Q&A: AGTA CEO John Ford on His New Role, Goals

SourcingAug 31, 2022

Q&A: AGTA CEO John Ford on His New Role, Goals

National Jeweler chats with him about how his background in gems will guide him and his plans for the organization’s future.

The American Gem Trade Association named industry veteran John Ford as its new CEO in early August.
Dallas—The American Gem Trade Association named John Ford, an industry veteran and one of its own members, as its new CEO in early August.

Ford was the owner of The Lightning Ridge Collection by John Ford, centered on black opals from Lighting Ridge in Australia, but he left that business to focus on the new role.

He also relocated from Galveston to Dallas, Texas.

National Jeweler recently caught up with Ford via email to hear more about his plans as CEO. Here’s what he had to say.

National Jeweler: Tell us a little bit about your background in the industry and how you got into it.

John Ford: I originally got into the trade at age 19, when I met someone selling gold chains in flea markets in Houston, Texas, who bragged about how much money they were making. I was intrigued and found a few wholesale suppliers, and suddenly I was in business. I sold gold chains, charms, and earrings on weekends and even at school as I attended Texas A&M University.

I soon progressed into fine gemstones, being primarily influenced and mentored by Keith Shaftel of Shaftel Diamonds of Houston, Texas, and the late Irving David Clark of Galveston, Texas, an esteemed jeweler and gemologist.

I opened a brick-and-mortar retail jewelry store with a wholesale trade shop in Galveston. Business flourished and, by total accident, I was exposed to Lightning Ridge opal, which forever changed my life. 

The colors and of the beauty of black opal captivated me, and as time went on, I transitioned solely into wholesaling loose and finished jewelry set with black opal. That transition into black opal ultimately led me to AGTA firm membership and its board of directors.

 Related stories will be right here … 

NJ: How do you think that background, and having been an AGTA member yourself, will inform how you approach the role of AGTA CEO?

JF: My background is very diverse; being a gem dealer, I understand the unique aspects of our industry, those involved, and how to position AGTA at the industry’s forefront. I have extensive corporate governance experience and board experience in both the public and private sectors that, combined with my jewelry industry experience, provides me a unique perspective as CEO of AGTA.

NJ: What is your No. 1 goal for AGTA as you step into the CEO role?

JF: To solidify AGTA as the trusted source for colored gemstones and cultured pearls in the industry and as the authority on ethical practices for the trade and consumers alike.

NJ: Where do you think AGTA’s greatest areas of opportunity lie?

JF: Our greatest opportunity lies in increasing our membership, with an emphasis on retail members, and promoting our trade shows to a larger wholesale audience.

“My background is very diverse; being a gem dealer, I understand the unique aspects of our industry, those involved, and how to position AGTA at the industry’s forefront.”

NJ: How important do you think the organization’s GemFair events are when it comes to the future of the organization, and what would you like to see happen with those?

JF: We are expanding all our GemFair events, (beginning with) the expansion of the AGTA GemFair Denver pavilion at the HardRock Summit Sparkle & Joy this September. And most notably our growing renewed partnership with JCK Las Vegas.

I’m excited that our 2023 AGTA GemFair Las Vegas Pavilion will be expanding four times larger than in 2022. The popular AGTA GemFair Tucson is getting an upgrade as well—the Tucson Convention Center added 18,000 square feet of exhibit and meeting space, and we’re going to bring new aspects to the show in the future.

NJ: As conversations around responsible sourcing continue, what do you see as AGTA’s role when it comes to being a part of those and how will you address that? 

JF: AGTA will continue to be the authority on ethical practices for colored gemstones and cultured pearls in the world just as we’ve done over the last 40 years. Responsible sourcing is in the fiber of who we are as an association.

NJ: Are there any other goals or areas of focus you’d like to mention?

JF: My goals as CEO are for AGTA to be a sustainable entity, growing in membership with an emphasis on retail memberships, promoting our trade shows to a larger wholesale audience with a comprehensive new marketing strategy solidifying AGTA as the source for colored gemstones in the world and the authority on ethical practices for the trade and consumers.

The Latest

Alexandra Rosier gold and opal Eternal Love Hands necklace
TrendsJun 02, 2023
Take a Peek at Couture’s Newest Design Talents

This year’s Design Atelier is full of gems.

Saboo Fine Jewels emerald and titanium earrings
CollectionsJun 02, 2023
Piece of the Week: Saboo Fine Jewels’ Emerald Earrings

They’re a testament to the power of excellent design.

Holly Wesche, Stan Razny, Ingrid Razny, Candy Udell
IndependentsJun 02, 2023
These Are the 2023 Retailer Hall of Fame Inductees

This year’s honorees include one of Florida’s largest independent jewelers and two multi-store independents in the Chicago and New York areas.

Brought to you by
The Next Step for GIA Diamond Reports

The most trusted diamond report, available in print or the GIA App.

Jane Taylor letter pendants
TrendsJun 01, 2023
See 50+ Jewels Debuting at Couture in Las Vegas

The industry’s most influential contemporary designers are showcasing their latest jewelry designs.

Weekly QuizJun 02, 2023
This Week’s Quiz
Test your jewelry news knowledge with this short test.
Take the Quiz
35-carat lab-grown diamond created by Maitri
Lab-GrownJun 01, 2023
35-Carat Lab-Grown Diamond Going on Display in Vegas

Created by Maitri Lab-Grown Diamonds and graded by IGI, it’s slightly bigger than the record-setting lab-grown diamond GIA just examined.

