Hot 100 2013: Harry Levy

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From maths to gems: celebrating 50 years in the UK jewellery industry.

You could probably spend about half an hour introducing Harry Levy, such is his illustrious pedigree and such is the potential for twisting your tongue over the various bodies he has served on and presided over.

Right now he is president of the London Diamond Bourse, having previously served as vice president as well as having held the chair of the British Jewellers’ Association. He has also served on the Coloured Stone Commission, the International Diamond Council and helped promote World Jewellery Confederation CIBJO.

He gives all of this time for free, and in his own diamond 75th year of life what more appropriate time to celebrate him? Over the past year he has worked hard to raise the profile of the LDB and he currently also represents it at the World Federation of Diamond Bourses – a sort of diamond UN in Geneva.

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Now boasting more than 50 years’ experience, if you want some perspective on the trade you can’t do better than Harry. He is the man the media speak to – from the BBC and CNN to Sky and the Telegraph – when they need an expert on conflict diamonds, synthetic stones or the jewellery economy.

The anecdote-popping septuagenarian is open and free with his advice. He says: “What the industry needs is better education. And more truth telling – you never lose a sale by telling the customer the truth. The more they understand, the better.

If you explain heat-treated sapphires to a customer they’ll either buy the £500 treated or go for the £2,000 natural one. And what’s more, they’ll trust you too.”

He warns the West is now well on its way to becoming a consumer bloc for the ever-improving Far East manufacturers and must cherish its young designers, but they in turn must realise that they have to move fast and innovate all the time to succeed – their good designs will be copied or “translated” and they’ll need newness all the time.

Harry’s own career was a story of innovation. He graduated with a degree in maths and became a teacher but started dabbling in gem trading, which slowly engulfed him to the point where “he couldn’t afford to teach anymore” because the gem trading was taking up more time.

His innovation was to spot the rise of the supermarkets and apply it to gems. “The idea of doing it all under one roof was new and up until then you only had specialists – an opal dealer, a ruby dealer, an emerald dealer, etcetera.”

It was successful for a long time but trade slowed and eventually shifted to the Far East. But the business persists and is mostly run by his son Dan Levy now. “I tell him he reminds me of me at his age but I’m not sure if he’s happy about the implications of what he might turn into,” he laughs.

To say he remains active is possibly an understatement. As well as his official and voluntary work he also writes for magazines and collects stamps. This he does on a theme. He started collecting stamps with gemstones on and moved on to ones with jewellery, then ivory, then elephants. There is a trade association for philatelists but don’t tell Harry, he’ll probably take it over and we want to keep him to ourselves.

Harry Levy was selected as a CMJ Business Big Shot in the Professional Jeweller Hot 100 2013 in association with The Company of Master Jewellers. To read a digital version of the book in full online, click here.
 

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