Q&A: Vivien Johnston, Fifi Bijoux

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Ethical champion on Scottish gold, business partners and Beyonce.

Vivien Johnston is a busy lady. Not only does she run ethical jewellery brand Fifi Bijoux from an eco-friendly office in Scotland (the Fifi Bijoux website is apparently powered by wind), but she has also been doing some consulting work for a Scottish goldmine and generally being a great ambassador for all kinds of ethical jewellery practices, plus winning a place as a Trailblazer in the Professional Jeweller Hot 100 2012 in association with The CMJ. She talks to us about clean gold, searching for a business partner and the joys of losing yourself with Beyonce.

Professional Jeweller: 2012 is almost over. What have been your best bits?
Vivien Johnston: Discovering that I can live happily without caffeine after being a hard-boiled caffeine-junkie for 20 years, and seeing the meaningful progress being made by the jewellery industry to shift the ethical agenda into mainstream and not the reserve of a niche market perception.

PJ: You’ve worked as a consultant with ScotGold Resources, the company currently trying to get a Scottish gold mine into production. What did it feel like when the idea of Scottish gold suddenly became a reality?
VJ: I was in Sri Lanka at the time when I got the text the votes had gone in favour of the mine in 2011. I was delighted, I know how many people had been waiting for that moment for a long time. It was a landmark moment, for Scotgold, for the jewellery industry and for the community.

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PJ: What has been the feedback from your peers and consumers about Scottish gold?
VJ: There’s a great feeling of excitement and anticipation. Basically the feedback is ‘how soon can I get some?’.

PJ: How did you get involved with ScotGold Resources and the Scottish gold mine project?
VJ: I rocked up at the ScotGold offices in about 2008 asking questions about the environmental impact and proposed mining methods. I saw a project which had taken 20 years of commitment, a community who not only accepted but were passionately behind the mine – a rare occurrence indeed – and an enviable line-up of best-practise standard proposals using clean and efficient modern technology. I was very excited at what this meant for UK jewellers and for the local economy. However, the initial refusal for planning permission of the mine in 2010 was galling. I once again contacted Chris to see how we could collaborate to show planners how important it was for the industry to have sources of gold from clean gold mines, which also could offer full traceability as well, of course, as its particular significance to the Scottish consumer.

PJ: How do you organise your working life?
VJ: Time is always tricky. I discovered checking my email every other day doesn’t actually make any difference to anyone, for the majority, but gives me more time, rather than having it always flashing messages at me. I’ve started using Cloud online storage for stuff which means I can get hold of documents and images anywhere in the world without being tied to my PC. Boring, but that stuff helps.

PJ: Are you an optimist or a pessimist?
VJ: A friend sent me a thing on Facebook recently with a “That’s you, that is” message. It was a joke that said: My shrink placed half a glass of water in front of me and asked if I was an optimist or a pessimist. So, I drank the water and told him I was a problem-solver.

PJ: How do you embrace down time, when you’re not consumed with problem solving?
VJ: Ballet lessons for discipline and focus, Zumba and Beyonce dancing for remembering not to take self too seriously.

PJ: What are your plans for your Fifi Bijoux ethical jewellery brand in 2013?
VJ: Actually, I want to bring in some fresh creativity to the brand so I can concentrate on supply chain and sourcing. It’s been an exciting year; getting the Fairtrade Fairmined Gold into production, being the first jeweller to sign the Charter for Fair Gems Process (coloured gemstones from Sri Lanka), becoming the UK re-seller for fully traceable diamonds for Open Source Mineral, and of course seeing Scottish gold stepping towards entering the market as a reality for 2013. It’s the time to find a business partner to take Fifi Bijoux to the next level.

 

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