The legacy of British expats on Hong Kong’s jewellery scene

© Written by Rachael Taylor for The Financial Times

In 1972, Marcia Lanyon left a job in London with society jeweller John Donald and followed her husband to Hong Kong, where he was working for airline Cathay Pacific. Ms Lanyon says: “As an expat spouse, you were just expected to take up flower arranging, but I was always pretty ambitious.”

Instead of conforming to expat life, she took a job in a “grim” jewellery factory in North Point as a gem buyer, but after the glamour of London’s elite jewellery circles, she did not last long. She quit and started a business out of her home, giving gemmological courses to small classes of bored expat housewives and curious Chinese students. Ms Lanyon stayed in Hong Kong for just three years (“my husband hated it”) but she has been widely credited as the founder of gemmological education in the city — and a role model for the generations of jewellers, local and expat, who have followed her.

“Hong Kong was a big centre for jewellery . . . yet when I arrived, you could count the number of gemmologists on one hand,” says Ms Lanyon, who is retiring after almost 40 years at her wholesale coloured gemstone company. She observed gems passing hands without any form of grading or understanding of their value. “My argument was that people would pay more if they knew what they were getting.”…

This story was originally published in the September 28, 2017, edition of The Financial Times. Read the full story here. Main image: Nathalie Melville © FT.

 

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