WINNIE WAI WING-SZE, regional marketing and communications manager of Richemont Asia Pacific's Baume & Mercier, had an interest in jewellery from an early age. 'I believe that I was very much influenced by my mother, who bought me my first earrings when I was six,' she said. 'Of course, diamonds are very unique and precious, and this makes them more valuable and gives them so much sentimental value.' Ms Wai decided while still at university that she wanted to work in consumer goods. Her first degree was in commerce. This was followed by an MBA. Then she enrolled in courses offered by the Gemological Institution of America (GIA). 'I decided that it was time to learn more,' she said. 'I had to make a choice between studying law or diamonds.' Ms Wai decided that the courses offered by GIA were really interesting. 'You didn't have to attend too many lectures, but you had the chance to touch as many diamonds as you wanted. In the end, I decided that jewellery was more related to my career path, and - as the saying goes - diamonds are a girl's best friend. My next step will be to study languages or pursue a PhD.' Receiving her bachelor's degree from the University of Auckland in New Zealand at the age of 21, Ms Wai launched her career working for a series of firms. She now has 10 years' experience in brand management, from footwear to lingerie to watches. 'I have been lucky to get hired by some great companies, and each one has provided me with the best training and given me the opportunity to experience cross-cultural differences - from the British to the Swiss to the French. Of course, I have also been able to work in Hong Kong, where east meets west.' Along the way, Ms Wai has been able to acquire a lot of experience while sharpening her commercial sense and interpersonal skills. 'These are things that I could not have learnt at school,' she said. 'Most importantly, I got to meet a lot of nice people who have now become my friends.' Ms Wai said that she benefited from the courses that she took at GIA in several ways. 'I now have a much better understanding of diamonds and various coloured stones and have learnt to appreciate them more - both as a consumer and a professional,' she said. 'It is great having the skills needed to tell genuine diamonds from the fakes. Being a gemologist will definitely help my career in the future.' GIA's hands-on teaching approach was what Ms Wai enjoyed most. 'We had to identify thousands of stones before we could graduate. There was zero tolerance for error,' she said. Ms Wai hopes to someday start her own business.