Don’t Be Like Keith

Don't Be Like Keith

A helpful guide on what not to say when discussing race relations with your Black colleagues.

To all who need reminding, racism is still alive and doing very well.

I was recently reminded that there are still people out there who deny, or are wilfully ignorant to the fact that racism exists. As a result, millions are still to this day discriminated against based on the colour of their skin. Let me set the scene.

A few weeks ago I found myself staying late at work to listen to a zoom meeting in which Black jewellery industry members discussed the opportunities and barriers faced by Black jewellers in the UK. As the meeting neared the 30 minute mark, the only other employee left in the lab – let’s call him “Keith” – posed the following question:

“So what’s with this racism thing?”

The subsequent two hour discussion featured some of the many of ways in which non-ethnic people continue to invalidate the experiences shared by the majority of black and ethnic people around the world. 

So instead of ranting about the disgusting ideals and theories shared with me that evening, I am going to try and make this as constructive as possible by highlighting exactly how some of the points raised by “Keith” can be taken as offensive, and hopefully provide some helpful, alternative methods for non-ethnic people to approach a similar situation. Please note that the following discussion was focused specifically on the Black experience.

1. "Racism is a control mechanism used by the top 1%."


I am not here to discuss conspiracy theories. If you are a non-black/ethic person, please refrain from using conspiracies to validate your arguments when discussing sensitive issues such as race. By dwindling the concept of racism down to a “tool” used by another group of people, whatever Keith was trying to convey was lost on me. I felt that his outlook completely invalidated both my personal experience as well as the experiences of my family, friends, colleagues and pretty much everyone else who isn’t white.

PLEASE DO: Acknowledge that racism exists and in many different forms. If you feel the need to share a particular theory that you side with, do so but with tact, and understand that the language you use will need to be selected very carefully. Think before you speak.

2. "It doesn't matter what colour your skin is, all that matters is what's in your pocket."


On some level, it is widely understood that money is the key to unlocking a multitude of opportunities available to us. We can also agree that poverty is an issue that affects the majority of the global population. The thing is, and bear with me, poverty can be fixed by increasing the amount of money one has. I am in no way saying that this is an easy feat, and of course I understand that the effects of poverty can be long lasting even once those affected have been liberated. But poverty can be fixed. You can’t fix being Black because there is nothing wrong with being Black.

PLEASE DO: Acknowledge that poverty is an issue that affects all races but know that poverty disproportionally affects ethnic minorities. In London, 70% of those affected by income poverty come from ethnic backgrounds.

3. "Racism isn't as bad as it used to be."


Imagine you develop a rash on your arm, like a really bad one. It’s itchy, swollen, sore and now its started bleeding. You leave it for a day or two and now the bleeding has stopped. Technically it’s not as bad as it was two days ago, but you still have a nasty arm and you should definitely see a GP. The same applies for racism. It doesn’t matter how bad it used to be if it still exists.

PLEASE DO: Recognise the progress that has been made over the last hundred years and understand that racism continues to be a major issue faced by millions worldwide. Accept that racism is still thriving and actively do something to stop it.

4. "The Black Lives Matter movement is funded by the same person who funded Anti-Fa."


Refer back to point one and miss me with this. Whoever is funding the Black Lives Matter movement is irrelevant to the discussion at hand. People need to understand that on a whole, this is a movement and not an organisation.

PLEASE DO: Understand the differences between an organisation and the views shared by an organisation. The recent anti-racism movement goes far beyond a singular body and shares core beliefs with the Black Lives Matter organisation as well as numerous other anti-racism groups across the globe.

5. "White privilege doesn’t exist because I’ve never benefitted from it."


I’ve never had the benefit of drinking champagne and eating pickles on a private jet but you best believe that someone out there has. Trying to explain the concept of white privilege to someone who sees themselves as underprivileged is incredibly frustrating but it can be done. 

I used black, male colleague as an example. He dresses well, is very intelligent, well educated, friendly, earns a good amount for his age, owns a home and is an avid gamer. He is repeatedly stopped by the police here in London for simply walking around or for “looking suspicious”. Meanwhile Keith, a white, middle aged male, permanently stitched into sweatpants, old t-shirts and dad trainers, who openly sympathises with the far right, thinks Trump is a godsend and consistently shares harmful misinformation with anyone who’ll listen, can’t remember the last time he was stopped by the police. He reckons it was some time in his twenties. 

It may seem unfair of me to judge Keith on his political views, level of education and personal appearance, but all of these attributes can be changed. My colleague can’t change the colour of his skin. Unfortunately, when he is judged wrongly by a someone with even the slightest bit of power, as recent events continue to show us, things can go left very quickly.

PLEASE DO: Accept that white privilege exists. Use your platform to help others. Speak up when you see or hear of injustices. Use your voice to bring attention to the struggles that your peers face on a daily basis.

6. "Have you considered that racism may be in your head?"


