Sparking joy & jobs

WORDSWORTH - Mons Romulo - The Philippine Star
Sparking joy & jobs
Jeweler Jesusa “Suzette” Malig Ayson.

Jesusa Malig Ayson, “Suzette” as she is fondly called, is a third-generation jeweler. Seeing her mom, Cora de Jesus Malig, sell jewelry and accompanying her to the plateros, sparked her curiosity about the trade.

“Good service and customer satisfaction was my mom’s main goal when dealing with clients,” shares Suzette. “Clients should be treated as family. With this in mind, you give them the best experience in purchasing their jewelry. This will translate to more loyal clients. My mom also taught me to be grateful with all the blessings that come my way and to give back to the less fortunate.”

She founded JMA Jewelry Center in 1995, geared towards creating fine jewelry and creating work for goldsmiths and stone-setters. Back then when work was done “mano mano,” JMA had a workforce of 35 people. JMA continues to do bespoke items for their clientele. Suzette’s daughters, Trish and Stephanie Ayson, have both completed the GIA Graduate Diamond program and specialize in engagement rings, wedding jewelry, and classic diamond pieces. Stephanie also founded her own jewelry brand, PRANCA.

Suzette continues to have an active role in the company, concentrating on high-end jewelry pieces and designing most of the items of JMA Jewelry herself. A graduate of the College of the Holy Spirit, Bachelor of Fine Arts in Interior Design, Suzette uses her design knowledge in creating one-of-a kind pieces. Her advice to those who want to get into the jewelry business?

“Learn the business. Study in GIA or any institution that will make you well versed in the science of diamonds. To those who are into manufacturing, study the craft as well. I can’t stress this enough: practice good business and work ethics. Don’t compete with anyone other than yourself. People will always choose where they want to buy their jewelry. Don’t get offended when your clients choose to buy somewhere else. Never lose your composure. Have confidence with the product you sell.”

Suzette is a firm believer that jewelry is always a good investment. Suzette tells us that most of the jewelry she invested in triples in value every 10 years.  “I suggest that people buy from reputable jewelers who know the language of diamonds and who can give you very good prices for pieces you buy. I started investing out of my own money at 18 years old and I can say I have reached a level of unqualified satisfaction on my investments compared to other investments,” she adds.

Suzette shares with us the challenges and joys of being in the jewelry business.

1. The transition of JMA from the old management to a younger and more vibrant management is something the company had to adapt to. The recent years have paved the way for my daughters, Trish and Steph, to lead us to new marketing, operations, and sales strategies. I have given them full trust to make us in tune with and ahead of the ever-changing dynamics of the trade.

2. As a service-oriented company, we make sure that our customers are satisfied with our products. We treat small and big transactions equally. Part of the fulfillment of the work we do is having our clients become part of the JMA family, and our products become part of their milestones and lives.

3. One of my joys is seeing my designs executed well and worn by my clients with pride. Creating jewelry, from design to execution, is tedious. An item goes back and forth between me and the goldsmith multiple times in order for my vision to be achieved and for the goldsmith’s artistry to be properly showcased. Seeing the finished product fitting the client well and meeting their expectations brings a high level of fulfillment in our jobs.

4. The jewelry industry is faced with the emergence of online sellers, which poses a challenge to the buyers in distinguishing the legitimate and trustworthy jewelers from those who are not. In order to address this, information dissemination should be done to educate buyers on how to purchase their jewelry. JMA Jewelry sells mostly diamonds, and our practice is to educate our clients on the diamond’s 4Cs before they make their purchase. This creates confidence on both sides and safeguards the client’s consumer experience. Oftentimes, this confidence results in referrals, good reviews, and a loyal clientele. As a third-generation jeweler, and with a company operating for more than 25 years, we have survived the many obstacles in the industry by following good business ethics. This way, our integrity as a business has been preserved.

5. We are in the digital age where information is readily available and the selling of products should be partnered with education. Our experts and trained staff make sure that the details of each item are communicated properly. As a director of the Guild of Philippine Jewellers, Inc., I take part in the organization’s efforts in constantly encouraging its members and other jewelry companies to implement responsible business practices in the industry. Beyond the products manufactured and sold, client service should be of international standards. This way, we strengthen and protect the Philippine jewelry industry.

6. We have less jewelry craftsmen in the industry nowadays. Interest in learning this craft has waned, especially with the younger generation. Only a few skilled craftsmen are working in the country and they are mostly of an older generation. A lot of very good craftsmen are working abroad. Being a skilled jewelry maker is perceived to be an unglamorous career. However, let me point out that the average daily salary of a skilled jewelry maker is way above the minimum wage. It is important for the industry to create interest with the next generation for the local industry to survive and flourish.

7. Talking about growth, the Philippines was a major player in the jewelry industry decades ago, as the country is one of the biggest producers of gold in the world. As a whole, the Philippines is an ore-rich country that yields not only gold but also copper, silver, and nickel, among others. Despite this, the industry’s manufacturing, retail and export have reached a downward trend over the years.

On the other hand, the international jewelry market has grown, with China and Thailand being the biggest game changers. Thailand has the most ideal business model, as it has eliminated all hindrances for the jewelry to grow, i.e., lowering taxation, lifting duties on importation, giving incentives to manufacturers, etc.

8. The taxation imposed on the jewelry industry at 30 percent excise tax has allowed a lot of sellers to go underground. Most, if not all, of these sellers do not pay taxes compared to licensed and legitimate jewelers. This makes the playing field unfair for those paying their taxes religiously. The industry needs the government to lower taxation on jewelry and its raw materials.

9. The industry has less access to raw materials. Raw materials that are imported have high duties, thus encouraging smuggling and the end product being more expensive. The government really needs to lift import taxation on these and to develop raw materials indigenous to the Philippines.

10. The industry needs to strengthen its presence so that the government can address the problems besetting the jewelry industry. It is important for the members of the jewelry industry to pool themselves together and create policies to validate its causes.

Regardless of what challenges come, the most important thing is business is alive and the company can provide a good work environment for its employees.

(We welcome your suggestions and comments. Please e-mail me at [email protected]. Follow me on Instagram @monsromulo.)


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