To celebrate International Women‘s Day on March 8, PJ recognises four professionals working in the industry blazing a trail for women across the jewellery sector through innovation, creativity and a fierce entrepreneurial spirit.
The jeweller took the bull by the horns last year with a frank open letter in the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement, almost single-handedly holding the UK jewellery industry to account over its problems with racism.
Kassandra Lauren Gordon started her eponymous jewellery brand six years ago, but has been in the industry for the past decade.
Trained in Hatton Garden, she now produces her ethical fine jewellery from a studio in Hackney in East London.
In addition to being a small, independent jewellery brand, she found the time during the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic to champion the wave of the Black Lives Matter movement, holding the jewellery industry to account with an open letter in which she wrote: “In my opinion, the jewellery industry is not as diverse as it could be, and it is not inclusive for black people. I will go even further and say that the industry is not welcoming to black people.”
She recalled cases of “unsavoury words” and other rude behaviours among her fellow industry professionals, along with more serious incidents such as false accusations of theft.
Demanding change, Gordon suggested that both individuals and organisations needed to do more to aid black people working in jewellery.
Showing she was willing to practice what she preached, Gordon set up a GoFundMe page. With the help of the Goldsmiths’ Company Charity, the Kassandra Lauren Gordon fund delivered grants of £1,000 with the goal of fostering business growth for the 21 black jeweller recipients.
Several months on, Gordon has taken a step back from the role of activist, campaigner and spokesperson for black jewellers in the UK.
“It was a lot on me,” she explains. “To receive the racism and backlash was very upsetting.” She also fears that not enough has changed as a result of the movement. Now, Gordon is spending more time focusing on “business strategy, art direction and designs,” she says.
Whatever Gordon does next, the industry is overwhelmingly grateful for her contribution, as shown by the slew of nominations she received for Professional Jeweller’s Women to Watch feature.
Elisabeth Barton of Lis B Design has nothing but praise for Gordon. In nominating Gordon, she says: “Kassandra took steps to give a voice to those who wanted to be heard.
“By creating the black jewellers survey, and producing a coherent account of experiences of BIPOC [black, indigenous and people of colour] jewellery artists.
The jewellery industry is not as diverse as it could be. I will go even further and say that the industry is not welcoming to black people.”
Kassandra has shown what the reality is in the jewellery industry. Doing all this alongside her jewellery making practice is an inspiration to show what you can achieve when you believe in something.
“To give her recognition for her diligence and work on this project will help keep the conversation going. This can truly make steps for change to happen within our industry.”
Gordon, a former youth worker and domestic violence worker, is not completely apolitical nowadays. She has a simple answer to the question of what the industry can do to improve equality: “Empathy. Lots of empathy.”
Finally, asked how she will be marking International Women’s Day this year, she responds happily: “I will be listening to a woman-focused music playlist, listening to women’s inspirational speeches, and wearing something purple.”