THE TRANSVAAL JEWELERS' ASSOCIATION
Association Work Among Transvaal Jewelers
A Brief Review of the Activities of the Transvaal Jewelers' Association as Given in Chairman's Address at Recent Dinner in Johannesburg
A large and representative gathering of the jewelers of Johannesburg, South Africa, recently attended a dinner at the Carlton Hotel, Johannesburg, the occasion being the fifth anniversary of the Transvaal Jewelers' Association.
In his address the chairman, Jack Goodman, reviewed the work which had been carried on by the association since its inception. Many difficult trade problems were successfully handled by the association each year and all its members had benefited materially by its labors. A great deal of charitable work had been carried on by the association, and such institutions as the Children's Memorial Hospital, the Administrators Distress Fund, the Johannesburg University, and the Governor Generals' Fund, had been very liberally subscribed to.
The social side of the association's activities had not been neglected for dinners, dances and other functions were held at regular intervals.
The chairman impressed on the members the need for a livelier interest in the association's work, and hoped that members would come forward with advice and with ideas which would at all times be welcomed.
After dinner the entire company adjourned to the Empire Theatre. On all hands the evening's entertainment was acclaimed one of the most successful functions ever held by the association.
In view of the activity in association work in the jewelry trade in the United States, jewelers in this country will be interested in reading about what is being done by the association in South Africa, and for that reason we give herewith a part of the address of the chairman of the Transvaal Jewelers' Association:
"The association came into existence on Jan. 22, 1918. The work of the association during the first year of its existence consisted of the drawing up of a constitution and by-laws of the association. This entailed a very great deal of work, as the constitution of the English Jewelers' Association had to be carefully gone through, and the by-laws and rules which suited a South African association had to be picked out and adapted to our own needs. We had also to prepare and use by-laws which were particularly required for a South African association.
"At this time there existed some very serious inconveniences regarding the clearing of parcels of jewelry through the customs. A visit had to be paid to the post office to identify the parcels which had arrived. Next a visit to the Customs House in Jeppe St. had to be made so as to clear the parcels through the customs. This usually entailed great delay, as there was only one custom's officer to deal with post office parcels and he frequently could not be found at all, or if found was busy with somebody else, and a wait of 10 to I5 minutes was necessary before one could get attention. Having got the parcels duly cleared before this custom's officer one had to go down to the pay-in department at the customs and there again wait one's turn for 10 or I5 minutes before one could pay in the amount of duty, etc.
"Having eventually got over this difficulty one had to go back again to the post office and show the customs receipts and collect one's parcels. Occasionally an hour and a half was required to go through all this performance.
"The association discussed this matter and a deputation visited Pretoria and saw the Commissioner of Customs, with the result that all this red tape business was done away with, and as you all know you can now clear your parcels through the customs at the post office in a few minutes–not more than five minutes being required.
"Another customs matter which arose at this time was also successfully dealt with by the association. This was in connection with the duty on Swiss watches. The pre-war rate of exchange had been 25 Swiss francs to the Â£1 sterling, and although the exchange had altered, the customs continued to charge duty on 25 francs to the Â£1 sterling. One fine day, however, the customs woke up to the fact that they had been undercharging the duty and so they decided to collect all underpaid duty and accordingly appointed a custom's officer who visited all jewelers, making each one produce all his invoices for Swiss watches and preparing a debit for underpaid duty. In due course each jeweler received his debit from the customs and in some cases the debits amounted to about Â£50 or Â£60.
"A deputation from the association again visited Pretoria in connection with this matter and pointed out to the commissioner the fault of undercharging was that of the custom's officials, and that all relative watches had been sold long ago and that it was a great hardship that the jewelers should now be called upon to pay up. The commissioner saw the force of the deputation's argument and agreed not to insist on payment. This saved the members of the association a good many hundreds of pounds.
"During this year a special appeal addressed to the members of the association on behalf of the Governor General's Fund was the means of securing a very substantial sum in the name of the association for that most excellent fund.
"The first dinner was held on Aug. 26. 1918, at the Langham Hotel, and proved a great success.
