John W. Ford Sr., CEO, American Gem Trade Association
I was born in Galveston, Texas in 1964, I am a fifth generation Galvestonian. I attended and graduated from Texas A&M University (The Texas Maritime Academy), with an advanced degree in Maritime Studies, International Trade and Finance, at that time I planned on practicing Admiralty Law and was offered a Commission in the United States Navy. But I had fallen in love with the jewelry business and to the family’s distress I plotted a different course for my life. I have now been in the jewelry industry for 39 years.
I started out selling gold chains in flea markets in the greater Houston area in 1984 while attending college. I opened my first brick and mortar jewelry store in 1987 selling retail and operating a wholesale trade shop specializing in custom manufacturing. I earned a certificate in Diamonds from the Gemological Institute of America in 1990. I started wholesale manufacturing of colored gemstone jewelry and attended my first AGTA Tucson gem show as a buyer. I soon discovered the beauty of Lightning Ridge opal and began importing material from Lightning Ridge and wholesaling in 1992. I spent more than a decade traveling promoting my opal goods through trade shows, including the International Gem & Jewelry Shows, affording me an early opportunity to realize and understand the needs of exhibitors and buyers required for successful trade shows. Overtime, I gradually shifted from retail into the wholesale jewelry manufacturing business – working with loose precious stones and later specializing only in loose Australian black opal.
I joined AGTA in 2010 as an affiliate member after attending AGTA Tucson as a buyer for decades. I became a firm member in 2014. I was proud to exhibit yearly at AGTA Tucson and have exhibited at AGTA Las Vegas. I have participated in nearly every AGTA activity or event, including the Spectrum Awards, of which I am humbled to have earned ten awards. My other industry affiliations have included membership in the American Gem Society as an “AGS Supplier.” I have been privileged to serve as a frequent guest speaker at AGTA Tucson, AGS conclaves, and a speaker for the AGS Guilds.
While operating my jewelry business I was honored to serve my local community in multiple elected and appointed public service positions where I dedicated myself to bettering each respective organization and positioning it for continued success. I have served as an elected official as president of the GISD Board of Trustees, an appointed official as Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Port of Galveston, President of the Rural Rail Transportation District of Galveston County, Vice Chairman of the Central Appraisal District Board of Directors for Galveston County and numerous other boards and commissions.
In, 2014, I stepped away from public service and real estate development preferring to have more time to pursue my love of gems, particularly bringing Lightning Ridge black opal to the forefront of the U.S. gem world, which in turn led me ultimately to service on the AGTA board and to the CEO’s position. Being CEO of AGTA was a course adjustment neither I nor my family saw coming. Just as I had fallen in love with the jewelry industry I fell in love with AGTA and its members. As CEO of AGTA my gem trading days are behind me, but my love of gemstones is eternal. Today as CEO I work in partnership with President Kimberly Collins and the AGTA board of directors in a common goal of making AGTA the flagship organization that is the guiding light forward for the colored stone industry.