Naturally, you need to have a passion for jewellery, and an appreciation of beauty. You should also have a sharp eye and pay attention to detail. Jewellery specialists gauge their products with a loop, and Giam says you have to be good with your hands.
Jewellery experts should maintain a good relationship with their clients. So it is important that they are sociable and have good presentation skills.
If you work as a jewellery specialist at an auction house like Christie's, you'll have to travel a lot and work long hours.
A gemmology qualification is a must. The Gemmological Institute of America (GIA) has a campus on Queen's Road Central, and the Gemmological Association of Great Britain offers long-distance diplomas. They last six to eight months and are usually expensive, but they will give you the foundation and knowledge you need to start your career.
Giam studied arts and architecture before taking a GIA course. She says a background in arts and history can be very useful when researching and writing on a piece of jewellery. For a Hong Kong expert, it is important to master English, Cantonese and Putonghua. A knowledge of other languages is always an advantage.
Jewellery specialists' salaries depend on their area of expertise, experience and qualifications. According to Aditya Nanavati, the head of the Hong Kong office for Firestone Diamond, a jewellery sales assistant can expect to start at HK$8,000 to HK$12,000 a month. Sales assistants also earn commissions based on overall sales which can potentially double their income.
Hong Kong's jewellery market is expanding, so the experts can choose from a variety of jobs. They can work for jewellery brands like Van Cleef & Arpels or Chow Tai Fook, join family jewellery shops or set up their own business. They may also become lab or research professionals, manufacturers or, like Giam, an auction house jewellery specialist.
Giam started off as an intern at Christie's in London. After her internship, she joined the jewellery department as an administrative assistant. And after eight months, she was offered a job as a jewellery specialist in Hong Kong. Then she took a GIA course which helped improve her knowledge about jewellery and develop a passion for her job.
As she gains more experience, Giam will have to take on more responsibilities. Eventually, auction house jewellery experts can become department heads. Some people with a lot of experience start their own jewellery firms or become teachers or writers. For Giam, the best thing about her job is the memories of the unique pieces of jewellery that have passed through her hands.
A day at work
Besides meeting clients and estimating how much their jewellery is worth, Giam does some research and writes about the upcoming auction.
Christie's conducts two auctions a year. Before each auction, Giam has to travel around the world to collect pieces of jewellery, and compile a book about what makes them special. She will then visit places like New York, Geneva, Singapore, Thailand and Japan to show the products to potential buyers. The jewellery will be on display in Hong Kong for four to five days just before the big sale. Giam has to deal with a lot of clients who visit the city to check out the items before the "grand finale".
The auction will last five to seven hours. During this time, Giam is usually on the phone helping clients who are not able to attend the sale. The whole process lasts about five months, so thankfully there are only two auctions a year!