I had the privilege of sitting down for a meal to chat with Ms. Rashmi Sharma, co-owner and Director of Sales and Marketing at Jewel of Africa.
Sporting two of her very own creations, she is the picture of elegance. Obviously very passionate about what she does, she told me a little bit about how she got into the jewellery business over our business lunch. We met at the Chuma Grill Restaruant and Bar, at the Radisson Blu Hotel, conveniently located on Lusaka’s Great East Road. The grill offers a versatile menu that fuses African and international cuisine to suit any palate, in a relaxing atmosphere that works well for family meals or working lunches. A vegetarian with a sweet tooth Ms. Sharma was well taken care of; she had a healthy green salad and cheesecake for dessert.
In between bites of food, I asked her who her influences behind her career choice were. She sites her father, Dr. K.B. Sharma as one of her biggest influences among several others. He was the very first gemologist in the country. He set up the family business after retiring from the civil service and passed on his vast experience and passion for gems to his children.
Rashmi was away in South Africa at the time, studying for a bachelor’s degree in Mathematics and Computer Science. Her father still wanting her to come aboard the family’s business, persuaded her to study gemology instead of a Master’s of Science in Environment Management. She initially did a short course, but later decided to take the full three year diploma course. This allowed her to become a fellow of the Gemological Association of Great Britain, and it also permits her to certify gems and teach gemology anywhere in the world.
Upon returning from her studies, Rashmi settled into the family business, with her heading the design team and training workshop staff, and her brother Rajnish as the Managing Director. When asked about how the two work together without sibling rivalry coming into play, Rashmi says, “I have an MBA in marketing and Rajnish has an MBA in Finance and I think we complement each other very professionally and are able to focus only on the business.”
Noting how busy her life must be, Rashmi reveals she is a workaholic and the little time she spends away from work is usually spent with family. “I try to spend as much quality time with my family as I can. When I’m travelling, I find time to unwind during my flights by watching a movie. I also like to work out to stay in shape.” Ms. Sharma also happens to be extremely resourceful; with courses in hairdressing, homeopathy, and tourism all under her belt.
Curious about her design process, I asked Rashmi what exactly is involved. “Designing jewellery is a dynamic process that is not as straightforward as it looks; the type of gem will determine the design of the jewellery. The best piece of jewellery will be one that is designed around the gem rather than one where the gem is added to an already designed piece. Sometimes designs will evolve along the way. Every gemstone has a critical angle at which it has to be cut otherwise it’s ‘fire’ will be lost. I look at every single stone and ask what it’s going to give me.”
“One of my favourite pieces is the Victoria Falls necklace, which was specially designed to promote Zambian tourism. It took over 3 months to create and challenged my design skills to the maximum. The different shades of sapphire were used to depict the depth of the water.” The simple but elegant necklace she wore is one of the most popular pieces. It’s an emerald in a kudu and represents wildlife. She excitedly reveals, “Our pieces have been worn by high profile clients like Hollywood movie stars, diplomats, heads of state and their spouses.”
She feels that tourists should come to Zambia to see the gems that the country has to offer. “Gem tourism has the potential to open up new opportunities for the economy.
Zambia is surrounded by countries that have one or two gems each but Zambia boasts at least eight different gems. Amethyst, aquamarine, garnet, tourmaline and emeralds are some of the gems Zambia is known for. Zambian emeralds are of extremely high quality, not only in Africa but internationally; they actually enjoy a 40% market share internationally. Diamonds and tanzanite for example are sold because they are part of the jewellery industry but the main focus is to promote Zambian gemstones whenever there is an opportunity to do so. We want to be jewel houses like Tiffany’s and Dior. We want the whole world to know about Jewel of Africa, the bigger we get, the more opportunities we have for the people of Zambia.”
To add a jewel to her already glittering crown, Ms. Sharma was recently appointed as a board member of the World Diamond Board. Diamonds literally are this girl’s best friend.
Rashmi’s Business Gems
Only borrow if it’s absolutely necessary
Don’t be afraid to start small and grow steadily over time
Always make the most of what you have on hand before exploring other avenues
Treat every client like royalty regardless of the value of their purchase
“WHEN IT COMES TO LEADING WOMEN IN CORPORATE ZAMBIA, RASHMI SHARMA SHINES WITH THE BEST OF THEM. CO-OWNER OF JEWEL OF AFRICA SHE TELLS US ABOUT HER JOURNEY TO THE TOP OF THE JEWELLERY WORLD.”