It was at this point that I excused myself from the discussion and left.

PLEASE DO: Say Nothing. If you find yourself entering into a conversation about race and these kinds of thoughts pop into your head, do yourself a favour and walk away.

*Deep breaths*

People who think like Keith exist in 2020, and we as Black people need to remain vigilant. It is easy to feel encouraged by the recent changes (albeit small ones) and begin to relax, but our work is far from over.

It is incredibly ironic that the ideas presented by Keith during this exchange (which were raised with the sole purpose of dismissing racism as “a thing of the past”) were spurred on by the mere sound of people discussing the fact that racism is a problem within the jewellery industry. Keith was so wrapped up in proving his own beliefs that he didn’t notice that he is part of the problem.

He also didn’t notice the fact that I was finding it increasingly difficult to not throw a stapler at him… but I’m putting that down to nerves of steel and a decent poker face.

10x on Joseline Hernandez

Joseline Hernandez:

Unexpected Modern Jewellery Icon​

A True Puerto Rican Pincess

The self-proclaimed “Baddest Bish”  that is Joseline Hernandez has been an on-off feature of my life ever since the airing of popular reality show Love and Hip Hop: Atlanta, in 2012. This show has been a guilty pleasure of mine for years, with early seasons being broadcast at lunchtimes during sixth form. 


Joseline rose to fame on the show after emancipating herself from the strip club, with the help of music producer Stevie J, or as Joseline calls him, Steebie. She quickly found herself embroiled in an incredibly awkward, yet entertaining, love triangle (amongst other shenanigans) which inevitably led to bust-ups and fall outs with almost every single cast member of the show, and her eventual dismissal from the programme.

Bad behaviour aside for a moment.

During the quarantine, my housemate and I found ourselves in an late night YouTube hole, reliving some of the Baddest Bish’s best moments on Love and Hip Hop. Looking back, I have to admit that Joseline’s drip was definitely a cut above the rest. If hands were to be thrown, they would at least be accessorised to perfection. 


For some, her preferences may seem over the top or loud, but in the nicest way possible, her taste in jewellery efficiently reflects these parts of her personality. And she wears it well. Joseline sees herself as a “Puerto Rican Princess” and adorns herself as such. If anything, this is a mindset that I am here for and endorse. 

Crowns and tiaras off to you Joseline.

Fancy Black

Fancy Black

A term of endearment used by my boss, which is sometimes reserved for describing the colour of black diamonds.

It’s clear that he hadn’t had much day-to-day interactions with black people in the past, but luckily that didn’t stop him from granting me the entry into the elaborate spectacle that is jewellery industry. And for that, I am thankful.


Once I was comfortable in my new role as a graduate gemmologist, I started taking stock of the people I would see around The Garden*. To date, I have personally met a whopping two black people who regularly work within The Garden. There’s rumours of a third.

This is disgraceful.

The Garden is central to the UK jewellery industry and is based in London, a multicultural city that boasts millions of talented individuals from a multitude of backgrounds. Unfortunately the jewellery industry doesn’t seem to have much room for those of us with darker skin.


Upon realising this, I decided to find and reach out to as many black jewellery professionals as I could, which proved to be surprisingly difficult from the get go. In trying to find my fellow black jewellery enthusiasts, I quickly realised that if consumers wanted to support black owned jewellers or brands, they would face the same difficulties I encountered and may opt for a more visible, thus, more convenient competitor. 


To my knowledge there isn’t a black jewellers association or advocacy group in the UK. There isn’t a place for black jewellers, designers, retailers or gemmologists to come together to discuss our position within the industry. There isn’t an organisation championing the youngers to explore careers within our industry. Yet, black people are responsible for a large percentage of the gemstones and metals used within the global supply chain. 

This is going to change.

2020 put its thang down, flipped it and reversed it. Twisted the knife and threw a kilo of salt at the wound. Big changes are well overdue and this seems to be the year to enact them. I’m adding the lack of diversity within the jewellery industry, with specific relation to those of African or Caribbean heritage, to the long roster of problems we have to resolve. 


THE LIST is the first step to developing a community of our own. I want to make it as easy as possible for consumers to find and support black jewellery professionals. The long term goal is to increase our visibility to the point that consumers wont have to search. I want to see us online as well as on the high street. I want to see us leading the way in sustainable fast fashion as well as commanding respect in high fine jewellery. We, as black people, are capable of anything. This is just the start.

Stay Fancy. Stay Black.

*The Garden refers to Hatton Garden.

Spot The Difference

It's getting harder than you may think.

I sometimes take for granted the wide variety of jewellery I am exposed to. As a result, my online window shopping can range from the designer haven that is Net-a-Porter to the literal troughs of mass produced tat seen on eBay and Wish. And they all have one thing in common:


And it’s not just the high street stores or online discount brands. It seems these days that producing cheaper knock-offs is no longer reserved for the Canal Street merchants in New York City or for the top players within fast fashion. I don’t know if it’s just me, but it seems like those at the top are lacking a little bit of inspiration. 


