’s iconic Mystery Setting. The stones are set so close together that the flower is like velvet. Even though these stones are small, they are still so vibrant, which is a sign of their high quality. The really intriguing part of the Peony clip’s story is that it was originally part of a pair that could be interlocked to create one large clip, or worn separately; sadly the location of the other half is now unknown. I would love to see both parts together one day!

– India has such a rich history when it comes to gemstones. Which company would the best example that has best transcended the designs from the Maharajas?
There are lots of very talented jewellery designers and craftspeople in India at the moment. I particularly like how Bina Goenka uses the natural tabular shape of the Mozambique rubies she works with to align them side-by-side, creating seamless colour. I think her respect for the natural beauty of these stones and their colour is a trait that the Mughals and Maharajas would have shared too. I am also a big fan of the work of BHAGAT, which is always centred on how light can be used to best show the colour of the gemstones, with as little interference from the metal settings as possible.

– Do gemstones make for an attractive investment?
Good quality coloured gemstones will always be attractive, but I believe gemstones should be bought to be worn and enjoyed, rather than purely as an investment. So many external factors can influence the price of gemstones, but if you choose a jewel you love then it will always be the right purchase.

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