The Edit

News, inspiration & jewellery advice from the world of Phillip Stoner

Bespoke Jewellery – Designer Q&A

Jewellery Workshop, Phillip Stoner The Jeweller Leeds

When a client comes to us with a concept for a unique piece of jewellery, we love that we can help them bring their vision to life. We sat down with our in-house Jewellery Designer, Jenny, to find out more about her journey in the jewellery industry and what inspires her…

How long have you been in the jewellery industry?

I started my degree in metalwork and jewellery in Sheffield in 1992, and I have been working mostly in the jewellery industry ever since. I have been a designer/maker, a jewellery teacher and lecturer and I have also taught jewellery CAD.

What qualifications or training do you need to become a jewellery designer?

I think practical, hands on experience of making jewellery is essential to have a proper understanding of what jewellery designs will work. I would suggest that there are several routes, the two most common routes being: 1. Start as a jewellery apprentice at the bench and work your way through the industry, gaining excellent manufacturing experience. 2. Do a jewellery degree or similar qualification. This will give you some bench experience, design experience, and depending on the course, also some CAD experience.

How did you gain experience before landing your first job?

I did some work as an outworker for a well known jeweller in Sheffield – assembling, soldering, finishing, etc. It was great experience and it taught me about producing high volumes of work to a high standard with tight deadlines.

After that, my first job was as a self employed jewellery designer / maker, so my experience as an outworker was extremely helpful!

If you are designing a new collection, do you take inspiration from current trends or do you have a signature style? What else inspires you?

In a commercial setting, it is essential to be aware of the latest styles and trends, but it is still important to put your own creativity into each piece – it has to be a balance. I do love to work with coloured stones, especially the more unusual gems, and I quite like to design around each stone individually. I also have a love of ancient jewellery, illustration and architecture, each of which can give inspiration for new jewellery designs.

Have you ever made jewellery and is it beneficial to have a working knowledge of how a piece is crafted?

Yes, I have worked at the bench, and I enjoy the process. However, I think my heart lies in the design of jewellery – I love to sketch and draw, and I enjoy using a CAD system to make my designs into a 3D model which are then casted and brought to life.

I personally think that it is extremely beneficial to have practical experience of making jewellery if you are going to be a jewellery designer. It gives you a better understanding of how best to design a piece of jewellery that is both aesthetically pleasing and also practical.

What are your favourite materials or precious gemstones to work with?

I particularly enjoy working with yellow gold; I love the richness in colour, especially when combined with coloured stones such as orange sapphire, cognac diamonds and morganite. I also love the peacock blue tones of London blue topaz, green tourmaline and I have a soft spot for dark salt and pepper diamonds – especially with a checkerboard cut top.

What’s your favourite style/era of jewellery?

I love ancient jewellery – Roman, Egyptian, Greek, Celtic. Yellow gold is often used in many of these types of jewellery, with granulation and richly coloured stones such as garnet and carnelian. I’m always astonished at the skills and craftsmanship the early jewellers evidently had.

Do you have one favourite design/item you enjoyed working on?

Yes, I had a special commission from a lady who was fascinated by space, stars and the cosmos, and she wanted a unique pendant to reflect this. She was a very creative lady herself and gave me free rein with the design. I designed a piece which featured a small piece of actual meteorite, diamonds and a large cabochon labradorite – which was a beautiful stone with thousands of tiny sparkles in it, reminiscent of the night sky. She loved the design and it turned out beautifully – she still wears it to this day.

Do you prefer clients to come to you with a specific idea or do you like being given free rein/ a loose concept?

It’s always lovely to be given carte blanche on a design as I enjoy the process of getting to know a client and what their style and preferences are, then creating something unique for them. However, it is equally rewarding to be able to bring to life a very specific design that a customer may have been dreaming about for years and to see how excited they are when presented with the finished piece.

Find out more about our Bespoke Jewellery Design process here.