DURBAN – It’s just as well that Eddy Habiya was a boxing fan – otherwise he would never have come across the Floyd Mayweather’s passion for larger than life bling jewellery with luxury and opulence as the hallmark.
He says that when he surfed the world wide web and found pictures of Mayweather’s diamond encrusted watches, he knew exactly what he wanted to do when he left school – and that was to become a professional jeweler .
“I was blown away. Mayweather’s watch collection is something you never thought could exist. The designs, the glitter, the diamonds, the boxes of watches he has personally designed, they are beautiful. Those images were always with me. I think to do well you have to love something very much. For me my inspiration was those watches.”
However, for the young learner from a small rural community in Ndwedwe, north of Umhlanga, it was a big dream. As he discovered, there were not many opportunities to make that dream come true.
“I certainly didn’t have enough money to do formal studies ” he says. “So I had to take my chances and go from jewellery store to jewellery store to find out if anyone would take me on as a trainee.”
Anyone who believes that dreaming big is a waste of time, Habiya is proof that focus and determination are a winning recipe for success.
His search for an opening in the jewellery business resulted in an offer to join a small jewellery workshop in Durban North owned by local jeweller and precious stone specialist, Tommy Thompson.
“When doors like this open for you, you have one chance to prove that you want to learn and do well. As a child I had always been very good with my hands, making toys for myself and other children, even small bicycles out of wire. But there was no question that this was the right job for me. I loved it. I was like a sponge, soaking everything in. I loved working with metals like silver and gold and designing my own pieces using diamonds and tanzanite.”
That training – over a period of 10 years – was the solid career foundation Habiya needed to step up to the next level.
Today his workshop prowess has become a draw card at the jewellery outlet where he exercises his wide range of skills. He is surrounded by the intriguing range of instruments, the iconic tools of the jewelers’ trade, which include the tiniest of pliers, minute tweezers, the smallest steel screws and bolts imaginable. You can’t help thinking that one false move of the hand could be disastrous.
“You’re right ” he says with nod and smile. “It could be disastrous. With many of the designer watches you need to take out the working pieces sequentially during a repair, otherwise you can’t put it back correctly. When you pay thousands of Rands for a watch that would not be good.”
Pinned to the boards around him are his working designs of the pieces of jewellery that he is busy making for clients, including designs for rings, bracelets and pendants.
“That’s the bit I enjoy the most, coming up with designs. When the piece is finished and it’s handed to the customer, it’s almost like parting with your own child. But when you see the look of excitement on people’s faces when they try on their ring or bracelet, then I feel happy.”
He believes that the thing that has helped him the most to achieve his goals is the ability to concentrate and focus for long periods.
“When I was a child living on the farm, I could spend hours with my head down trying to make things. Sometimes I would skip meals, just so that I could finish something. It helped me at school to pass matric and it’s helped me in my career.”
Not that his journey is over, not by a long shot. The biggest dream in his life is to make a Merryweather style Rolex watch encrusted with precious metals and jewels. His vision for the future is to own and run his own jewellery manufacturing business.
He is also determined that his two pre-school children learn from early on the history of jewellery and the joy of using your hands to make beautiful things.
“Sometimes we forget these things when you use a computer. I would love for them to follow me in my footsteps. I think fine skills like this should not be lost.”