Tiffany Stevens became president and CEO of the Jewelers Vigilance Committee (JVC) this March, following Cecilia Gardner, who held the role for 17 years. Here, Stevens, whose resume includes stints at a pediatric cancer nonprofit and the in-house legal department at investment bank Bear Sterns, talks about her impressions of the industry as a relative newbie, the trade’s hot issues, and whether outsiders really trust this industry.
JCK: You have been in your current role seven months. What do you see as the organization’s priorities?
Tiffany Stevens: Because of the breadth and depth of the industry, I am still having a lot of firsts. Cecilia [Gardner] was here for so long, it’s a sea change for people in the industry and here, and people are still normalizing that change.
My priority since day one has been to be open and listen to what people need—and what people are telling me about the industry. It’s tempting as a new CEO to want to razzle-dazzle and make a big difference. But it’s really important to be responsive and really listen to people.
We are really lucky. We have been around 100 years. We have a lot of loyal members. We have board members whose parents were board members. But I think we have a lot to do on raising awareness. Even if people recognize the letters JVC people don’t really understand what we do.
JCK: How do you see JVC’s role in the industry?
Stevens: I feel like we have a really strong foundation. We will continue our mediation process. We do about 400 cases a year, both business-to-business and business-to-consumer. We will continue to expand that.
We will continue to look at the government. We have filed several actions, especially several trademark rejections. That is part of our watchdog function.
My background is in the in-house legal space. My sense is that lawyers are not just for problems. Lawyers are to help you have a thriving business.
I would like to see us more in the business support role, so people have a place to go to help them thrive.
JCK: What do you see as the main issues for JVC to tackle?
Stevens: Anti–money laundering is super relevant to the industry. A lot of people are still putting it off and are a little scared. There are a lot of people who haven’t gotten on board with it.
While the regulatory landscape in general in our country is uncertain, borders and customs and antiterrorism are still hot. We have already seen one AML enforcement action. We feel that anti–money laundering will continue to be very policed.
We want to be on the leading edge in how privacy and cybersecurity and blockchain apply to the industry. We want to look at intellectual property, looking at the issues there and playing a big role in making sure the industry is protected.
Obviously, synthetics are a huge issue and we want to make sure that we play a role in assessing the detection machines that are out there. We definitely feel, as a neutral party, we could provide some assistance on this topic.
We are waiting with baited breath as to the revision of the Federal Trade Commission Guides.
I would like to see us play more of a role in responsible sourcing. I would like to help people understand what other industries are doing on the responsible sourcing front. We hope that our website will have a section for people to see all the different sourcing options that are out there.
JCK: As a still relative newcomer to the industry, what are your initial impressions?
Stevens: It’s been such a wonderful experience so far. I love the way I find myself at the intersection of art, science, and business.
I will say that I was surprised by how regulated it is and how much there is for people to think about. There are just hundreds of pages in fine print for people to focus on. It’s a lot to us, and we do this all day, never mind for people who have to run a business.
But I’m impressed how open people are. I come from the finance world. There are a lot of industries where people follow the rules but they have a hostile relationship to regulators. Here people want to do the right thing but they just want to know how to fit it into their busy day.
JCK: As an outsider, how you do think the general public perceives the industry?
Stevens: It’s great that we have such a focus on [consumer confidence] because it is so important. I don’t know if the average person is as skeptical of our industry as we think they are. But it’s probably best for us to be a little more worried than we should be. Overall, I think people want to love jewelry but also want to feel educated and protected when they buy it.
(Image courtesy of Jewelers Vigilance Committee)