Female Entrepreneurs: Willyn Villarica On Jewelry Heirlooms and Family Legacy

By Marane A. Plaza

For Willyn Villarica, jewelry appraisal is all about preserving family relationships.

“I do estate appraisal and most of the time, I appraise diamonds, gemstones and jewelries to offer guidance to families who are passing on inheritance from a generation to the next. Usually in the Filipino culture, the women in the family receive valuable jewelry heirlooms as inheritance, while the men receive land properties. So to determine the value of the inheritance, I do estate appraisal report to determine the value of the jewelry of my clients,” Willyn said. “I also do jewelry appraisal for the purpose of knowing the valuation of jewelries before my clients get an insurance for the jewelry abroad, since we do not do jewelry insurance in the Philippines.”

Willyn is a licensed gemologist and jewelry appraiser, acquiring her certification and education in New York back in 2011 from the Gemological Institute of America (GIA).

“I learned the scientific difference between grading and identifying. When you say grading, it is like grading the color of the gemstone since each stone has its own quality based on the color, clarity and transparency, among other things. Identifying the gem is when you didn’t know what the stone is, and you have to figure it out. It is harder to know the value or appraise gemstones, because unlike in diamond valuation, it is really the supplier’s decision to determine the value of a gem, so it is very different from appraising diamonds. There’s a price guide for diamonds that we follow internationally, whereas for gemstones, there’s none.”

“For me, at the end of the day, jewelry appraisal is about preserving family relationships and heirlooms,” Willyn said in an exclusive interview with STYLISH.

Family Legacy

Coming from the Villarica clan, the family behind the popular Villarica Pawnshop, Willyn herself truly grew up understanding the value of jewelry not just as an investment or inheritance, but also as her early exposure to entrepreneurship.

“My paternal grandmother, Paz Villarica, was the one who started Villarica Pawnshop way back in the mid ‘50s to early ‘60s. She was really known among the Chinese community as the only fierce Filipina businesswoman at the time. And when my mother married into the family, my grandma was the one who took my mom under her wing and trained her about jewelry.” 

Licensed diamond and gemstone appraiser Willyn Villarica

Willyn narrated though that among the siblings, she has always been the one who has the innate interest in the jewelry business.

“I remember the very first time I was exposed to the jewely business because it got me curious. I was about 6 or 7 years old and I would see my mom carefully putting price tags on some jewelry pieces because my grandmother taught her so. My grandma taught my mom to make her own money and not just rely on her husband. After school, my mother would tag me along as she would visit banks around Binondo and Quiapo to sell the jewelry pieces from my grandma’s pawnshop to some bank managers and tellers. Eventually, I would help her put price tags on the jewels, and I even would do the manning in some branches of our pawnshop under different names. That’s where I really learned a lot about managing money and the jewely business.” 

Describing her family as naturally entrepreneurial, she recalled having side stints as a young child aside from helping the family business.

“We were originally from Bulacan, and we’d wake up at 5AM and travel to Colegio de San Agustin in Makati. Small rice cakes were rare in Manila back then, and they already so famous in Bulacan. So I would actually use my allowance to buy rice cakes from ‘Puto Popular’ in Bulacan for 10 pesos each, and then sell each to my classmates for 20 pesos each. We’re not always directly involved in the Villarica Pawnshop as we’ve always had our own, because my parents separated a long time ago. So I really grew up with my mom and she has always been the entrepreneurial type.”

By college, Willyn’s endeavours in sales had truly focused on jewelry.

“By college, I leveled up and started really selling jewelry. I also started kind of accepting jewelry appraisal jobs, because classmates or friends would ask me to appraise for them since they know that our family is into the jewelry business. A lot of times, it would involve division of inheritance among siblings. Sometimes, I would buy the jewelry myself to either keep or sell.”

She finished her degree in Business Management at Assumption College, then eventually studied law and business after college. She even briefly worked for former senator Jambi Madrigal, but later on realized “that my heart is really into jewelry and helping my mom and our family business.”

By 2010, she decided to finally formalize her education in gemology.

 “I studied diamond reading in New york and I took that program course for six months. That was the first time I was miles away from my family ever, wherein I’d do my own stuff for myself.”

Building Her Own

When she came back to the Philippines in 2012, she set up her very own jewelry store called Willyn Villarica Jewelry at Ayala Malls Market Market in Taguig City.

Diamond necklace from Willyn Villarica Jewelry store
Diamond earrings and ring set from Willyn Villarica Jewelry store
Gold earrings from Willyn Villarica Jewelry store
Gold earrigns from Willyn Villarica Jewelry store

“I initially offered diamond grading and gemstone identication, and then jewelry appraisal has always been requested by clients and friends since our family business has been known for that.”

Willyn takes pride in investing in the top-of-the-line equipment for reading the valuation for diamonds. “They could be really expensive but the equipment make our job easier. I have the toptier Gemalite microscope from GIA and I can honestly say I am the first and the only one to have this in the Philippines.”

This female entrepreneur shares that Eduardian jewelries are her favorite, which are known for their aesthetic from the 18th century known as the “garland” style or guirlande. From her professional experience, jewelry heirlooms have preserved the history of a clan, and even tight knits.

Feminine Energy

She believes that being a woman in business has its charms and strengths.

“Women are naturally meticulous, detail-oriented and curious, and that is good in business. When I find something interesting, I read everything I can to learn a lot about a certain topic. I came from the orientation that women can balance family life and entrepreneurship. Women can truly focus on raising their children while also doing a great job at taking care of the business. I saw that from the strong women in our family too growing up.”

When it comes to entrepreneurship, Willyn believes that success is about constant progress and learning.

“I am big on education. The moment we stop being curious and stop learning, is the moment we die. One of my professors from AIM said something that really had an impact on me. Professor Ed Morato taught us, ‘We have to make ourselves obsolete’. How do you make yourself obsolete? By always learning something new, learning from mistakes and experience, and improving ourselves. We have to be an expert at what we choose to do, and try to educate ourselves all the time.”