Regular viewers of our TV shows may have noticed a new face to Gemporia in the last year. We’re truly delighted to welcome the eminently likeable and vastly experienced Toby Cavill to the team. Toby has spent many years in the gemstone, jewellery and prospecting world and we couldn’t be more excited to hear his fascinating stories and see the exquisite stones he discovers on his travels. Toby took time out of his hectic schedule to answer these questions about his story so far and what’s coming next.
Please note, this interview took place at the beginning of the year, before the full scale of the global pandemic was known, and before the lockdown came into force.
Hi Toby, thanks very much for chatting with us. How have you been?
Hey! I am very well, thank you. I’ve just come back from a weekend in Spain, so I’m feeling refreshed!
You’ve been at Gemporia for a little while now but for those who are yet to catch you on TV, what do you do here on-air and behind the scenes?
Yes, I’ve been a member of the team since October 2019. Well, where do I start? I do all sorts here at Gemporia. I’ve been lucky enough to spend the last ten years or so working in some of the most hands-on expanses of the gemstone world. Whether looking at developments of certain gemstone cuts, to looking at the ergonomics of jewellery design, all the way to negotiating deals on quality and price on location at the mines, I’m using my experience and knowledge to help Gemporia stay ahead of the curve. I’ve worked with over 600 different gemstone types over the years, so being on TV here at Gemporia, I use my experience to advise and guide people on gemstone jewellery and also keep viewers up to date with the world markets. Behind the scenes, I am always looking into all sorts! I work in a few various areas, to be honest. One day I could be looking into the development of a specific gemstone and the next I could be discussing a new mine discovery in Africa. I’m always kept on my toes!
How did you first get involved in the jewellery industry?
Well, my grandfather was a jewellery agent representing several of Birmingham’s Jewellery Quarter manufacturers for over 50 years. He later worked for the family-run business of Centre Jewellery – perhaps best known for their Diamond jewellery. My grandmother also worked in the trade for KE Rowles, another Jewellery Quarter business, and finally, my mother has always been an amazing jewellery designer. Her talents have put her alongside some of the most prominent jewellery designers in the world, like Christian Tse and Steven Webster. She has even had pieces of jewellery worn by some of the biggest celebs at awards shows, including the Oscars, which I am very proud of.
For me, it all started in Thailand, while on a gap year after school. After finding the gemstone city of Chanthaburi on my travels and falling in love with the city, I never really looked back. Six years later, I found myself being able to speak the language, with a house and a car but most importantly, with a vast wealth of knowledge and experience of the world of gemstone jewellery! It all happened so quickly, and I wouldn’t change a second!
Why is Thailand such an important centre for the gemstone industry?
Well, Thailand has always been recognised as one of the major gemstone and jewellery centres of the world. The Kingdom is not only gifted with dedicated and exceptional artisans, but also a tremendous amount of gemstone resources. Sapphires have been discovered in Chanthaburi, Ubon Ratchathani, Phrae, Si Saket and of course Kanchanaburi. Chanthaburi’s districts of Pong Nam Ron, and Bo Rai have been recognised as producing some very wonderful Rubies, in addition to the Nam Yuen district of Ubon Ratchathani. Rubies found in Chanthaburi have been known as ‘Tab Tim Siam’ or ‘Siamese Rubies’ which are sought after by gemstone lovers all around the globe for their astounding reds and overall quality. Siamese Rubies, over time, have crowned Thailand as the ‘Land of Jewels of the East’. Thailand’s gem and jewellery industry has systematically developed from small scale to a comprehensive size centred on import/export. The gems and jewellery sector is within the country’s top foreign trade earners, generating lots for their economy and most importantly creating jobs for millions of people.
Which other countries have you visited and which stand out in your mind?
Oh gosh, well I’ve been lucky to travel all around the world really for many reasons! First of all the main gemstone and jewellery shows of each year are based in varied places, such as the vast Arizona desert hosting the world biggest gemstone show in Tucson. With the lights of the Las Vegas jewellery and gem fair or the crazy hustle and bustle of the Hong Kong jewellery show, these places are always a great experience. I really enjoy going right to the source, though. I’ve looked for Emeralds in Zambia, Opals in Australia and Zircons in the Cambodian jungles of Ratanakiri. I have seen pretty much every Sapphire mine in Thailand, but my favourite has to be going to find Sapphires in Madagascar. In 2016 there was a huge Sapphire rush when Sapphires were found in Ankeniheny Zahamena, a rainforest to the north of the island. It was amazing to go and watch the action first hand.
Speaking of Tucson, you visited the 2020 gem and jewellery show back in February. What were the significant trends and finds of the trip?
Yes, I certainly did. This year was the biggest that the Tucson Gem Fair has ever been and it’s more popular than ever. There were around 50 various shows at Tucson this year with the average indoor show being 47,641 square feet in size! So as you can imagine, there is a lot to see! Considering the show began as a free exhibition at a Tucson elementary school in 1954 it’s really come a long way.
The trends this year were based around ‘classic blue’, Pantone’s 2020 colour of the year. The great thing about classic blue is how many gems qualify underneath it. The high-end dealers were focusing around Sapphire and Tanzanite, but Lapis Lazuli and Kyanite got a lot of attention too because they both have a more accessible price point. Not to mention that iconic royal blue of Kyanite. We have some exceptional gemstones that are on the way, but I can’t discuss those just yet. You’ll have to wait!
Which gems that have been on-air recently were you involved in the sourcing of?
More recently, if anyone has managed to get their hands on any of the Natural Blue Sapphires, Natural Pink Fluorites or various beautiful Rubies, then most likely they have been through my hands. The Natural Pink Fluorite has been one of the hardest collections to put together. Not only did we have an outstandingly rare gemstone to deal with and nurture, but we had such a limited amount too, so there was no room for error. With Fluorite, the pre-forming and cutting is reasonably straightforward. However, the polish is everything. Due to our Natural Pink Fluorite having clarity and saturation that we haven’t seen before, the polish had to be perfect. We used some of the finest Fluorite cutters in the world, which took a long time, but the final result was amazing, and in February, we were finally able to launch them.
What are the disciplines that make for a good gemstone buyer and hunter?
Three words. Knowledge, experience and most importantly of all patience.
Which gemstones do you have in your collection and which are your favourites?
I have a range of pieces in my collection. Living in Thailand for six years got me hooked on collecting natural Sapphire, which I love. But I have also got Ratanakiri Zircon, Argyle Diamond, Tanzanite, Brazilian Green Tourmaline and, more recently, a 36-carat Aquamarine has been added to my collection. It’s ever-growing whenever I see the chance!
What’s in the diary for the rest of 2020, and where are you jetting off to next?
Well, as I mentioned, I have been in Spain for the last few days where I was finalising a deal on some Sphalerite potentially, which is very exciting. Hopefully, we can have some pieces on your screen in the next few months (again depending on how long the cutting takes). As the Hong Kong show is cancelled this year, I might be back over in southeast Asia as there are a few great potential opportunities on the horizon. Also, I could potentially be developing some unique cuts, which is exciting! Otherwise, I am sure I will be over at the Gemporia workshops in Jaipur later on in the year, working with our team on a variety of things.
How do we keep in touch with you and when you’ll next be appearing on our screens?
Anyone can contact me on my Facebook page by searching for ‘Toby Cavill - Gemstone Broadcaster’. I am always happy to answer your questions, and I try and update everyone on gemstone or jewellery news each week.
Thanks so much for your time and your fascinating insights Toby, and we’ll see you back on-air with your latest finds very soon.
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