Attention: You are using an outdated browser, device or you do not have the latest version of JavaScript downloaded and so this website may not work as expected. Please download the latest software or switch device to avoid further issues.

News > Catch Up:Rising Stars > How perseverance really does bring rewards

How perseverance really does bring rewards

A recent newspaper photo of Frank Bell prize winner, Nicola Chan (2010), with an enormous diamond caught people's attention worldwide. Now working at Christies, Nicola shares her story with us...
23 Jun 2022
United Kingdom | Hong Kong SAR | Switzerland
Catch Up:Rising Stars
Nicola Chan with the 'The Rock'
Nicola Chan with the 'The Rock'

Q) What were you like as a Concord student? 

"Special thanks to Mr. Morris and Mr. Hawkins who took a chance with me at the age of 13 by taking me into the Concord family. I still remember when I first arrived in this remote college in the middle of nowhere.

I was one of those kids who only thinks about finishing her food as quickly as possible so that she could rush to take her seconds, and shamefully how she could cleverly skip prep and order duck rice without people noticing. But you know what? It isn’t that bad after all; it proves that with inspiring mentors and friends, anyone can change their life around.

Even for me, as someone who began by failing all of my Saturday tests, to then become a Frank Bell Prize graduate who got into her dream Art School at Central Saint Martins with an unconditional offer within a few years, I can stand as an example that if even people like me can achieve so much in 4 years, then you, from your better starting point, have every chance to fullfill your dreams."

Q) How did you start your career after studying Jewellery Design at St Martins College?

"Uni had been another great 4 years. I was grateful to be able to try everything outside of the box when working on my jewellery projects. But then, like everyone else, I decided to go commercial after graduation to earn some real quick steady money in order to sustain my life.

I started my career as a global marketeer in a company of the LVMH group; it was fun, a great team, clever people, and I learned a lot of the skills of working in a corporate company, but I simply couldn’t see myself working within this industry for the next X amount of years. I kept questioning myself, ‘Where am I going with this?’ This reminded me of a question asked of me in my mock interview for uni at Concord, ‘What is your goal in the next 5 years?’ Since then, every year I ask myself the same question and each year I evaluate myself and try to do one thing that is out of my comfort zone.

Eventually, I decided that I would find a way to combine my interests with my career, and this led me to apply for and get accepted onto the master’s programme at Christie’s Education in London in order to study The European History of Art.

This was a field that I had only scratched the surface of when studying art with Mr. Hudson, but I had always loved this subject. It was a tough year for me, but because it was tough, I made progress. It was, indeed, yet another turning point of my life. At the same time, during that year I also took on internships and work experience in every possible field within the art industry, covering Masterpieces, Art Basel, galleries and auction houses, etc."

Q) How did you get your job at Christies?

"After being rejected 4 or 5 times when applying for jobs at Christie’s, I got an internship in a local auction house in the area of Chelsea, Olympia Auctions. I told myself that I would make good use of my time at this company to learn everything I possibly could about the auction world, and I was sure that one day Christie’s would give me an opportunity the same way as Mr. Morris and Mr. Hawkins had, and that they wouldn’t regret it.

After 2 years of growing from an intern, then admin, then to a cataloguer in the Works of Art department, working with two of the most respected men who had given me my chance in the auction world, Matthew Barton and Thomas del Mar. I finally got my foot in the door at Christie’s Auction House."

Q) Why did 'making connections' work for you?

"I began steadily working there and trying to meet everyone I possibly could within the company, building connections. Eventually, I was given the chance to work not only in the London headquarters but I also then permanently relocated to my dream job as a cataloguer in one of the best teams in the jewellery auction world.

Becoming part of the Geneva team has always been a dream of mine – it allows me to see the best of the best in jewellery; it’s the place to be."

Q) Where are you now?

"Now I am on my specialist route in the Hong Kong office, exactly where I wanted myself to be 5 years ago when I first began my new, exciting adventure. I have been very lucky to have had such amazing bosses and mentors all the way through my career path who have given me opportunities and trusted my work and decisions.

I am now partially representing the team for interviews on social media, internally and externally, as well as for press and for talks.Most importantly I go on business trips to assist in international auctions and exhibitions."

Q) Tell us about 'The Rock'!

"This year, the 11th of May 2022 was an important date in the auction history, and I was honoured to be able to be part of it.

The diamond for auction in my hand in the pictures was called “The Rock” - a 228.31carats pear-shaped diamond that headlined the Geneva Magnificent Jewels sale as part of Christie’s Luxury Week. This exceptionally rare natural diamond was recovered and polished over two decades ago and sold for $21.9 million.

There was a funny story on how I became the background model for this magnificent diamond. I was admiring it closely with another specialist that morning and the press made an unexpected visit and ask to take photos and videos of me holding the diamond. After 2 hours I started receiving messages from friends with screencaps of me and the diamond in newspapers and articles, from as far afield as Japan, Switzerland, America, Hong Kong and France etc. Thank God I had some makeup on that morning! I must say, at Christie’s auction house, every day is a new day, and every day is rather unexpectedly exciting!

Q) What is next for you in your plans?

"I may not call myself the most successful Concordian in my peer group. There were obstacles in my path to get to where I wanted to be, but I am grateful for every moment of my life and am truly thankful to everyone who grew up with me on my way to where I have now arrived. I can’t say this is the end of my personal development; maybe someday something will come up and it will take me on a new path, but every milestone will make you who you are in the future, and being a Concordian is most certainly the best step towards that."

If anyone from the Concord Community would like to know more about the art/luxury world, you can reach out  and connect witho Nicola via the Concord Alumni Network and follow her on Instagram!

Instagram: nicolannchan

Read more about 'The Rock' in these articles online:

'The Rock' diamond, goes up for auction (


This $30 Million White Diamond Is The Largest To Ever Appear At Auction (





Similar stories

Gerda Storpirštytė (2013)

Analysing political events led Gerda to conclude that most decision-making is not always rational, but driven by emotions - find out how this directly… More...

Ijeoma Egbarin (2018) and some of her Concord friends

Ijeoma's passion for medicine, justice and law has already led to her becoming a changemaker. Find out what she remembers of Concord and the work she … More...

Anthony Lei (2012), now working on finding a cure for Parkinson's Disease

After more than two centuries of research in Parkinson's disease, no cures have yet been found. Read about Anthony's work to find a solution in our la… More...

Most read

Fehintola Akinlose (left) with Mr Morris and friends

Fehintola is Finance Director at the UK House of Lords and the first black person in the role. Find out how, after being disappointed with her A Level… More...

Elizabeth de Gaulle and her classmates in 1944

Amazing photos have come to light of Acton Burnell Hall during the 1940s and 1950s. Apart from the people, the rooms have hardly changed at all! More...

Submit your story...

This website is powered by