Each week, Benjamin Law asks public figures to discuss the subjects we're told to keep private by getting them to roll a die. The numbers they land on are the topics they're given. This week he talks to Jan Logan. The Sydney-based jeweller, 79, a grandmother of eight, has made pieces worn on the red carpet by international stars including Naomi Watts, Jennifer Lopez and Taylor Swift.

If you want to do something, you’ve got to get your foot in the door and have a go. Use your instincts and listen to the prompts.Credit:James Brickwood


Jewellery is often at the centre of things when people pass away, isn't it?

Yes. Particularly in the Victorian era; they were very much into jewellery with hearts on it, necklaces or bracelets which could be engraved for the person who's passed. Or lockets made for holding hair, in memory of people.

What about now?

We get people coming in with beautiful engagement rings of their mothers, which they want to remake slightly. One family recently were almost in tears with gratitude because they loved theirs so much.

What losses have hit you the most?

My mother. She was a wife and mother of four, who lived outside Narrabri [north-west NSW]. She and my father were a happy, stylish couple. My father died when he was 69 – he was a smoker – and she was very sad because she wanted to celebrate their 50th anniversary together. My mother lasted until she was 93.

Good genes there.

She did have good genes. She was in a very nice nursing home in Narrabri, and I was living in Sydney, running the jewellery business. I was planning to see her that Easter, but she died a few hours before I got there.

The loss of a mother is such a substantial thing.

It's something I still regret and grieve about – not seeing her. The nursing home left her in the room so I could see her there and have a final farewell, before she was taken out. It's a very sad thing for me.

Have you kept any of her jewellery as a memento?

A beautiful little diamond engagement ring with about five stones in it that my father bought her. Some pearls. A few other lovely things that my sister – who's five years older – and I shared. These things are very important to me; I'm very grateful.

Have you decided who's getting your jewellery?

Oh, I have made an extensive list! [Laughs]

A spreadsheet?

I'm not up for spreadsheets. But it's in the file. Sometimes I have to revise it and make sure I've done the right thing. I have eight grandchildren, including three granddaughters. So, of course, I'm giving the girls pieces. And the boys. I'm not going to leave them out.


How did your parents' attitudes towards money inform your own?

My father grew wheat and raised sheep and cattle. We were, I'd say, comfortably well-off. His attitude to work – being devoted and dedicated to it – influenced me. My mother's supporting role was also very important.

How do you find the money-management side of your job?

I've been reasonably adept at it. Or, I've gotten people in to do the bookwork I didn't have the time to do. I've never let it pile up on a desk and ignored it.

As a brand, Jan Logan is an enduring success. In the early days, were there any mistakes you made?

No, I didn't take big risks. It was a pretty careful approach. I was living with my husband at the time, and didn't have to pay rent or keep the household. So I put my money towards opening my first shop in 1989. After a year, I could see it was going to work.

Does spending more money always guarantee better-quality jewellery?

Quality has always counted: it's the number-one priority in our work. Making jewellery by hand takes time and that equals money. So, yes, I think the best jewellery does cost more.

What do you like to spend money on for yourself?

Fashion and clothing. Eating out – good food. Movies, theatre and travel.

If you weren't a jeweller, how would you make money?

It's something I've never considered. I'd keep designing jewellery somehow. I'd find a way.


In a previous life, you worked with the Narrabri Chamber of Commerce.

That's absolutely true.

What did you do there?

By the time my youngest child went to boarding school, I'd spent many years supporting my husband. I helped him in his early career, and he kept me busy and on my toes. I enjoyed all that. But then I saw this advertisement in the North-Western Courier in Narrabri for a promotions officer with the Narrabri Chamber of Commerce. I applied for the position, was successful, and it paid $1000 per annum. The president of the chamber was the town's main jeweller. I started playing with stones, suggesting ideas. He offered me a 20 per cent shareholding. I skipped to the bank and took out a personal loan. It was a vital relationship and stepping stone for my life. If you want to do something, you've got to get your foot in the door and have a go. Use your instincts and listen to the prompts.

Does that mean you're quite comfortable in the realm of politics now?

I've been fortunate enough to meet quite a few politicians. I find them inspiring, dedicated and hard-working – all the things I respect.

Pink and Jennifer Lopez have worn your jewellery. Have any politicians?

I've had significant politicians wear our jewellery – or their wives, if it's a male politician. I've made some significant sales in that respect.

Well, my brain immediately leapt to Julie Bishop.

[Laughs] I won't comment on that!

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