Female jewellers offer something special for Christmas

More women are buying their own jewellery, so it makes sense that women are also in the driving seat as designers and creative directors

 

The self purchasing female now drives jewellery sales, and female designers are in the steering seat, defining what modern women want. Internationally, they rule the world of fine jewellery as creative directors of big brands such as Tiffany, Cartier, Chaumet, Dior, Boucheron and Boodles, setting the pace and understanding seasonal and transitional changes in fashion.

Affordability is key; last year in the UK, for example, a report reckoned that the market for precious jewellery with a retail price of less than £350 had risen by 34 per cent.

Female designers

With the gifting season in full force, a focus on Irish jewellery reveals a scene dominated by independent female designers. The vast majority, according to Angela O’Kelly, head of design for body and environment at the National College of Art Design, and an acclaimed jeweller herself, take inspiration from a deep appreciation of their Irish heritage and vernacular culture.

They are also very business savvy, she says, aware of their market and price points. Natasha Sherling, Melissa Curry, Bláithín Ennis, Chupi Sweetman and Juvi (the latter two now stocked in Weirs), for example, cater for the younger, more fashion focused customer and launch seasonal collections. Other practitioners such as Vivien Walsh, Fiona Mulholland, Maureen Lynch and Inga Reed have successfully established their reputations over the past decade with the easy to wear sensibility of their work.

Others, like the artist Sonia Landweer, and Veronica Roden have contributed to the craft in their own singular ways. Around the country, Martina Hamilton in Sligo, Enibas in Schull, Tuula Harrington and Maria Dorai Raj in Cork, Hannah McGuinness in Donegal, to name but a few, have their own studios and sell online.

Current exhibition

In the current exhibition in Kilkenny, Shape the Future, featuring 20 of Ireland’s “most exciting and creative designer/makers”, curated by O’Kelly, and which runs until February, four of those selected are female jewellers with innovative approaches to their craft – Jaki Coffey, Lorna Boyle, Sam Hamilton and Suzanna Rogers. All are notable, according to O’Kelly, for their awareness of craft as a means of communication and the way in which they challenge the boundaries of jewellery and the body.

Ann Chapman, who heads a team of four female jewellers in Stonechat in the Westbury Centre, and whose designs are featured here, says that women designing jewellery know how to wear it, and many pieces by Stonechat are specially made and personal to the customer.

“Our designers know about weight, particularly when it comes to earrings, they know that a ring should be comfortable and they know where a necklace should sit on the breastbone.”

Heirloom items

They also rework and refashion heirloom or outdated items and reset gemstones. The most popular items at the moment are earrings, “because they really dress an outfit up”, she says. When it comes to stones, pale pink morganite is a favourite because of the popularity of rose gold.

“Jewellery is hugely emotional – we are like a confessional here sometimes. People see our pieces as investments and not to be thrown away.”

Photographs: Anita Sadowska. Model: Judith from Distinct. Hair and make-up: Ivey Sullivan

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