Marketing guru, PR specialist, copywriter, journalist, historian and public speaker are just a handful of professional titles you could throw at Josie. Her career in the world of fine jewellery has seen her work for prestigious names such as Chanel, Dior, Bulgari, Ritz Fine Jewellery, Graff, the De Beers Group, Lyon & Turnbull, The Jewellery Editor, Spears and Forbes Magazine in a number of exciting and dynamic roles.
As well as consulting and advising luxury brands, Josie is also an accomplished fiction author, and has to date released three ‘whodunnit’ novels themed on the world of fine jewellery: The Diamond Connection, The Christmas Connection and The Monte Carlo Connection. Her fourth, The Paris Connection, is currently a work in progress and continues the story of protagonist Jemima Fox-Pearl as she travels across the world solving high jewellery crimes.
Tessa Packard [TP]: You’ve worked across various sectors in the jewellery industry, from in-house PR to editorial contributions, brand marketing, copywriting and luxury events. Has this journey been intentional or has your career path to date been determined mostly by luck and ‘right time, right place’ opportunity?
Josie Goodbody-Ellis [JG]: Yes, I have had a few jobs to say the least! I remember someone telling me aged 27 that I had had so many jobs that I was unemployable, but then he went and employed me and after that I was head of PR at Graff so – there you go!
I have to say however, that my career has very much been determined, as you say, by being in the right place at the right time, and knowing the right people in the right place! I did however know from a young age that I somehow wanted to work in jewellery – I think that I wanted to be a jewellery journalist for Vogue!
[TP]: In 2011 you decided to add ‘author’ to your career repertoire, and have since successfully published a series of whodunnit books revolving around the world of fine jewellery. What made you put pen to paper and start writing fiction?
[JG]: I was living in Monaco, the job that I had moved out to do had come to an unhappy end and my mother had just died of a brain tumour that had spread throughout her body. I had a lot of time on my hands that could have been spent being sad – but instead I decided to start a series about all the extraordinary experiences that I had had over my years in London, Paris, South Africa and Monaco amongst others – and The Diamond Connection series was borne from my balcony overlooking the Med.
[TP]: Jemima Fox-Pearl is the protagonist and heroine of your books. How much of the narrative and her character is based on your acquaintances and experiences in the jewellery world, and indeed you as a person?
[JG]: Jemima began life very much as me! Writing the first draft of the first book – was basically akin to writing my autobiography. And then I realised that there were some bits I didn’t want to include and during the course of writing the novel I had changed as a person – my mother had died, I had moved from Monaco to London to Buenos Aires and Uruguay. Her intrinsic character is the same but she grows during the novels, suffers huge heartbreak as well as life changing experiences – as I have. Each of the other characters are absolutely based on people that I have worked with, friends or are indeed in the public eye. Including the baddies!
[TP]: Taking into account all the different roles you have played in your career to date, what do you love the most about what you do, and what drives you mad about your job(s)?
[JG]: I love meeting new people – many of whom become wonderful friends. I also love learning about different gemstones and pieces of jewellery from the past. I have bought so many jewellery books – coffee table and regular paperbacks about the subject and spend a lot of my time (when I get some!) poring through them dreaming about new stories to write about.
[TP]: In your opinion, what is the one thing you feel needs to change in the fine jewellery sector?
[JG]: I wish people stopped thinking of jewels as completely inaccessible and only for the very rich. You don’t have to own them to love them and learn about their history. I don’t own the Mona Lisa but I am still fascinated by its history! I think jewels are works of art and should also appreciated as such. Some people have criticised my novels for having too many jewellery and historical descriptions – but I want my readers who don’t know about these amazing types of jewellery to begin to learn about and love them like I do!
[TP]: In one sentence, how would you describe the fine jewellery landscape in Britain today? How is it different from when you first started working in this sector?
[JG]: It is SO much bigger. When I started there was really only the big Bond Street brands. Now there are so many incredible independent jewellers – like yourself – who are breaking down barriers, making beautiful pieces without the insane price tags that a century old brand has. And doing so many exciting and innovative things with gemstones – which the older brands often then emulate.
[TP]: What area of the jewellery sector would you like to have better first hand experience of (or a better understanding of ) and why?
[JG]: Buying of diamonds at tender (like at De Beers) – I think it is a fascinating process that has been going on for over a hundred years and is actually quite basic.
[TP]: Has what you do changed you as a person?
[JG]: Yes but what has really changed me is being a mother and trying to write books and do all the publicity which is essential with trying to build myself as an author. It is SO hard and you just have to do what you can when you can. Lockdown has been the hardest few months of my life and I have missed out on lots of opportunities because of no childcare or home schooling to keep them ‘entertained.’
[TP]: Where do you like to buy your jewellery, and what brands do you personally identify with or admire and why?
[JG]: During lockdown I have actually been buying up lots of iconic American costume jewellery brands on ebay. I am particularly in love with Panetta which is quite unknown, particularly in the UK, but came about just after WWII from an Italian immigrant in NYC and his two sons. He had worked for a prestigious jeweller in Naples before immigrating. I have about twenty pieces by Panetta. It was made to look as authentic as possible and most people believe that I am wearing real gemstones when I put it on.
[TP]: If money was no object, what unique piece of jewellery would you commission? Please describe in detail what it would look like, what gemstones it would feature, and the inspiration behind commissioning this piece. Finally, which designer or brand would you ask to make it?
[JG]: I would love a really bold and bright parure of multicoloured gemstones – most particularly Paraiba tourmalines, pink conch pearls, yellow diamonds and white diamonds – and of course I would ask you to create it for me!! Def would love a tiara – in fact I would bring them back into fashion!!
[TP]: When the world is back to normal, what will Josie tackle next?
[JG]: Finishing The Paris Connection and starting on The New York Connection – all about the gilded age… and the amazing jewels owned by Vanderbilts and Rockefellers. Maybe a TV deal.
ON THE SPOT
Town or Countryside? Countryside
Favourite city? Paris
Your perfect dinner guest, dead or alive? Empress Josephine, my namesake!
If you could time travel to any era it would be…? Gilded age – but I would need a lot of money.
The best meal you’ve ever eaten is? Sushi at Nobu.
The one essential you can’t leave home without? A snazzy piece of jewellery to make me smile – most likely a costume piece!
Pet hate? Slow drivers
Biggest extravagance? Sadly I don’t have many, yet; but earlier this year I bought an enormous kunzite and diamond cocktail ring at auction.
Favourite book? The Burning Shore by Wilbur Smith – has had the most impact on my life – first read it aged 12!
What would your gravestone read? Beloved mother of Arthur and Matilda.
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