In her words — Fátima Santos

Began working with gold at an early age. She showed evidence of great irreverence, which she combined with undeniable talent. Fátima Santos is the most visible face of a sector undergoing a profound transformation.

Do you still remember your first day at AORP?

Yes, as if it were yesterday. I answered an advert for a professional internship to provide legal support to AORP members. I was 23 years old and it was my first job after finishing my law internship and studies with the Portuguese Bar Association to qualify as a lawyer. When I started I knew nothing, absolutely nothing, about Portuguese jewellery. Neither I nor others could have imagined in a million years that my entire professional life would be spent around jewels, and that I would be leading the team that helped change the sector.

How has the world of Portuguese jewellery changed since then?

I think almost everything has changed. In fact, the way the jewellery business was conducted during the 2000s does not compare with how it works today. The industry, and AORP, have worked hard internally, using a philosophy partially based on sharing, networking, innovation… I came here almost 15 years ago at a very challenging time for a business that was experiencing moments of extreme crisis. Since then the Portuguese jewellery business has reinvented itself and modernised while retaining its traditions. It has created an identity and gained new impetus. New companies and new players have entered the industry, the network of partnerships has widened, one eye is on the world of fashion and I believe we are on the right path to proclaim Portuguese jewellery as a true treasure, as national heritage. Everything was there, we just needed to show it!

What do people in outside Portugal think of Portuguese jewellery?

I will answer with what at first may seem common knowledge, but outside the country Portuguese jewellery is seen to be of a very high quality in terms of technique, with exemplary finishes and some boldness in design. More recent brands and designers are winning innovation and design awards at major fairs and they are being invited to take part in very interesting, reputable and highly visible projects.

In fact, because we stayed at home for so long there was no notion, and perhaps even the perception that we were not very good. We are very good. The world appreciates Portuguese jewellery. The fact that brand Portugal appears in the most diverse areas, including tourism, footwear and innovation, is evidence of success and helps us open a dialogue with economic interests.

Because we are “late exporters” it seems like we have not passed through the country validation phase… we appear, and we are naturally seen to be, an welcome surprise!

What remains to be done?

I would say almost everything! We have cleaned up our “house” very well, which will allow us to go further. And that really is a lot. It has been achieved after many years of hard work. But we all know Rome wasn’t built in a day!

We have set out a strategy and we want to believe the sector sees we are on the right path and that it is aligned with it. In any case, there is a long process of shaping our companies to fit in with the international dynamics, to the challenge of online business, the digital world. We still have to train and attract workers from different areas and we must improve the culture of working in partnership and of sharing knowledge.

But the essence of Portuguese jewellery is here, it provides us with unique heritage that is made up of people, techniques, talent and true masters, who leave a legacy for the younger generations. These are characteristics that are not to be found elsewhere. Our craftsmanship and attention to detail set us apart and elevate us! You can see I really like this, right?

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