Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Dispatches - The Real Price of Gold

Aired on Monday, Channel 4’s Dispatches programme has already incited a wave of disappointed reaction from the industry, frustrated at what was often a misinformed and superficial look at an incredibly important issue.

The sensational, as opposed to strictly accurate, nature of the programme began when Deirdre Bounds chose to 'expose' the industry by secretly filming exchanges with high street sales staff explaining the provenance of their gold. While inaccurate, their answers seemed to belie more a woeful lack of training than any real misinformation scandal, and did not represent the attitudes or state of the jewellery industry as a whole. It’s undeniable that the trade still has a huge way to go, but if Channel 4 had invited one of our passionate and informed industry insiders to lead the programme the issues could have been explored in a far more thorough and knowledgeable way.

The programme took an equally sweeping approach in presenting the ‘answers’ to the issues. Early in the program Bounds met a boy who worked at an illegal mine as his parents could no longer afford to send him to school. Yet she completely failed to acknowledge situations like his in her solutions, suggesting that the answer lay in recycled gold and the tiny amount of fairly mined gold currently available. The conditions of these mines are undeniably horrific, but these people work there for a reason – they have no other choice. Reform, support and and education are the answers, not a wholesale shunning of a system on which people without the benefits of a first-world welfare system base their livelihoods.

Bounds finished the programme by instructing customers to march into high street stores and demand change. Frankly, this will achieve little, if any, real good. Most of these stores won’t stock ‘ethical’ product and won’t be able to give information on where a consumer can find them. If Dispatches had deigned to further explore the positive steps the industry is making, customers could have been made aware of the wealth of ethical jewellery that is currently available. The programme even failed to acknowledge the sizable minority of designers already using the recycled bullion that Deirdre Bounds became so excited about.

While I’m pleased that Dispatches has introduced the basic issues to a wider audience, I feel a real disservice has been done to both the industry and viewer by failing to recognise much of the progress that has already been made. Anyone who has attended even a handful of trade events over the last few years will know that ethical and environment issues are already a huge priority within the industry, and there are far more options for the concerned consumer than the programme revealed.

Dispatches could have been a wonderful opportunity to educate consumers about both the issues and what the industry is doing to address them. Instead, the chance to make a real difference to consumer’s buying choices was sacrificed for sensation and scandal.

NB. If you’d rather spend an hour exploring the issues properly, can I suggest you skip Dispatches and start with some of these links;

Sunday, 26 June 2011

Four Sales, Four Trends

Forget well picked-over piles of tangled chains and past-season baubles. This year's summer sales have got all of the major jewellery and accessories trends covered. Whatever your sartorial leanings there will be something to tempt...

Dream-like Fantasy at My Wardrobe;

Mullberry Woodland-print Scarf, Nicole Fendel Sterling Silver Ring, Mawi Crystal & Skull Earrings.

Tough Glamour at Browns;

Giles and Brother Multi Ring Necklace, Alaia Corset-detail Shoe Boots.

Colour-blocking Brights at Net-a-porter...

Tom Binns Swarovski Crystal Necklace, Isharya Gypsy Earrings, Monica Vinader Fiji Bracelet, Smythson Leather Notebook.

Minimalist Chic at Matches;

Tom Binns Gold-Plated Ring, Aamaya by Priyanka Horseshoe Bracelet, YSL Narrow Suede Belt.

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Fantasy Payday

Another great example of not having to re-invent the wheel to design an original piece of jewellery are these fab eternity-style bands from Arik Kastan at Kabiri.

Arik has updated this incredibly traditional style with semi precious stones and rose gold, which gives a far more relaxed and modern look than to the usual diamonds in white metal.

My favourite is the labradorite ring; I love the intriguing colour combination of the included, grey-green stones paired with the blush pink metal. I'd wear one band to casually dress up my jeans-and-a-white-blouse summer uniform.

Monday, 20 June 2011

Jewellery Wardrobe Project - Introduction

Those readers who are also followers of fashion-related blogs will know that there’s a growing movement away from the ‘fast fashion’ and excessive clothing consumption that has typified our shopping habits of the last few years. Whether it be concern for waste and the environment that has encouraged this shift or simply the covetable, minimalist luxury of Celine, more and more people are favouring a ‘less but better’ mantra in their purchasing.

It’s a philosophy I personally adhere to in both clothing and jewellery, a surprise perhaps to those who expect my jewellery box to be overflowing with acquisitions. In fact, my passion for and involvement in jewellery has actually made me incredibly discerning (or, fussy!) about the pieces I spend my money on. I don’t compromise on material, quality or design, and I personally view cheap mass-produced jewellery with the same suspicion as a landfill-destined, sweat-shop produced £2 T-shirt.

Jewellery also offers far more scope for buying interesting, personality filled basics. A white tee is arguably more versatile than a sequinned one, but a beautiful pair of decorative stud earrings will be just as hardworking as a plain diamond or pearl pair.

It is on this note that I disagree with many of the classic ‘Jewellery Wardrobe’ lists that you’ll find, generally featuring pearl necklaces, diamond solitaire pendants and plain silver bangles. Jewellery wardrobe essentials need not be simple and plain, but can be signature pieces that reflect your individual taste and style.

You’ve may have already read my series on Future Heirlooms - jewellery trends to invest in - and I’m going to continue this theme by exploring what I think the real must-have pieces are and the best examples available. But I’ve called it a ‘project’ for a reason, as I’m also going to use this as an impetus to finally get round to manufacturing the pieces I’ve designed for my own jewellery wardrobe.

