January 14, 2008

Beauty rises from the ashes of divorce

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Unaisi Rakuro sports some of Mrs Heaths jewellery while more are on display+ Enlarge this image

Unaisi Rakuro sports some of Mrs Heaths jewellery while more are on display

IT'S hard to imagine that a flourishing jewellery business would emerge from the ashes of a bitter divorce. But that's exactly what happened in the case of Jennifer Heath.

Mrs Heath, an American, had been married to a Fiji citizen for 12 years but in 1999 decided he didn't want to remain married and left her high and dry with children to support.

They finally divorced in 2004 and by then Mrs Heath had to find a way to support herself and her children.

She chose to stay in Fiji while her ex-husband moved to the United States.

"I was devastated," she said of the divorce. "I turned to God, prayed and fasted.

"I was born and raised an Anglican but I never had a personal relationship with God until then."

It was then that her love of stringing pearls together and making simple necklaces and bracelets for friends began to form into something more substantial.

After a four-year divorce process, she spent Christmas 2004 with her children and ex-husband in California.

They had agreed that as long as they weren't seeing anyone Christmas would be spent with their children.

Instead of returning direct to Fiji, she flew to London and Asia to shop for pearls.

"I loved doing pearl jewellery the usual white, pink and peach, then I stared adding crystals."

Mrs Heath said she would visit businesses with her basket of wired pearl jewellery.

"Then I started going to the ROC market," she said.

"One day I decided that I had to let go of my husband and the divorce, take a leap of faith and trust God with my business.

"If I didn't step out of my comfort zone, how was He going to help me?"

Today, Jennifer is married to Richard Heath the pair was introduced through a mutual friend but their relationship took a while to bloom.

The couple celebrated their first anniversary in December.

"I saw him at the ROC Market in November 2005," she said.

"When I saw him my heart skipped a beat."

By mid-2006 Richard and Jennifer were engaged and six months later they married.

Mrs Heath now has nine people working for her from her home in Lami.

"We pray before we start work every day," she said.

"We ask Him to bless us, the business and to be able to see new opportunities.

"This business has in 18 months taken me around the world six times.

"God has restored my dignity and the glory has to go to Him because He is the one who has given me the strength."

Mr Heath is originally from Napier in New Zealand and in November they opened a shop there.

He resigned from his post with the Hawkes Bay Chamber of Commerce to help his wife.

Mrs Heath's designs can be found at the Cocoon Boutique at the Westin, Sheraton and Hilton Resorts on Denarau.

They can also be found at Tokoriki Island Resort, Pearl Resort at Pacific Harbour, the Art Gallery in Savusavu, Head to Toe beauty salon and MHCC in Suva, Archipelago at the airport concourse or the Vale ni Tadra on Marine Drive, Lami.

Jewellery can be specially ordered. She sits with clients to design jewellery according to their preferences. But most of the jewellery that goes on sale are designed by Mrs Heath and her employees.

"When we do bridal," she said, "we do the whole bridal party from the bride to the bridesmaid's jewellery.

"We do a lot of weddings too so we have a bridal range."

While her biggest clients are commercial, expatriate women also order from her and so do many locals.

Her jewellery prices range from $25 to $300 and prices will drop by 30 to 50 per cent at the next ROC Market to make way for new stock

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