GIA Commencement Address
On May 24th, I had the incredible honor of delivering the commencement address at the GIA graduation of the most recent class of Graduate Gemologists. The experience was incredible and gave me an opportunity to reflect on my own path and experiences at GIA.
Below are my remarks from the day. I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I enjoyed my time at GIA and love being a part of this world of gems!
May 24th, 2019, 3:00pm:
Good afternoon. My name is Eve Streicker. I am the owner of Original Eve Designs, a custom fine jewelry company located here in New York and I am also the President Elect of the Metro New York Chapter of the Women’s Jewelry Association, an industry organization with the objective of advancing women in the jewelry and watch industry through education, networking, and leadership development.
It is an incredible honor to be here with you today and to welcome GIA’s most recent class of Graduate Gemologists to the Jewelry Industry.
It wasn’t so long ago that I was at GIA, receiving my GG. Getting my GG was a bit of an accident. After getting a Bachelor’s in Art History from Williams, working in development at museums, I found myself as the assistant to the Curator of Contemporary Jewelry at the Museum of Arts and Design. She encouraged me to get a Master’s degree and so I went for my Master’s of Fine Arts in Metal/Jewelry/CAD-CAM at Tyler School of Art. During the summer of graduate school, I worked for a small antique and vintage store here in the city and I absolutely fell in love with my clients and the diamonds. I decided that after I finished my MFA, I would study diamonds—just diamonds—here in New York.
Only a few weeks behind the microscope alongside an incredible class of Graduate Diamond students and I was hooked. I credit my instructor, the late great Craig Nass with forever altering my trajectory.
Craig Nass was an incredible, passionate teacher with jewelry in his blood. He was a man with the ability to connect with and help each and every person in my diamond class feel like they could achieve their full potential.
How many of you have heard of the Black Orlov diamond? Craig’s father created the setting for that stone and when Craig was a kid, his father would take the jewel back to polish it before the owners wore it annually to a gala. Craig remembered this because he was the decoy and security. Once a year, he was taken out of school on that day to walk hand in hand with his father from the owner’s vault to his father’s workshop with the jewelry slipped into his pocket, nodding to security positioned along the way. Just a casual father-son stroll with a priceless 67.5-carat cursed diamond in his pocket!
I know most of you did not have the pleasure of knowing Craig before he died last year, but I think what he taught me and all of his students carries true for all of the instructors I had and have met at GIA. They introduce us to a world of legend and lore in a personal, tangible way.
At the end of my diamond course, I was at a loss for what to do next. I had come to GIA thinking I was just taking a class, but in those short weeks, I discovered a whole new world. Craig pulled me out of class one day towards the end of diamonds. He sat me down and told me I was good at this. Really good at this. He told me I owed it to myself to get my GG.
With two weeks notice, I moved across the country to Carlsbad where I completed my GG and Graduate Pearls. The experience in Carlsbad was exactly what you experienced here in New York during your GG, except I did my readings on the beach, had bonfires next to rolling waves with my peers, toured tourmaline mines on weekends, and we had cocktail parties at the GIA museum with industry leaders. Other than that, our experiences were exactly the same.
It was actually one of these cocktail parties that turned into the best thing that happened to my career.
That night, I was standing next to a man who said some inane comment that my smart mouth couldn’t help by respond to. When I turned around and looked at him (after I said my rude thing, of course) I saw he was wearing a lapel brooch that looked like a chameleon… and it was made entirely out of alexandrite rough. He was someone. He and the man standing with him laughed. And then they said my humor would be appreciated by someone. Then they introduced me to Doug Hucker, the CEO of AGTA and the person who became my mentor.
That night Doug gave me two pieces of advice that I would like to share with you.
He told me: 1) Make your business cards annoyingly larger than everyone else’s so it stands out in the pile and 2) Join WJA.
Join WJA. I can't emphasize this enough. It is a community and a community is a great place to start the relationships you will need to succeed in this industry.
Since I received my GG in 2013, an incredible number of things have happened:
o I moved back across the country
o I worked in Rhode Island as an estate buyer
o I moved to New York to work for an independent jewelry designer
o I worked for the Jewelry Department at Phillip’s auction house
o I was the Education Specialist at Tiffany and Co, writing their internal curriculum on diamonds, gemstones, and training employees selling bridal and Blue Book pieces.
o I worked at The RealReal for a RealReal hot second, which pushed me to do what I do and love now…
o I own my own business and am honored to be the next President of WJA’s largest chapter: New York Metro.
