Bright jeweler

money-glitz | Crystal Wu 11 Dec 2020

The old and classic tune goes, "diamonds are a girl's best friend." But Ryder Diamonds' founder Sally Ryder takes this to her heart with a twist - by trying to become her clients' best friend.

An artistic child herself, the Australian was often inspired by her pilot father, who painted still life and took part in exhibitions as a hobby.

"He was the kind of person who would study to learn how something is put together," she recalls of her late father. "Similarly, I love to understand how something works, and I guess that's what I saw in the jewelry business - I felt like people should know how it works."

In what she described as "a little by-mistake and a little fate," Ryder's first encounter with the industry was a part time job back in university. "I applied for a sales job that had been posted on our university website, and with no actual background in sales, found myself selling diamonds."

Though she ended up pursuing a finance career right out of college and came to Hong Kong to work at a big-name bank, her heart was still set on starting a diamond business.

"It's not really the love of jewelry," she explained. "It's actually the love of creating an experience for people buying jewelry."

In her days as a diamond salesperson, Ryder found that many customers were ripped off as they did not understand the important factors behind a diamond's true value.

"I guess this is how most people buy diamond jewelry: they walk into a beautiful showroom, they see gorgeous pieces of jewelry in showcases and glitzy lights and they buy the product based on what they look like without any understanding on how they are buying the piece."

She noted that while people typically do research before investing a large sum on property or cars, it wasn't necessarily the case with diamond jewelry.

"The diamond industry is purposely elusive, and this is how luxury brands have gotten away with ludicrous prices."

Hong Kong has a rich heritage in jewelry with many aspiring jewelers, Ryder explained. Along with its tax-free policies, that creates a competitive jewelry market here, making it a haven for the diamond trade.

Though the city's glamorous status also meant the industry was already hugely saturated, Ryder identified a niche when she found rows and rows of the same styles and designs at jewelry fairs - mostly mass-produced and of low-quality.

"I felt what was really lacking was somewhere in the middle," she explained. "At one end there's the low-end mass-manufactured jewelry, and then there are the super-expensive, high-end luxury brands."

Ryder quit her job in 2009 to follow her heart and start Ryder Diamonds, even though she had just walked out of one of the lowest points in her life -- she had just recovered from tuberculosis and called off her wedding.

"It made me feel like life is short. If you don't go for your goals and really reach for the stars, it's now or never."

And it was also a time she had nothing to lose: "I could fail and nobody would get hurt."

Determined to succeed, she looked past the obstacles and focused on the potential.

"I wanted to create my business, to create something different - an opportunity where people can come and really understand what they are buying when they are investing in fine jewelry, and get an education on how to buy diamonds smartly," she explained.

"The philosophy of our business is separating the diamond purchase and the jewelry - understanding diamonds more as a commodity, rather than a branded item."

Ryder has also been hosting diamond masterclasses for a decade, though they recently moved online due to the pandemic.

"I really want consumers to understand that there should be a separation of the diamond and the jewelry - that is buying smart."

The brand provides a bespoke service, which helps clients realize their vision by combining a high-quality, handcrafted jewelry setting with a well-priced diamond.

Handcrafting is not only cheaper than mass-manufacturing when it comes to custom designs, but it also fulfills Ryder's hopes of keeping the artisanship alive.

All their designs are created by in-house artisans, making them the only jewelry atelier in Hong Kong to have their own workshop.

For those who are less artistically inclined or looking for a spur-of-the-moment Christmas gift, Ryder Diamonds also hosts an artisanal ready-to-wear collection.

"Whether it is an engagement ring, an anniversary gift or a push present, what's meaningful to me is the story behind the jewelry, rather than the actual piece itself."

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October 2021

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