What is it like to be a jewellery designer?

When someone asks what I do for a living, and I reveal that I am a jewellery designer, I generally get one of two reactions;

1) “Oh, wow! I would love to do something creative like that. I’m just not artistic at all! It must be such a glamourous lifestyle, tell me more…”

2) “That’s nice.” [End of conversation.]

Once, I was even told (with a slight sigh), “What a waste!”  I was temping at the time, for a solicitors office, trying to make some money over the summer whilst I studied for my degree in (you’ve guessed it) jewellery design and making. That was quite some time ago, but it has always stuck with me, it hurt and it almost tainted the career path I had chosen. It was honestly his view that as an intelligent young woman, studying at university, I was wasting my time being a creative. As I have got older I have come to realise that I am not ashamed of being creative, that it does not mean I am ‘playing’ at having a career. I love my job! I get to meet and work with amazing people every day and have the privilege to be involved in some of their life's most precious moments. I wonder how many people can say that, and with the opening of our new showroom next year, it means I can work in my very own space and will not be stuck in a stuffy office, without a window (like the solicitor who thought I was wasting my time).

With this in mind I thought I would describe what it is like to be a jewellery designer (for those of you who would answer like person number 1).

I always start a commission in the same way; with a simple chat, usually over a cup of tea or coffee. In order for me to design something which truly connects to someone I need to get to know them first. I need to understand their style, their reason for having something made, as well as to understand how they want to wear the piece. What I mean by this is that if you are someone who never takes your jewellery off, it is no good for me to design something super delicate, which will need to be worn with great care, it just will not be suitable for you. I believe that my main aim as a designer is to interpret what the customer wants, not what I want to give them. Obviously my designs will always be in my unique style, but I have met so many designers over the years who design what they want to design and so the customer ends up with what they are given, rather than what they truly wanted. If you want a piece that is in a particular designer’s style then that is absolutely fine, but if you want something that is yours, truly yours, with all the symbolism and meaning that makes you unique, then that is why you should come to a designer like me. What people never understand is that not everything I design is necessarily to my taste, but that doesn’t matter! What is important is that my client ends up with their perfect piece of jewellery, which speaks to them, and each commission will be slightly different depending on the individual’s wants or needs.

"You are unique, your jewellery should be too!"

After the initial chat, I start to draw up some design options. I like to hand draw and render the designs, not only because I enjoy it, but also I think that it makes it slightly more personal, that someone has drawn this specifically for you. It is all part of the process and I honestly believe that this part of the commission is just as important as the final jewellery piece. In a world where online shopping is so instant (and cold), I think we are losing the actual experience of shopping, and the emotional connection that talking to an actual person can provide. Sometimes the true fun in buying something is the process before the actual purchase; the trying-on, the comparing, the researching. In truth I think it is this excitement building service and experience which we offer to our customers that will set us apart from others, especially our internet competition.

“the journey is often more important than the destination.”

Depending on the initial conversation, the number of designs I will do can be anything from a single drawing, just to confirm everything we spoke about, to a selection of sketches to show the various options and tweaks that can be made around a theme. At this point I would also source the stones, if the design includes them. Sometimes this won’t be necessary, as a lot of my clients provide their own; for example from an inherited piece of jewellery or a gemstone they have bought on holiday.

Designs, emerald and diamond.jpg

Once the drawings are finished I would usually invite the client back for another chat. I always find this a much better way of working, as I can explain and discuss the different options, rather than just ‘coldly’ sending the images by email.  I can get a much clearer reading from a face-to-face chat of whether we are on the right track or whether some further refinement is needed. Upon deciding on the final design and choosing the perfect stone, the piece would then be passed over to the workshop to be made. It all seems so quick when I write it down like this, but sometimes this ‘simple’ process can take months. I remember one client who spent over six months choosing the perfect sapphire for her engagement ring. Now, this is very extreme, and I am pretty sure that she actually ended up going back to the very first stone that I showed her, but it goes to show that everyone’s ‘jewellery journey’ will be unique.

The actual making of the piece is incredible, I love watching Paul in the workshop. He makes it seem so effortless, and I am always amazed at the intricate detail he can achieve even with his huge sausage fingers. I promise I will write another post about how something is made, it is fascinating.

When the metalwork has been completed, the stones have been set and the hallmark has been struck, the finished piece can be collected. I always get butterflies in my stomach at this stage. I guess because so much of myself is in every piece that I design, I want it to be loved (which of course it always is)! If I have done my job correctly, the piece we have made will be perfect, with every detail unique to you, to symbolise the moment that made you say...

“I would like to have something bespoke made.”

We will be opening our showroom, in West Malling in 2018, but in the meantime if you would like to get in touch about a commission, feel free to send me an email here. You can also keep up to date with our news on our Instagram and Facebook pages.

Looking forward to seeing you in West Malling soon.

Clare X