All of those things would not have happened without Craig Nass, so I just want to take a minute to thank your instructors for being your Craigs and exposing you to the beginning of what I am sure will be an eventful few years in all of your lives.
As instructors, they do incredibly generous work not only for their students, but for the rest of us in the industry. They are training and inspiring our newest peers. Thank you.
So what does it mean to be in the Industry?
This is a remarkable industry that is built entirely on beauty and love.
Let’s think about what we do:
We pull rocks and other precious materials out of the earth, cut and fashion them so they capture light and glow with rich color. We take these beautiful objects and put them together in combinations and arrangements that please the eye and are comfortably worn on the body.
We connect these objects to our clients who are all in love. They are always in love. They love someone else and are giving these objects as an expression of love. They are in love with their own achievements and are celebrating a milestone. They receive the jewel from a loved one who has passed and they can celebrate the love and memory they have for that person through the object… It’s all about beauty and love.
So what does that mean for the people in this industry?
It means we are in it and stay in it because of passion.
We have passion for the science, for the art, for the beauty, for the people who are our clients, for the people who are our industry family… You don’t go into this trade because you have a tangible goal. You enter the jewelry industry because you LOVE it. You stay in the industry because you LOVE it. And you thrive in this industry because you LOVE it.
My hope for you is that you get to a point in your careers where when someone asks you what your goal is for your career, you are able to say with complete confidence that your goal is to continue doing what you love, with people you love, for people in love.
You will meet many people who have never met a gemologist before. You are now in a special club. You speak a unique and rare language.
You understand (and like) jokes like this: What did the chubby gemologist drink with his lunch? (sodalite)
Someone asked me if I thought this latest class of GGs would succeed. I told them: "OF QUARTZ THEY WILL!"
When I graduated from GIA, I felt a huge amount of accomplishment, more so than with my Bachelor’s or Master’s Degrees. There are very few challenges in life that necessitate 100% accuracy and mastery of a situation.
You will step out into your respective paths as dealers, vendors, manufacturers, designers and many other important roles within the industry and you will crave the days when with a few tests, you could have a definitive answer.
Unfortunately, you wont have a clear path in this industry because there are so few opportunities for a right answer after taking your twenty stone. This is a fact that has continually baffled my friends and peers in other industries. I feel like I have had this conversation so many times:
“But how did you get where you are?”
“I don’t know. It was a series of tests and decisions”
“But how did you know how to get where you are?”
“I didn’t. I just kept going.”
“But where are you going?”
(Pause….) “The same place I go every day… To 47th Street!”
There are so few career choices in this field that are hierarchical. You can’t plot from point A to point B. You can’t work X number of hours to get a promotion or a raise.
You and I know that there is a bit of beauty in not being able to discern the line in the spectrometer. What I mean by beauty is: You can find a definitive answer with another test (well, for everything except dyed jadeite).
This is an important lesson:
If the RI, SG, fluorescence, and inclusions all tell you what the stone is, sometimes you don’t need the spectrometer (unless it’s dyed jadeite).
Sometimes the training that you received here will surprise you. You will know without any question, without any doubt, that what you hold in your hand and the opportunity you have in front of you is remarkable and you will know what the answer is because you have enough information to trust your gut.
I know that the confidence you have when that line appears is remarkably satisfying, but here's something GIA doesn't teach you: You don’t need 100% accuracy to be correct. You do not need to know where you are going. You do not need to have your path mapped out. Sometimes you can just be walking to 47th Street and things will make themselves clear.
Welcome to the industry. Welcome to our weird little club. You are a part of an industry that operates like a family. Handshakes are well and good, but when you start to go to industry events, you will see that the typical greeting is a hug and a huge smile. There is warmth in this industry that is unrivaled.
You are part of an industry that is built on trust and relationships. In no other field can you “borrow” hundreds of thousands of dollars on a handshake and a hug. You can slip hundreds of thousands of dollars into your pocket and walk down the street.
In no other industry, will you meet people who are as passionate and inspired as you will meet in the jewelry industry.
And, now that you are GGs, you need to get out into the industry. Talk to people. Be your authentic selves. Make large business cards and join WJA. Don’t be scared to quit and try something new. Just promise yourselves to continue to learn and to do everything you do with passion.
Congratulations on your huge achievement and cheers to your long and prosperous careers making, selling, and trading beautiful things within an industry of passionate people who are sure to welcome you with hugs and warm smiles. Congratulations and thank you for having me.