"I found myself wondering if anyone has ever written a private message on a diamond" - Trade Secrets contributor, Frieda-Marié de Jager
Frieda-Marié de Jager is a jewellery designer by day, a children’s book illustrator by night and, since 2013, a writer whenever she can find a minute. After finishing her BTech degree in jewellery design in 2008, Frieda has worked within the upper crust of Cape Town’s diamond and jewellery trade as a goldsmith, diamond broker and designer. ‘The Unicorn’ is her first published short story with the rest of her writing repertoire consisting of contributions to local magazines, children’s poetry, blogs, the odd bit of advertising, and some truly heartfelt greeting cards. Short.Sharp.Stories Award curator, Joanne Hichens, recently sat down with Frieda-Marié to discuss her entry, diamond theft, and allowing characters to do their own thing:
Your story, ‘The Unicorn’, of a diamond heist gone wrong, features a diamond grader, Megan, who gets caught up in a dark ride of terror. Would agree this is crime drama?
Definitely. I love any story with sinister side or a secret hidden in plain sight, so I try to incorporate this in my writing whenever I can.
How did your ‘day job’ influence this story?
I have worked with diamonds for nearly a decade, learning about their unique characteristics and untold mysteries. The Unicorn itself is a fictional stone, but inspired by the 69-carat pear cut diamond Richard Burton gave to Elizabeth Taylor after a bidding war against Cartier, despite her proclamation that she could survive on the diamonds she already had. I find diamonds have a very specific romance to them. For all but a few, a stone like the Unicorn is something they would never see in real life, let alone hold in their hand.
Around the time the Trade Secrets theme was announced, I had to read the certification code off a diamond. This is a hard job, even with strong magnification. I found myself wondering if anyone has ever written a private message on a diamond. If I had the tools at my disposal, I would do that on the first day. I guess that moment was the seed from which ‘The Unicorn’ sprouted.
How closely does the story echo diamond theft in real life?
The certification process is actually a lot more rigorous than I made it seem. A thief in possession of a stolen gem of this caliber would have a hard time getting it recertified and back on the market, but criminals have their ways and means. There have been quite a few armed robberies in jewellery stores around Cape Town, so we always urge clients to be discerning in where they buy diamonds. You could be getting a bargain, but to the detriment of hard working people in the industry, not to mention you can get in trouble.
To get back to Megan, her job as diamond grader seems a lot less glamorous than one would imagine work in the jewellery trade to be…
Because jewellers and diamond dealers come in contact with such high value on a regular basis, there is a bit of assumed glamour to the job.
It can be stressful to handle diamonds. They’re so small and expensive that I’m constantly worried about losing one. I enjoy the design side of jewellery though. Seeing an idea develop into a finished product that will become someone’s treasured heirloom is rewarding.
The truth is, like Megan’s, my job is often mundane. I mostly answer emails.
The story also tells, in flashback, about the close relationship between Megan and Joanna, a fellow grader. This adds a very human dimension to the story…
I never intended for Megan to be in love with Joanna, her mostly one-sided relationship happened by itself and I ran with it. I think their connection is mostly a means to fill voids left by shaky families at either end.
In your bio you talk of writing greeting cards. What is it like going from one extreme to another? From writing a few short words to 3000 or more?
Who says my greeting cards are any shorter? I enjoy writing short stories and will hopefully have more published in my lifetime so I won’t have to brag about writing greeting cards in an author’s bio!
What writing Trade Secret would you like to share?
Allocated time. I use my commute to work as special, uninterrupted writing time. The train has become my creative space.
- Trade Secrets edited by Joanne Hichens
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