Large Puka Gold-Plated Bracelet  £200  •  Large Puka Gold-Plated Necklace £300

I impulse bought a gold-tone puka shell ring from the ASOS sale six months ago and loved it. So of course the puka range from Tohum instantly caught my eye last week when browsing Net-a-Porter, along with a number of similar items from other designer brands.

Isabel Marant

New Pool silver and gold-tone bracelet - £130
Very similar to the Tohum bracelet but I'm afraid the execution doesn't cut it for me. The chainmail backing adds too much noise to an already perfectly simple design.

Jacquie Aiche

14-karat gold diamond choker - £3,080
A very similar concept, in that the necklace is gold and has puka shells, but you also get a whopping 0.12 ct. worth of diamonds. Fewer shells though.

Saint Laurent

Gold-tone necklace - £245
I see what you did there Yves. You thought we wouldn't notice. The attempt to stand out with a single heart shaped puka shell is giving me strong Claire's Accessories vibes.

WALD Berlin

How Hi gold-plated shell necklace - £170
This necklace mixes both natural and gold-tone in this designer's take on the puka shell trend. Similar to the Saint Laurent piece but instead looks like something you'd find in H&M.

This is starting to look like a group project...

Imitation is the greatest form of flattery but when it comes to jewellery, it can be hard to know who is the chicken and who is the egg. That said, if we didn’t have this kind of behaviour, we wouldn’t have trends to follow thus making the whole industry redundant.

I really hope people stop looking down at affordable costume jewellery for making luxury designs and trends accessible for everyone. These examples were all taken from one source (Net-a-Porter) but there are tons of similar styles elsewhere. And at all price points.

In an ideal world I’d love to own the set by Tohum or the necklace by Jacquie Aiche, but that’s not likely to happen anytime soon so I will join the masses content with Top Shop’s finest. Anyway, in cases like this I really don’t think you need to pay designer prices to get an excellent product.

It's not how expensive it is that matters, but how expensive it looks.

Its Time To Ball On A Budget

Get your baskets ready.

I’ve always questioned wether buying designer clothes, shoes or jewellery was actually worth the investment, especially seeing as you can usually get similar items at much lower prices.


But as a consumer, how do you know if you’re actually getting good quality items for a fair price? Does buying designer automatically mean buying better? What happens if you have champagne taste on a lemonade budget?

For those of us who sort price high to low when shopping online knowing that our current accounts will barely support the sale, this is for you.

With that, I introduce a new segment of this blog: Ball On A Budget where I’ll be trudging through the world of designer jewels, crying because I can’t afford any of it and then hunting down the next best thing for the next best price. 

Gold-tone and enamel hoop earrings – £100

I really like these earrings, but not for £100. Lets break it down:

“Gold-tone” = Not gold. If the item doesn’t state what purity the gold is (9K, 14K, 18K, etc.) and how its applied (vermeil, plated, filled, etc.) chances are the item isn’t going to have any gold content. So here we have gold coloured beads for £100. And over here, we have 500 gold coloured beads for £1.99. You see where I’m going with this.

“Enamel” = Glass attached to a metal or hard surface. Not precious, not natural, not expensive. 

It isn’t stated what the setting (the pin that goes in your ear and the hoop that the beads are strung on) is made of so I would assume that’s not gold either.

Now if these hoops were made with 9K gold or even plated with 14K gold, the £100 price point would make sense. But I still like them and I can’t get them out of my head.

Same Vibe: ASOS Lot less money, lot less substance. I’d be afraid to get them wet. Still cute though.


Similar Vibe: CECILE COHEN An elegant two tone, well thought through design that screams of regality.


The Remix: COVET

 Same ingredients. Different cake. A much more playful cake.


*Item is listed in Euros at €29.

Out of the four, based on design alone, Roxanne Assoulin wins the prize. She manages to make a very simple concept into something loud and feminine; cheeky yet refined. But frankly this is way out of budget for a few pieces of rainbow glass.

Trusty ASOS comes through with a strikingly similar design which looks as though it probably took £94 less time to create but I’m here for it. For the price of two meal-deals you could have these delivered straight to your door, just in time for your next quarantine video chat.

Getting a good deal that suits you is easy when you have all of the information.

Cecile Cohen conquers the affordable range with her titanium, blue and gold design. The design is delicately eye-catching and at that price? Consider me caught.

“Gold/Fiesta” is an accurate description for these hoops by Covet. They have the same elements as the others (rainbow and gold beads) just arranged in a different way. The overall design enhances the playfulness of the materials used in a way that the other designs don’t.

THE VERDICT: Cecile Cohen gets my money, followed by ASOS once those hoops go on sale. Save the "Gold/Fiesta" as a gift idea on Pinterest.