This is Thelma West. She's Nigerian and the first in her family to work in diamonds. As the Eve in the Adam-dominated sector, Thelma is a rare gem. Very few Africans are involved in this business despite being the continent with the main source of this precious rocks. West is used to being an outsider, having been raised in a Jewish family in a country where Jews number fewer than 50,000 out of a population of around 180 million. I'm the only Nigerian Jewish woman in the trade and I don't know of other African women said the 32-year old as she told AFP at her London-based business as she greeted customers with a broad smile and sparkling diamonds on her hands and wrists. Speaking about her family, She said,"My mum had loads of jewellery. We were always playing with her jewellery box and she would always clean her jewels, and I would help.”
At age 16, West traveled to Britain to finish her education. According to her,like most people of her age would say "I wanted to become an engineer because at that time in Nigeria,You had to choose a solid career,such as doctor,lawyer,engineer but, as the saying goes,"Diamonds Are Forever" and the sparkle of the stones,which had captivated West since childhood was an irresistible allure".
At age 17, Thelma headed for Antwerp,the world's diamond capital without knowing anybody in the Belgian City. There She enrolled at the internationally renowned Hoge Raad Voor Diamant School to sharpen her skills."Even though you go to school, most of your knowledge comes from working with Diamonds day-to-day", She said.. Finally after trying for six months in vain to secure an internship,She was eventually taken under the wing of an Orthodox Jew Diamond ,who worked with her every evening after school for a year.
After trying for six months in vain to secure an internship, she was eventually taken under the wing of an Orthodox Jew diamond dealer, who worked with her every evening after school for a year. At age 19,Thelma West after being recruited by one of the biggest diamond suppliers in Europe based in Spain,She was responsible for every diamond the company had. She later teamed up with her school friends from Lagos who were into investment banking and West set up her own business in London to trade the precious stone.Metal tongs in hand, West explained the secrets of some of her stock.
“Diamonds have fire,” said the daughter of a Guinness drinks company employee mother and a property developer and Industrialist Father.
“That stone is too flat but it’s got a lot of life in it, it was cut about 100 years ago,” she said, pointing to one tiny rock.
“This one cost just over £100,000 ($141,000, 126,000 euros), it’s got a low colour but it has been cut perfectly so it reflects light in such an amazing way.”Discretion and security are essential, with the anonymous-looking building guarded by an encrypted intercom system and a reinforced door, all under the gaze of a bank of security cameras. West who has no fewer than 50 clients, 12 of whom are investors, have access to West’s knowledge. I can find a diamond and call them and say we have to buy this diamond, trust me’ and they follow me,” she said. Her multinational client base includes Swiss,Russians,Ghanians,Nigerians and a handful of French West who's helped by a 10-woman team, West creates all of her company’s products, which come with a lifetime guarantee. Her most ambitious creation was a custom-made necklace worth around £2 million.
She plans to open a workshop in Nigeria, “where I’ll train girls in the art of making jewellery”.
West gives little away but also said she is creating “a revolutionary tool” that will help people in her business.
“That tool should be part of every diamond dealer and every shop”.