Show Me Your Creds

Credentials.

Did you cringe when you read that word? If not, yours are probably more than sufficient to command respect in your field (or you simply don’t have any need for them). If you did, then welcome to the club.

We all know that in most businesses, it’s not just who you know and what you’ve done that matters. From your hiring manager and CEO to your own client base, people will grant you an automatic jump in trust and confidence if they see some form of alphabet soup on your business card. Often these suffixes designate levels of education completed or certifications received, which do have a certain amount of credibility attached — a doctor without the MD just isn’t a doctor — but they are rarely proof of talent or ability.

Growing up in a heavily academic-oriented household, I have always been aware of a singular fact: your credentials may get you a seat at the table, but they won’t help you keep it warm. Everyone has a story about Dr. So-and-so’s total inability to fill out an intake form and write the proper dosage of a prescription despite thirty years’ experience, two doctorate degrees, and a wing in the new hospital named after him. Yes, we nod sagely, he obviously looks great on paper, but he doesn’t really have what it takes.

In contrast, I feel that the Dr. So-and-sos of the world are the exception that proves the rule. Going through the standard educational pathways shouldn’t be considered merely as minimum qualifications, but as a starting point to a greater discussion about knowledge, practical application, and person’s developing interest in a field or fields.

Obviously this topic is on my mind as I work to pursue my own degree pathway, but it also factors into my current position as gemologist-in-training. Customers will occasionally ask what the “AJP” after my name means, usually followed immediately with “oh, does that mean you’re a gemologist?” Alas, I tell them, I’m in the midst of my studies and training, but haven’t yet achieved the coveted Double-Gs. When friends or family are doing the asking, I go into greater detail about my passion for evolving an industry that is at times stuck in its own past, my interest in learning alongside the great tastemakers of the current age, and my desire to make positive contributions to the industry as a whole.

Phew. That’s a whole lot of lofty goal-setting to combine with a GG and a current full-time job. But as I inch my way there, I keep the thought of earning my chair — and keeping it warm! — forefront in my mind.

Do You *Need* That Piece of Jewelry?

“Yes honey, it’s beautiful. But do you really need that ______?”

The above question, though almost exclusively used rhetorically, is possibly one of my least favorite customer habits. It’s taken years of practice with sarcastic students to maintain a neutral expression whenever I hear some version of this, mostly because we all know the answer:

No.

It took me a while to come to terms with it myself, but the answer is no. A person does not need jewelry, at least not in the sense that he or she needs the basic necessities of life. Or even in the way we might need a job, a car, a cell phone or computer.

Jewelry is the frosting on the cake of life*. It’s there to make what you already have a little brighter, to serve as a symbol of whatever you want it to, and to mark momentous or even everyday occasions with something tangible (and, let’s be real, something beautiful).

Jewelry does not generally possess meaning, it is given meaning by you.


Merely for the sake of satisfying my internal former teacher, I’ll support my claim with a counterclaim (a.k.a. The Exception): I do own a piece of jewelry that is necessary. My medical ID bracelet is as frankly ugly as you could imagine, but I wear it every day. Its utilitarian stainless steel and practical, no-frills design could potentially save my life, in the event I’m unconscious or unable to communicate with a medical professional. I resisted owning — let alone wearing — this bracelet for many years because I feared the stigma that I felt came with wearing one. I am not ill, or infirm, or in need of any special attention. But this little piece of chain link and engraved bar could be the difference between coming home and not, and so I wear it. I need it. It will save my life whether it’s made of steel or platinum, whether the red enamel has been retouched or not. But it still has meaning (and lifesaving properties!) only if I wear it.


I encourage all of my clients and customers to consider their jewelry purchases in light of the sentiments they will attach to them, and frequently acknowledge that ours is a luxury industry in truth — even the smallest token can be assigned the greatest meaning.

*Ahem, the {karat} cake of life! 🙂