As a sixth-generation jeweller, you would think that Jenny Tillander has known everything worth knowing about gemstones and gold since she was a tiny tot.
Well, not exactly.
– I have, of course, visited various jewellery trade shows around Europe with my mother since I was about 13, says Jenny, now 23.
– But when I started working full time at our shop a few years ago, I found myself rather hesitant when serving customers, or at least that's how I felt. I quickly concluded that I needed to know more about jewellery, gems, pearls, and all, to ensure I can serve our customers as well as possible.
Jenny had previously studied marketing at the Helsinki Design School, but she now felt her next step would have to be a degree in gemmology, just like her grandmother, Paula Tillander, and mother, Tina Tillander.
– Gemstone expertise is certainly the most extensive and complex area in professional jewellery. So, I decided to start where my mother and grandmother had started before me.
After talking it over with the family, Jenny opted to study at the American Institute of Gemology (GIA), considered the best in the sector. It also happens to have a campus in London, often described the jewellery capital of the world. In October 2016, Jenny packed her bags and flew to Heathrow, first staying at her mother's childhood friend in Fulham. She later found a place of her own near the city centre – rather small and humble, like many local homes, but the location near the GIA and opposite the British Museum was great.
She didn't have much time for museums, however, as her five-month long course kept her so busy.
– In addition to intensive theory lectures, we spent hours at the laboratory every day, studying the characteristics of gems and learning how to identify them.
– The amount of laboratory work was a very positive surprise to me because I tend to learn better by doing rather than by reading about things. Looking back, it still seems incredible that we managed to analyse and identify over 1,800 gemstones during the course, on top of having a tall stack of thick theory folders to go through.
Jenny returned to Finland in April 2017 and then went on to complete a course on diamonds as distance study while working at the shop. After finishing this diploma, she can now offer Atelier Torbjörn Tillander's customers the newest, most advanced jewellery information.
– In London I gained new friends from all around the world and discovered a desire to excel at what I do – maybe to even be the best. I have always been quite competitive and even more so now, after this time in London.
So, we can all be assured that Atelier Torbjörn Tillander will continue to be just as first-class as ever, well into the future.
Six months in London sounds like a dream when you are 22! Jenny, what does your London look like?
– Mostly like the GIA laboratory, laughs Jenny, but then explains that she found time to explore London during weekends, both with her fellow students and visitors from Finland.
Your top 5 tips for London?
– Legendary 1. auction houses, such as Sotheby's and Christie's, are obviously on every jewellery-enthusiast's wish list, myself included. I also fell in love with the "diamond room" of the 2. Natural History Museum, where you can see unbelievably stunning jewels.
– When it comes to food, remember to try a variety of 3. Korean dishes while in London. And catch some musicals, too; 4. The Book of Mormon is an awesome experience for all who love darker humour.
– Being a Finn, I just had to visit 5. Hyde Park every once in a while, when I felt the need to get closer to the nature. This immense park is a lovely oasis in the middle of the busy metropolis, and luckily just a nice short walk from my apartment.