“Women of the Diamond Industry” focuses on the issue of gender equality along the entire diamond and jewelry supply chain. The series provides a platform for women in the industry to tell their own stories and describe the particular challenges they have faced in their careers.
The ninth article in the series is authored by Dr. Adriana Lauren Traviati, the founder and owner of the Saphira jewelry company in Melbourne, Australia, a geoscientist who fulfilled her dream in the diamond industry.
Reaching for the stars,
in the universe, on Earth and in business
My journey into the diamond industry was not conventional by any means. Growing up, my father Mario was a geoscientist and his love of exploration and the wonders of the natural world inspired my own passion for nature, science, the Earth and the universe.
Many holidays and field trips were spent with my father, marveling over the natural world, going on adventures, challenging ourselves and often times getting into trouble while exploring. As a child, I remember thinking that just under each rock, beneath the sand dunes or in the depths of each river, there could be hidden treasure – waiting to be discovered. This sense of wonder has never left me.
It was what led me to study physics and space, which I found challenging and exciting. It ended up taking me to NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) in Houston, Texas, where I undertook a short-term internship at the Lyndon Johnson Space Center. There, I worked as part of a team on a number of problem-solving exercises, which ranged from calculating crew sleep cycles on the International Space Station (ISS), to determining how to land the Curiosity Rover safely on the surface of Mars.
Dr. Adriana Lauren Traviati.
First becoming a geoscientist
I had enjoyed my time at NASA immensely, but turned my attention to fields of study that I could work on closer to home. My passion for Earth and space then prompted me to enrol in a double degree in environmental engineering and science at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia, in 2013.
During my undergraduate studies, I was fortunate enough to meet and work with some of the most talented geoscientists, and to be educated in an immensely supportive environment, where I spent many happy years.
The author at NASA’s Lyndon Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, where she was a intern.
In my first year, I became so enthralled with the field of geoscience that I made the key decision to devote my efforts solely to it, and drop environmental engineering altogether. My love of physics, problem-solving and treasure hunting later led me to specialize in the exciting and challenging field of exploration geophysics.
In order to support myself at university, I worked in sales for Tiffany & Co. I instantly became fascinated with the allure, mystery and beauty of natural diamonds and gemstones, as well as the importance of ethical sourcing practices. I did so until I was accepted to my Honors Degree in 2016, resigning to focus solely on my studies.
After a year of accelerated hard work, I was accepted to study my Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), commencing in 2017. My field of expertise involved using seimic datasets, which are collected by essentially conducting large-scale ultrasounds of the Earth’s crust.
A parallel journey in the jewelry business
Throughout my PhD, however, I had a deep longing to continue working with diamonds and precious gemstones, and knew that my journey working with them was only just beginning.
Slowly, friends, family and acquaintances started seeking my advice and education when it came to purchasing such important stones. Alongside my PhD studies, I decided to explore my passion for natural diamonds and so in 2017 I started my own downstream jewelry retail business, called Saphira.
I sought to educate customers about diamonds beyond what is typically offered by the far over-simplified Four Cs . My mission was to supply natural, GIA-graded diamonds to the public and work with customers to design their dream pieces, and make their unique visions come to life. I realized how important it was for me to connect with clients personally, and how much joy I gained from making others happy. And to do that with diamonds is something that I still enjoy to this day.
I was fortunate to be able to work on my PhD in a field that challenged and excited me, and at the same time that explored my passion through Saphira, which was a gift that I have never have taken for granted. Still, concerned that my focus on my studies might waver, my father asserted that my attention should be dedicated to my PhD alone. He wished for me to follow in his footsteps, and urged that Saphira simply remain a hobby, while I concentrate on the task at hand – graduation.
I also hid my ambitions for Saphira and the diamond industry from my PhD supervisor, Professor Mike Hall. I was one of the last students that he would be working with after a long and distinguished career. He was a gentleman in his 80s, and I wanted to allay his concerns that I may not finish my studies. I was determined to complete my PhD, and to grow Saphira simultaneously. I wanted my cake, and to eat it as well.
Combining her passion for both diamonds and geoscience, the author visiting the Ellendale diamond mine in Western Australia.
Making a major life decision
I continued building Saphira and attending key trade shows throughout 2017, 2018 and 2019, until the arrival of COVID. Also, after having worked two jobs full-time building the company and working on my research, I graduated with my PhD in 2020 as an exploration geophysicist with a great sense of pride and accomplishment.
It was then, at age 26, I was faced with a major life decision – whether to apply to a graduate program at a large geoscience and engineering firm, or to take on Saphira full-time and follow my dreams.
I made the decision to work in my company full-time, and try realize my ambitions. I am convinced that it was one of the best choices I have made in my career to date. It has provided me with the flexibility of running my own company, allowed me to travel to amazing places, make lifelong friendships and to explore an industry that I am passionate about.
I have since learned that my story does not represent the conventional way to enter the diamond industry, but am grateful for the rapid progress and knowledge I gained in my earlier years, and more importantly the ability to believe in myself.
I have received nothing but support from my former colleagues at Monash University, Professor Hall, my loving family and my wonderful friends throughout the journey and for this, I am so thankful. I have also met some inspiring people along the way, who have believed in and supported me. I have been lucky to have the guidance of various mentors and leaders throughout my journey, and to have developed strong relationships and connections in this exciting industry. I have a wide network of suppliers and colleagues in the international diamond industry at all levels of the diamond pipeline.
A commitment to the diamond industry
Today, Saphira is an independent company that services clients internationally. I am fortunate to work with some of the world’s rarest natural diamonds, such as the Argyle Pinks for which Australia is famous.
I am a member of the Organizing Committee of the Young Diamantaires (YDs) group, and am delighted to have recently joined the World Diamond Council.
I am passionate about protecting the integrity of the entire natural diamond supply chain, and care about the end-to-end value chain, from diamond mining upstream to the downstream market.
I look forward to learning more about the industry, tackling challenges and contributing to its betterment. I am seeking to create transparency, innovate new solutions and ensure the longevity and success of the natural diamond industry worldwide.
At present, I am also actively working toward my own exploration venture in the upstream diamond mining space, and am exercising the geoscientist in me by looking at prospective tenements at home here in Australia. My hope is to have my own diamond mine one day, whether it be here or overseas.
One of the most important lessons my father taught me about international business relations, especially in the resources sector, is that when working across many different emerging markets, countries and cultures, one embraces the joy of working with different people. It is a privilege to interact with and learn from colleagues, and something that truly excites me about joining the World Diamond Council. I look forward to contributing to a larger cause and have longstanding impact in this dynamic business.
I would like all those who are new to the diamond industry to read my story with encouragement, to know that you can do whatever you put your mind to and that self-belief, resilience and passion will allow you to achieve what may have once seemed impossible.
The author visiting a diamond polishing plant.