Today we have the pleasure of receiving Master Jeweller/Gemologist and Tasmanian man of mystery (perhaps only second to infamous Looney Tunes Tazz!) Today we interviewed Chris Hood!
Chris has been seen in recent years and decades travelling with Vincent Pardieu and is known for his never ending good mood, sense of humour and keen eye for a pretty gem, rough or cut!
Chris has been involved in the trade since 1994 and opened his jewellery company: Metal Urges Fine Jewelry & Diamonds in 2005.
During this interview we intend to learn more about Chris’s background, journey to date and what in the gem world makes this Tasmanian Devil’s heart spin.
Without any further delay we give you Chris Hood!
Here is Chris Hood in his natural Tazmanian habitat - Photo Credit: Laura Phillis / Tatum Gems
AsiaLounges: First of all thanks a lot Chris for joining us today. Can you tell us more about you? Who are you Chris Hood?
Chris Hood: Thank you for having me...I’ve been a keen AsiaLounges watcher and especially love the social catch ups each time I’m in Bangkok.
I’m the only son of a Tasmanian wine making family and I built my business from scratch in the wine cellar below my family’s home in Tassie! I guess the defining thing that sets me and my business apart is that Metal Urges is in some aspects 100% vertically integrated.
What does that mean??
It means that we mine stones ourselves on a regular basis and process that rough right through the cutting process, jewellery design process, manufacturing process and finally see it placed on to the end client to wear for the rest of their lives! As far as I’m aware there are only two other businesses that are similar to mine on the planet...one in Queensland Australia and the other in Southern Madagascar.
Hunting for Sapphire in Tasmania with Chris Hood - Photo Credit: Mary Jo Mc Namee
AsiaLounges: We mentioned in the introduction your entry in the world of gems some 26 years ago. How did this happen? What brought you to our fancy world? Was it a family thing or an acquired taste?
Chris Hood: I’ve made jewellery for 26 years but I was collecting gems and pretty rocks at a much younger age. I think at some point in my 30's I found some childhood boxes as we unpacked from a house move when I was about 10 years old. I opened the boxes with no memory for what I'd packed as a child...I found rocks...lots of pretty rocks. I was already an advanced jeweller at this stage but it was a massive affirmation that my calling was lifelong and complete! I’ll be around gems my whole life, start to finish!
AsiaLounges: 11 years upon your entry in the trade you started your company: Metal Urges, why wait so long?
Chris Hood:Lol...I was getting educated, and I had another business during that time, that business developed into Metal Urges when I returned to Tasmania! I was working with some amazing jewellers and becoming a gemmologist after a two year intensive course at the GAA (Gemological Association of Australia). I was very fortunate to work with two incredible mentors during my early years also. Garry Holloway of Holloway diamonds...Garry is an expert on Diamond cut and has been a huge advocate for cut improvement and industry transparency. The other was John Calleija of Calleija Jewellers. John is a crazy good designer and had the best collection of Australian pink, red and blue diamonds I think anyone has ever seen! My experience at both businesses taught me so much and I’m extremely grateful for the start I was offered and make a point of helping passionate people into the trade whenever I can.
Chris Hood in his travels in Africa to source your favourite treasures! - Photo Credit: Metal Urges Ltd.
AsiaLounges: You have been seen in numerous occasion travelling with Vincent Pardieu when he was at the GIA and after, if I’m not mistaken, planning a new trip soon with him. What put you on the field gemmology path?
Chris Hood: Vincent is one of my closest friends and one of my greatest business and idea mentors. The guy is seriously smart, generous and tough all at once. I feel so lucky to have met him when I did and feel I’ve been a fortunate witness to one of the most amazing times in our trade's history. Vincent has a strict methodology that I love because it has gained me access into some of the most exciting and hallowed places in the gem world!
I’m passionate about telling the story of a gem from its birth into human hands right through to its use as a physical symbol of love between two people. Field gemmology is the scientific mirror of that story telling!
Once we are free to travel again I would love to take a number of trips with Vincent...for some reason the Congo calls along with Northern Madagascar, Namibia and Nigeria. I never run out of energy for this kind of travel and learning!
Chris Hood checking out some rough during one of his trips with Vincent Pardieu - Photo Credit: Vincent Pardieu
AsiaLounges: Back to your company, Metal Urges, how does it relate to your past and present activities in the field of field gemmology? How do these activities connect to one another?
Chris Hood: Metal Urges is a company that I own and it benefits greatly from my work in the field using my gemmological skills. I’ve made amazing contacts over the past decade and a half mainly buying sapphires, in well over a dozen different countries. A number of these gem people have become close friends I consider like family. Making connections that last is the key to finding the stone you need to run a stone ravenous business like Metal Urges.