Bottom Line Marketing Chief Growth Officer Gus Garcia and CEO Jackie Brooks
MajorsJun 01, 2023
Bottom Line Marketing Announces Restructured Leadership, New Service Offerings

The marketing agency has integrated its first C-suite.

Brought to you by
Beyond Borders: Crucial Factors in Colored Stone Origin Determination

Navigate origin determination with Continuing Education seminars offered by the GIA Alumni Collective™.

Events & AwardsJun 01, 2023
Meet JCK’s 2023 Keynote Speaker

The jewelry trade show also will debut educational content centered around social media.

Lauren K gold and gemstone rings
TrendsMay 31, 2023
Here’s a Sneak Peek of New Jewelry to Check Out at JCK

Luxury kicks off today, with the full show in swing on Friday.

A pearl pendant and a pearl ring
CollectionsMay 31, 2023
Verragio’s Debut Fine Jewelry Collections Honor Company Heritage

One of the three new collections was inspired by the legend of a woman who traded her mansion to Cartier for two strands of natural pearls.

Rob Ballew
MajorsMay 31, 2023
Signet Jewelers Names New Head of Investor Relations

Rob Ballew will be tasked with communicating the jewelry giant’s plans and financial performance to investors.

Mobile mock-up screens of the new LUX Digital Vault app from Jewelers Mutual Group
MajorsMay 31, 2023
Jewelers Mutual Launches App for Retailers, Introduces New Brokerage

With the app, customers receive a 15-day insurance offer on new purchases while their coverage needs are being evaluated.

Rendering of Lightbox lab-grown diamond store in House of Showfields
Lab-GrownMay 30, 2023
Lightbox Is Testing Out a Trendy Concept Shop in Brooklyn

It is in House of Showfields, a bazaar-style retail space in the borough’s Williamsburg neighborhood.

Attendees at the JCK Las Vegas show
Events & AwardsMay 30, 2023
These Are the Can’t-Miss JCK Talks Education Sessions

From consumer trends to retail technology, these are the JCK Talks sessions that should be on attendees’ radar.

Constance “Connie” Barber Mellon’s David Webb Elephant Clip-Brooch
AuctionsMay 30, 2023
Sotheby’s to Auction Mellon Family Jewelry

Signature pieces from Cartier and David Webb will appear in the June jewelry auction.

Georgie Gleim, Shelly Sergent, and Molly Peterson
Events & AwardsMay 30, 2023
24 Karat Club of Southern California Recognizes 3 Honorees

They will be celebrated at the annual dinner dance and gala in the fall.

Historic and modern photos of diamond grading GIA
GradingMay 26, 2023
State of the Diamond Industry: AI and the Future of Diamond Grading

Gemologists have long used machines in diamond grading but technology has made it possible for them to “learn” how to do it on their own.

Supplier Spotlight Webinar John Pollard and Garry Holloway
Recorded WebinarsMay 26, 2023
Watch: Diamond Cut Quality: The Final Frontier Part 2

Supplier Spotlight Sponsored by IGI

My Next Question webinar series episode on selling lab-grown diamonds
Recorded WebinarsMay 26, 2023
Natural and Lab-Grown Diamonds: What It’s Like to Sell Both

Watch retailers Jeffery Bolling and Bobby Bengivengo discuss employee training, customer education and the sticky subject of future value.

Models wearing Calvin Klein watches and jewelry
FinancialsMay 26, 2023
Movado Sales Slip in Q1 Amid Inflation Woes, Tough Comps

The company has plans to revamp the Movado brand and offer less expensive watches this year.

Bulgari necklace set with 118.35-carat unheated Sri Lankan sapphire
AuctionsMay 26, 2023
Piece of the Week: A Bulgari Sapphire and Diamond Necklace

Set with a 118-carat unheated Sri Lankan sapphire, it just sold for $3.4 million at Phillips jewelry auction in Hong Kong.

Supplier BulletinMay 25, 2023
RAE Fine Jewelry Collection Debuting at JCK Luxury 2023

Sponsored by Noam Carver

Graphic of phishing scheme
TechnologyMay 25, 2023
State of Retail: Why Jewelers Need to Invest in Cybersecurity Now

As cybercrime incidents threaten the industry, jewelers need to know what they’re up against and the best ways to protect their businesses.

Louis Anthony Jewelers remodeled exterior
IndependentsMay 25, 2023
Louis Anthony Jewelers Is Remodeling and Expanding

The Pittsburgh jeweler is redoing the lighting and showcases, and adding a full hospitality bar as well as new shop-in-shops.

Stanley Zale new principal consultant Hill & Co.
MajorsMay 25, 2023
Stanley Zale Joins Hill & Co. as Principal Consultant

Zale has more than 40 years’ experience in the diamond industry, including 17 years as Stuller’s VP of diamonds and gemstones procurement.

 Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas Nevada sign
Events & AwardsMay 24, 2023
New To-Dos in Las Vegas During Jewelry Market Week 2023

The Strip is full of new restaurant and entertainment offerings.


This site uses cookies to give you the best online experience. By continuing to use & browse this site, we assume you agree to our Privacy Policy