The pictures above give you an example of the jewellery I consider my true essential pieces. Throwing on a short gold necklace (Links of London or my own) with my Shaun Leane ring and own pierced-star studs is my easy, standard jewellery look – but I personally feel it is far from basic.

Sunday, 12 June 2011

London Jewellery Week & Swarovski GemVisions

So London Jewellery Week has drawn to a close for another year, and while some events have drawn mixed reviews (personally, I was disappointed by JewelEast but delighted by the rest), the overall week seems to have been an overwhelming success.

One of the fantastic aspects of LJW is the real balance between events for the industry and those for the public. In addition to the parties, launches and seminars for those within the trade, there has also been a raft of events focused on the consumer.

Interested customers could choose from design and making demonstrations, valuations, gallery exhibitions and plenty of opportunities to buy. While some of the products launches remained strictly trade, Liberty invited designers including Alex Monroe and Katie Rowland to launch their new collections at in-store, meet-the-customers events. And while many jewellery shows are resolutely industry only, Treasure allowed jewellery enthusiasts to meet and purchase from talented designers and exiting brands.

Having said that, the highlight of my Jewellery Week Day was a trade event. I was fortunate enough to have an invitation for the Swarovski Gem Visions presentation, which was just as fabulous as I'd been led to expect. The stunning Swarovski offices played host to a presentation of the 2012's trend themes, which offered a move-on from the vintage and fantasy-inspired trends of the past few seasons.

Five design directions - Studio, Fantasy, Fiction, Luminescence and Nouvelle Vague - encompassed a wide variety of colour and design trends; neon to monochrome, whimsical to sophisticated sleek. Design-driven silver becomes ever more important, with creative and innovative product continuing to flourish in this product group for 2012.

Whether you lean towards minimalistic fluorescent or a handmade vintage feel, authenticity is a key concept, as is a desire to see the 'fingerprint' of the designer behind the piece. Technology and new materials allow for ever more innovative product and finishes, but just as vital is jewellery that invokes an emotional connection - a celebration of beauty, dreams and craftsmanship.

Friday, 10 June 2011

Like? Try... IV

It's been a while since I've done one of these... see here if you'd like a reminder of the rest!

Like... Repossi Marue Ring, c.£2600

If the YSL Arty is the "blogger's ring", then the Respossi Maure ring must be the blogger's obsession. Lusted over in all corners of the Internet, Gaia Respossi's gorgeously delicate designs are made almost more covetable by their out of reach four-figure price tags.

Try... Gaia Repossi x Zatig & Voltaire Simple Ring, £355.00

Earlier this year, however, the designer collaborated with cool french brand Zatig & Voltaire to create a capsule collection that falls within the means of far more fans. The pieces have kept the designer's signature look in the shape and style of the rings, but feature a simpler, watered-down version of her lattice work. Seriously tempting; especially as the Z & V are created in silver, rather than, as with so many designer collaborations, base metal.

Thursday, 9 June 2011

Mooning - Diego Percossi Papi

I'm generally not enamoured of blue topaz. Often set minimalistically in white metal, it can look far to cold and clinical for my tastes - and can feel a little dated.

Diego Percossi Papi's Moon Earrings, however, are topaz on a whole different level. The contrast between the cool blue and warm yellow gold makes them interesting and modern.

Moon/pear drop/star components may not be hugely original in themselves, but the overall composition and finish of these earrings makes something really, really lovely.

Monday, 6 June 2011

Monday Links...

- London Jewellery Week has begun! For jewellers in the capital this means a whole week of parties, launches and events. For further-afield jewellers like me it means a very whirlwind visit to the city; tomorrow I plan to take in at least JewelEast, GemVisions and Art at Annoushka. There's something worth visiting every day this week, so I urge you to make the trip if you can.

- Kate Davidson Hudson shows The Coveteur an enviable vintage jewellery collection.

- Check out Pamela Love's new collection lookbook and her gorgeously designed website - click on 'Journal' to explore her blog, which offers a glimpse into what inspires her.

- Fancy seeing your work stocked in fab London boutique Ec One? Following in the footsteps of Liberty et al, Ec One are offering designers a great opportunity to meet their buyers -at an open call event later this month.

Photo via The Coveteur

Thursday, 2 June 2011

Designer Inspiration II - Clare Hynes

Today’s gorgeous sunshine makes the perfect backdrop to my second Designer Inspiration Post, featuring a jeweller for whom colour and material are the starting point...
Having given up her full time job as a magazine Design Editor, Clare Hynes is quickly forging an exciting career as a jewellery designer. Her bright, statement pieces are causing a bit of a stir amongst colour-loving fashion fans, and have seen her featured on the pages of Grazia and stocked at Elizabeth Galton's EG Studio.

It’s no surprise that Clare’s inspiration material is full of varied and vibrant shades - ideas being found in everything from sophisticated blooms to a neon pink jelly shoe on a grey tile floor. Photos of Clare’s workspace and sketchbooks show that her materials come first – beautiful strings of semi precious stones inspire a very hands-on, ever evolving design process.

Clare is currently mid-move to China, an opportunity that is sure to provide so much new and vibrant inspiration – it will be interesting to see how her designs will develop in such exciting new surroundings!

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Luxury Beach Beads?

It's possibly the simplest of the latest Zoe and Morgan pieces, but I really like this Amazonite necklace;

One of the reasons I'm drawn to it is because it feels so reflective of the brand. The family have an enviable globetrotting lifestyle, with inspiration for their jewellery coming from their extensive travelling.

It's another example of K.I.S.S - a simple beaded necklace is transformed by the addition of the brand's signature clasp into a desirable product suggestive of a glamorous, bohemian lifestyle.
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