It has been nearly six months since I published an open letter talking about the barriers that affect Black jewellers in the UK jewellery industry.
I am just a small jeweller who wanted to see change. I had a small following – about 1,000 Instagram followers in May this year. Now I have more than 3,000. All I did was use my voice.
In the past six months, the most difficult thing was the racism I experienced online and people circulating nasty rumours about me in the jewellery trade. Some suggested openly in forums that I was only talking about racism to further my own career. Others even falsely suggested I was embezzling the money from the hardship fund I set up.
Jewellery designer Kassandra Lauren Gordon
Many jewellery organisations called me to discuss measures they wanted to take to address diversity issues, but I’m not some kind of priest who can make this all go away if you just tell me about it. Many of those organisations, as far as I can see, have never followed up on what they claimed they would do.
The Goldsmiths’ Company is a notable exception. It has administered the Kassandra Lauren Gordon Fund, which was created through crowdfunding to provide financial aid to Black jewellers as well as mentorship.
The Goldsmiths’ Company also enabled research into the challenges Black jewellers face, so now there is evidence to act as the starting point for discussion and action. Writing the report and being involved in the survey, which has now been released, were very challenging experiences. It was emotionally draining. It was hard to hear the challenges and the experiences Black jewellers were reporting.
Kassandra Lauren Gordon in the audience during a talk at The Jewellery Cut Live in February 2020
Naturally, I was reflecting on my own experiences, questioning: ‘Why does it have to be so hard learning and making jewellery? Where is the fun?’ Because I do love it.
The findings of the report do not surprise me at all. Upon sharing the results with the Black jewellers who participated in the survey and social research report, they were also not surprised at the results.
Race has been overstudied, and anyone can do a quick Google search to educate themselves. The effects of racism have knocked my confidence and impacted how I interact with people in the jewellery trade, even 10 years into my career. The report I have authored offers a lot of graphic details on how Black jewellers have been treated in the trade, but for non-Black jewellery professionals such things might be a shock.
After all this, I am optimistic that conditions will improve. Amidst all the testimony, we see that in the past it was worse than it is now, so there’s nothing to say the future can’t be better yet.
Kassandra Lauren Gordon viewing the jewellery of Deborah Blyth at The Jewellery Cut Live in February 2020
Five things I have learned since starting this journey in June 2020
Regardless of whether you have good intentions, how robust your arguments are or how smooth your delivery, you will always have critics.
You are never ‘too small’ to make a point that other people, even a lot of people, will accept.
The jewellery designer-maker community is awesome.
Empathy is the oxygen in the room. Everyone is at a different place and has different experiences. People don’t necessarily disagree because they’re bad or mean harm. Have more empathy for people who have just become aware of racism or have just started their anti-racism journey. Some people are not there yet at all, and that can be hard, but that doesn’t mean they won’t change in the future.
I want to be known for my jewellery rather than my activism.