Gems TV, ITV, review: How one family and a shedload of Tanzanite made Gems TV a winner
Ellen E Jones
Ellen is The Independent's TV critic. She writes a daily review of Last Night's TV and a weekly 'Inside TV' column for the i paper, as well as a column on general topics for the main paper most Wednesdays. Ellen is a former Hollywood correspondent and a contributing editor to Little White Lies, she's written on TV, film, lifestyle, travel and politics for publications including the Guardian, The Times, The Sunday Times, Esquire and Total Film.
Wednesday 03 September 2014
Documentaries don't have to be angry, hypocrisy-exposing investigations to hold our interest. Gems TV (ITV) was an entertaining hour, soothingly soundtracked by 1950s easy listening. If you've ever wondered why people watch those shopping channels, here was your answer: they're happily hypnotised.
Gems TV UK is one of three jewellery auction channels headed up by tycoon Steve Bennett and his extended family, including second wife, Sarah, his son and soon-to-be son-in-law. In essence, it's a family business operated out of a shed in Birmingham, but not many family businesses boast an annual turnover of more than £100m. While traditional jewellers sell only a few items a year with a high mark-up, the Bennetts' business model is based on selling thousands of pieces a day, sourced direct from the mines and at bargain basement prices.
Admittedly, it's not rubies or emeralds that are flying out the warehouse, but stones that most people have never heard of. Tanzanite, a blue-purple gem originating in the Mererani Hills of northern Tanzania, is so popular they've nearly run out, so Steve was off to Africa, to personally source a new seam. It was a bit like scene out of the 2006 blockbuster Blood Diamond, only there was no mention here of the environmental or ethical impact of precious stone mining and no mention at any point of Gems TV's recent scandal involving a presenter sacked for making a rude gesture live on air.
That's the kind of grit that might dull a stone's sparkle, and Steve Bennett knows it. Which is why when he returned home with only a cheesy Wotsits-coloured gem called "spessartite", he quickly went about renaming it "tulelei" and creating a backstory that would capture the imaginations of his viewer-customers. They call it "romancing the stones".
This may not be the whole, uncensored story of Gems TV, but with David Brent's disciples so plentiful in other business documentaries, a display of competence makes for a refreshing change. Here was a businessman who actually seemed to understand people as well as products. Selling jewellery is "never about price, it's only about the perceived value", said Steve and his theories were confirmed by interviews with Gems TV's happily bejewelled customers. These Liz Taylors of Leeds, Princess Graces of Macclesfield and Miss Havishams of Hammersmith were all interesting enough to warrant a documentary of their own.
Film Leonardo DiCaprio hunts Tom Hardy
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Sabrina Corgatelli: US hunting tourist posts picture of herself with dead giraffe after Cecil the lion outrage
- 2 Edward Heath 'child sex abuse' allegation: Investigation to be held into Wiltshire police handling of alleged claim in the 1990s
- 3 Dutch King Willem-Alexander declares the end of the welfare state
- 4 A-level results 2015: UK exam board OCR admits it 'estimates' hundreds of pupils' grades after papers 'go missing'
- 5 Giant Minion terrorises drivers in Ireland as 40ft inflatable blocks busy Dublin road
Artist Jamie McCartney: How The Great Wall of Vagina is a stand against 'body fascism'
A Very British Brothel, Channel 4 - TV Review: These insights into people who buy and sell sex are particularly relevant
Cilla Black: Her 12 best songs, from 'Anyone Who Had a Heart' to 'You're My World'
Game of Thrones season 6: 'A Song of Ice and Fire should be finished by 1998,' said George R. R. Martin, 'but don't hold your breath'
Michael B Jordan and Kate Mara handle excruciatingly awkward and offensive interview questions like pros
Is Britain really full up? Are migrants taking our jobs? Leading academic answers the most common anti-immigration claims
Calais Migrant Crisis: Deputy Mayor of Calais labels Cameron's use of 'swarm' as 'racist' and 'ignorant'
Chris Leslie: Jeremy Corbyn's anti-austerity agenda will harm the poor, says Labour shadow Chancellor
Landlords renting properties to illegal immigrants to face up to five years in prison
While we fixate on Calais, the Home Office is quietly deporting dozens of migrants on 'ghost flights'
Calais crisis: The seven claims made about the migrants - and the reality