AsiaLounges: We understand that you address the need of both B2B and B2C customers, how do you reconcile the two?
Chris Hood: I’m happy to help in a B2B situation if I have what is required...which is quite likely as I have a large collection. It’s also always good to help someone as then they are likely to help you back one day, making things more connected and easier for everyone. Day to day I’m almost 100% focused on B2C as this is where the real benefits are to be found. Not just financially...the emotions we witness when a client picks up a new piece that they love and will wear for life is very special!
Chris Hood checking on some Sri Lankan Sapphire rough - Photo Credit: Vincent Pardieu
AsiaLounges: Here’s a question we like to ask, should you be free of any and all market concern and business needs, which would be the one stone you’d favour above all else?
Chris Hood: If we are talking a fantasy rock? It would be a sapphire for sure...one I mined myself underground in Madagascar. With a few close friends helping, digging by hand the way the locals do! The experience of uncovering a nice stone for the first time adds so much energy and buzz to the stone. Maybe a purple/blue to sunset orange bi colour….yeeeeiooow!
AsiaLounges: As we write these lines the world is trying to catch its breath as we are all quarantined for the COVID19 crisis. How does that impact your business and business model and more importantly how will that change, in your opinion, the way you and the rest of the industry do business?
Chris Hood: We are in lockdown also and it is huge in every way...without a doubt COVID19 is the largest challenge I've faced in almost 30 years of business. I'm approaching everything with the following in mind, 'The only constant in this world is change...sometimes it comes slowly and then at other times (like now) it comes very quickly'. COVID19 has extensively changed the way Metal Urges does business. I now run half my staff half the time and the other half, the other half of the time. This keeps them separated and safer and also allows me to adjust for the lower expected workload...strangely we are busy as usual though. I think we will see enormous change in the Gem world as a result of this. Many businesses will fold and many new opportunities will appear and smart, young, brave people will make the most of those opportunities. I've watched the direct to market shift over previous years as people use their smartphones to sell stone directly from mining countries to the West and East. I firmly believe that this business model will boom and only accelerate through the current crisis...something for established traders like myself to adapt to (or die).
Here is our Tazmanian Devil, Chris Hood, in his natural habitat - Photo Credit: Vincent Pardieu
AsiaLounges: Having been on a number of occasion to the mining area, what is your take on the topic of 2019-2020: the whole ethics and the whole transparent? Do you believe this issue to be relevant and needed, if yes how, or is it yet another neocolonialist way the West has to try to govern the African continent and the developing world in general?
Chris Hood: Most of the mining areas I operate in are not in Africa but the question applies nonetheless. The thing I like about sapphire in particular is that it is very often mined by individuals, small groups or family groups. By dealing directly with them face to face in the mining area I can be sure that my money is going into the hand that did the hard work...something I’m passionate about as a miner myself. I think the only way for anyone or the trade at large to move ahead confidently is by being honest and transparent about EVERYTHING. Sooner or later you get caught out if you go to the dark side.
AsiaLounges: Last but not least is our now traditional question. Could you please give three advises to the Loungers who would like to follow in your footsteps along with three books that you believe any and all gem and jewellery lover should have in their library
Ok the advice first:
- Never let anyone tell you that you cannot do something (unless it’s illegal and you might get caught...lol).
Books (I’m bending this one about a bit)
- A huge turning point for me happened when an Opal dealer in Lightening Ridge handed me a book called ‘Rich Dad Poor Dad’. You should probably read it...if you want to be financially free!
- This next one is not a book specifically but learn how humans communicate...especially body language. A rainy weekend on Youtube will see you armed for life beyond belief.
- Eat healthy, do yoga, meditate...if you love what you do then you want to do it for a long time. You only have one body...make it last! Lots of books on this!
AsiaLounges: Before we let you go, could you just remind our readers where and how they can see your work and how they can reach you should they be interested? (Facebook, website, email, Instagram, etc.)
AsiaLounges: Thank you very much Chris for being with us today, I am convinced that our readers, the Loungers, have enjoyed this interview as much as we did enjoy writing these lines.
As for us, we will meet you again soon in the Lounges with more exciting content! If you have enjoyed this interview please let us know by liking, commenting and sharing our work with your family and friends on your favourite social media platform. Don't forget that you can also support A Gem Dealer's Journal through our Patreon's Page. It helps us a lot and takes but a second!
Should you have any questions or topic that you’d like us to research for a future interviews and articles, feel free to let us know by contacting us at firstname.lastname@example.org, it is always a pleasure to dig further into the world of gems and gemmology!
For all the rest, feel free to take a look at our gem and jewellery collection as well as to contact us should you be interested in getting one of our famed bespoke pieces of AsiaLounges Jewellery.
See you again in the Lounges,