As you’ve seen jewellery has taken a bit of a forefront for me of late. As I get older (ok, I won’t harp on but I did hit forty earlier this month and I’m taking it in my stride but with a bit of occasion too, why not!) my need for beautiful jewellery that means something, really means something, grows…
I had in mind something that had all the magic of protecting forcefields and extreme eye-catching beauty. And I’ve been discovering these past few months that finding just the right pieces is kind of like making friends, not fait accompli; sometimes all crazy-heady in the moment or taking a little time for the relationship to cement.
The prospect of actually having something completely unique and made for me seemed both obvious and a wonderful treat – that prize piece that you plan to hand down to future generations. Part of what jewellery designer Bear Brooksbank (of Bethnal Green – alliteration heaven!) does is offer a bespoke service for exactly this; often focussed on engagement and wedding rings but there’s no reason why you can’t branch out into things like 40th birthday presents, ahem! Check out my interview and visit to Bear’s studio here.
I had quite a specific idea of what I wanted, but no idea of how to get there. But after a chat with Bear, I remembered an old medallion style coin I had been given, sitting in a drawer, already in a little casing. I had this notion of it sitting elegantly mid-breastbone as a larger than my other necklaces stand out piece.
I had seen something similar which had a gold bar, off which the pendant hung and I spoke to Bear about whether this was something that we could make work. “But of course!” she said. I had actually brought in an old broken chain that I thought maybe we could use. I loved how Bear smelled it to figure out what its metal was. As it turned out to be brass, we decided to use a new gold chain for the piece instead. Which if you can see from the pictures is quite an unusual thick one, with Bear’s signature bear in tiny relief at the clasp. To ensure the piece would hang just right, Bear made sure to get the measurements of the chain just right.
Then, the wheels in my mind cranking, I remembered another old piece I had sitting in a drawer. A rather strange, almost ugly fashioned necklace on cloth made out of the most beautiful iridescent multi-colour hued Paua shells – which Bear and her Hatton Garden jewellery smith were able to identify for me. The shell of a New Zealand sea snail – Paua is the Maori name for the abalone sea snail species – which New Zealanders would find washed up on the beach (in fact an Instagram pal messaged me to tell just that!) and is believed to bring strength to the body and heart of the wearer, to help the wearer express their feelings articulately and to bring sensitivity, harmony, and connectivity in relationships. (Medicinally the shell has been used to treat health conditions such as deficiency of calcium, hearing problems, nervous system disorders.)
My hazy idea was to somehow work this shell into the design as a feature sitting just above the gold bar. Perhaps as something on the other side, which I could turn out when I wanted! I love hidden things in jewellery, that only the wear knows about. With this I just left it entirely in Bear’s hands, innately knowing she would just do it perfectly…
When I received the texts from Bear telling me it was ready I was nervous! Would it be bigger than I imagined, would it sit just right? But at some level I had complete faith knowing it would be just perfect….
What I didn’t expect was for the necklace to exceed all my expectations! It hung just perfectly, mixing in with my other chains – including Bear’s signature bear which represents the wonderful strength of modern woman! – just right and the Paua shell was such a perfect touch, I decided immediately not to wear it hidden but showing. A magical birthday piece, not to be saved just for special occasions, I promised myself I would wear it often, which is exactly what I do.
I think the beauty of bespoke pieces is that they can incorporate pieces your already own to create something magical and new, or can be designed completely from scratch based on something you once saw or perhaps just imagined. It felt like a very grown up thing to do and a wonderful way to mark and remember and turning point birthday. Though obvs forties are the new twenties. 😉
Check out more of Bear’s beautiful bespoke designs and the best way to contact her is to email on info@ . And do mention me for a 10% discount!