"During the second year of the association's existence a great deal of discussion and trouble arose over the early closing of shops. There were many meetings, and very nearly some riots before this matter was eventually satisfactorily settled.
"Correspondence was started at this time with the Government to try and get a Hall Marking Act introduced. This took up a great deal of time, but the Government could not be persuaded, owing to the cost, to introduce the legislation which was necessary.
"About this time a great scarcity of gold arose in South Africa owing to war conditions. This was caused because every ounce of gold recovered from the mines had to be sent to England, the banks even being unable to buy any.
"On representations being made to the association by the working jewelers that they were being hampered in their business owing to being unable to buy gold from the banks, the association took this matter up with the Minister of Mines, with the result that the Government cabled to the Bank of England and the British Government and arranged that a quantity of gold, approximately 100 ounces, was kept at the Standard Bank in Johannesburg for sale as required to the working jewelers. The South African Government expressed in a letter from the Minister of Mines their confidence in the association to the extent that the association was empowered to issue permits to its members to buy gold and no person in South Africa who was not a member of the association could possibly buy gold.
"At this time the association enrolled as members in Durban and Cape Town and other centers in the union jewelers who would otherwise have been unable to get gold to carry on their work. The association continued to issue these permits for about two years.
"The second annual dinner was held at the Grand National Hotel on Sept. 30, 1919, and proved a great success.
"During the third year, the Government having turned down the association's proposal to pass a Hall Marking Act, and in order to improve the status of the locally manufactured gold articles, the association decided to adopt an association trade mark which could be registered and which could only be used by the members of the association. The design of a Springbok's Head was adopted but when the association's Pretoria solicitors were instructed to go ahead and register this mark it was found that an association such as ours could not register a trade mark. This could only be done by a manufacturing concern, and so this idea had ultimately to be dropped.
"To show you how excellent a design the Springbok's Head would have been for this purpose I may say that this design has now been adopted and registered by the South African mint.
"At this juncture an appeal to all trades was being issued by the university authorities to raise funds for the building and equipping of a university for Johannesburg. Professor Jones, a member of the University Council, addressed this association and a subscription list was opened and most generously subscribed to. I cannot tell you how much was subscribed by members of the association, but I think it was approximately Â£500.
"The third annual dinner was held at the Grand National Hotel on Sept. 4. 1920. and like its predecessors proved a great success.
"During the fourth year of the association's activity a form of indentures for apprentices was drawn up by the association's solicitors for the use of the working jewelers who had been having a great deal of trouble with their apprentices. Copies of these indentures can now be had on application to the secretary.
"A great deal of discussion took place at this time about wholesalers selling at retail, and many suggestions were put forward, not too successfully. It was eventually agreed that this matter must be left to the honor of the wholesale houses, whom it was thought would no longer countenance retail business.
"The annual dinner this year took the form of a 'souper dansant' at the Carlton Hotel.
"And now, gentlemen, we come to the fifth and present year of the association's activities. It had come to the notice of the association's executive that many people arriving from Europe brought with them valuable jewelry on which no duty was paid and this association took the matter up with the Commissioner of Customs in Pretoria.
"Unfortunately the commissioner, while very sympathetic, explained that the Government cannot afford at present to increase the staff of officials to the extent that would be required to tackle this matter.
"The Mayor and Mayoress of Johannesburg having decided to hold a bazaar on a very large scale in the Johannesburg Town Hall to raise money for the Administrators Distress Fund and the Children's Hospital Fund, the association was approached and agreed to convene a stall at this function. This having taken place so very recently, it is unnecessary to tell you how successful the jewelers' stall was. The Fayre consisted of about 30 stalls and the jewelers' stall was at the top of the poll, having handed in over Â£500 to the fund as a result of its work.
"And now, gentlemen, you have a very full report of the association's work since it came into existence, nearly five years ago. I must apologize for having gone into so much detail, but I have done so with the object of once and for all closing out all criticism of the usefulness of this association, and I want this report to be kept on record and pasted into the association's minute book, so that if at any time these criticisms are revived this report can be procured to settle all arguments."
Source: The Jewelers' Circular - 17th January 1923