21st March 2021

If ever in doubt of the power of an individual to create change, look no further than volunteer jewellery consultant Ria Paridaen. 

Of all the clothes, furniture and other items we sell at our 10 op-shops, jewellery is our biggest earner, and by all counts this is thanks to a savvy group of volunteers led by Ria. 

Originally from The Netherlands, Ria has volunteered at Bloomhill for 14 years and was a Board member for four years from 2011.  

She started working at our Buderim op shop in 2007 after a friend she made through her gym, Lyn Cheffers, told her about Bloomhill. 

Within six months Ria had transformed the jewellery display and started sorting the “cheap costume jewellery” from the quality items, and pricing them accordingly.  

“Elaine [Buderim op shop manager] was great, I said to her, ‘Do you mind if I do something with the display? And she said, ‘oh go for it, girl!” Ria said.  

“Elaine allowed more space and that was the start. 

“We had only six necklaces and four brooches, and the odd silver or gold ring, but we were selling! And most important, the donations started arriving as well.  

“The more we sold, the more jewellery we were getting in.”  

High quality donated items include gold, silver, ivory, amber, gemstones. 

“So many things are donated, and really quite a lot of it is very good quality,” Ria said.   

“Sometimes you would think that people don’t realise how valuable their items are – but then, jewellery arrives neatly wrapped with a note included. These people love to donate to Bloomhill.”   

Ria now runs a smooth operation with a team of volunteers dedicated to sorting, cleaning, repairing and pricing jewellery for Bloomhill op shops. The team includes Alison, Bobbie, Gillian, Jan, Jean, Pam, Sue and Frank.  

Frank Morello has worked with Bloomhill for about 20 years and has an encyclopaedic knowledge of jewellery. 

“Like me, he is passionate about jewellery, she said.  

“He is really good at working out what we are looking at when new and sometimes strange items arrive, and helping cost it. He told me that once he reads something or sees it, he never forgets it.”   

The all-volunteer jewellery team fills orders from op-shops as they run low on certain types of jewellery.  

“In the past some of good jewellery could get missed, and was sold too cheap – like gold and silver chains sold as costume jewellery,” Ria said.  

“Before I joined the Board in 2011, jewellery accounted for less than 4% of turnover in the op-shops, but now it’s 10%. 

“I’m really happy about that…it also makes it a lot easier for the shops because all they have to do order and display it.” 

At 76 years old, Ria feels she may soon need to take a step back from her leadership role, but says  she loves working in a “lovely organisation” like Bloomhill.  

“I just have a fascination with jewellery and I’m so glad to be able to make a difference, and use my skills well.” 

Thank you Ria, and the Jewellery Team, and thank you to every one of our army of volunteers. You are amazing!