My obsession with jewellery designers continues, and this time I pay a visit to Bethnal Green’s wonderful Bear Brooksbank to find out all about her unique mix of contemporary, antique and bespoke jewellery…
An east London by way of Yorkshire gal, Bear exudes an enchanting passion and energy about jewellery; when sourcing vintage pieces, they always have to be something she would like to own herself. “I’m always really sad when a piece goes,” she tells me. That connection with jewellery, falling in love with it, is something I think we all search for when seeking our own pieces…
CONTEMPORARY, ANTIQUE & BESPOKE?
I first visited Bear a few months ago to get a feel for what she does: “It’s weird that I do antique and contemporary! In fact, I think I’m the only person who does both. But I’ve finally made my peace with it, rather than wrestling with it being a confusing message!” she told me over a cup of peppermint tea, her lovely rescue dog Champ asleep in the corner
First and foremost a jewellery designer, Bear’s collections (made by a team of goldsmiths in Hatton Garden) include the delicate-in-gold Fur & Claw and gemstone Satellite as well as beautifully curated vintage & antiques – I can’t stay away from these pieces! See below the popular-again St Christopher’s Cross (Bear sourced several for clients last year) and a stunning art deco & diamond pinkie ring. (I also love the Small Gifts section for some really pretty pieces.)
Add to that a bespoke service which can range from designing engagement rings from scratch or remodelling old heirlooms. I love the idea of reusing old pieces for something completely unique and Bear and I are currently working an old pendant of mine into something new, which I can’t wait to show you…
Bear (a childhood nickname which grew out of variations of her real name Mary… eg. Mare Bear!) launched her business in 2012, after graduating from the Gemological Institute of America and working with antique jewellery dealer Humphrey Butler.
Having been so deeply involved in antique jewellery, Bear started with something completely different – the Satellite collection, a celebration of colourful big gemstones, set in high contrast yellow gold to be viewed from 360 degrees, before going on to create Monochrome, a stunning collection of art deco inspired designs made with diamonds.
A bespoke rock crystal & aquamarine bracelet made for a client was one of Bear’s most significant first pieces – “We kept the natural inclusion in the quartz stone, so you know that it’s stone.” Alongside these stunning one-off statement pieces, Bear created the Fur & Claw collection (inspired by “the fur and claw of the Black Bear and the strength of the modern woman”) in collaboration with Humphrey Butler – ready-to-wear made up of dainty gold pieces, stacking rings & earrings and the couture collection which includes the spectacular bear claw black diamond bracelet. An unexpected addition is the signature bear pendant, which started off life as a necklace for her bridesmaids and proved so popular, Bear officially released it.
WHAT SHE WEARS
Day to day, Bear wears her Fur & Claw hoop earrings and a Fur claw earring, which looks best as a single, she says. On her fingers, you’ll find Fur stacking rings along side a fabulous 1940s vintage ring – which Bear had resized from a signet ring, “I call it the fruit pastel ring because the diamonds look like caked-on sugar!” and her one-of-a-kind engagement ring.
THE ENGAGEMENT RING
This story is so good, it deserves a section of its own! Bear’s art deco bombé engagement ring is an antique 1920s (now rhodium plated, left above) piece she had sourced to sell. Unbeknown to her, her brother and now-husband Daniel had twigged how much she had fallen for the piece. When she went to collect it from her goldsmith, he told her that all the stones had fallen out while being cleaned in the ultrasonic cleaner and it was a goner. Gutted, Bear met her brother later that day and found herself inexplicably emotional and angry with him…
Later on, Daniel had persuaded her to meet him at St James’s Park; a little out of the way for them, Bear suspected something was up but didn’t know what. And then he pulled out the ring! “How the f**k did you get that?” was her brilliant response! Although I’m guessing the “Yes” followed on quickly enough. 😉 What Bear loves about the whole episode was that all the really important people in her life, both personal and professional, had come together to make it happen, filling the ring with such wonderful meaning and significance. Such a wonderful story!
See more of Bear’s jewellery at bearbrooksbank.com
And for a 10% discount email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 0207 739 2908 & mention Stylonylon!