A little goes a long way when it comes to costume jewellery. A well chosen piece can transform an outfit, make a daywear dress something of the night, brighten up a short hairstyle, or become a focal point in its own right.
When Olive Hughes founded her jewellery brand Knight & Day some years ago, it wasn't Cole Porter's famous song that influenced her choice of name, but the idea that her selection would include dramatic evening wear pieces alongside the more classic, subtle punctuations for every day.
“The Irish like classic styles,” she says, “and I draw on my long term experience of dealing with designer/manufacturers for many of our statement pieces.”
Rather than return to practice after her four children were reared, this very stylish Westport-based solicitor decided instead to explore the costume jewellery world, “because I have always been influenced by fashion and have a passion for fashion and jewellery”, she says. That was nearly 10 years ago and her business has thrived by introducing something fresh each season.
Her latest collection, for example, includes an exclusive range of stainless steel lockets which feature three styles of necklace in a choice of rose gold or silver finish, that can be personalised with birthstones. The wearer’s initials can also be included. Prices start at €42.45 and go up to €84.95 for rose gold plated embellished lockets. All the pieces are sold separately, so a customer can choose the locket style, birthstone and charms they want.
Some standout pieces in the autumn collection include many plated in rose gold – “great for Irish skin tones” – according to Hughes, such as a three-stranded necklace and a torc with matching bracelets, along with unusual pearl earrings that are threaded through the (pierced) ear.
What sells in Ireland, however, tends to be the more classic pieces that Hughes sources on her buying expeditions all around the world. "When I visit those who create hugely dramatic pieces for the Italian, Turkish and Russian markets, I usually pick out their smaller, more discreet items and reduce them further to appeal to our customers.
With South Korean suppliers, however, it is different. They tend to design small pretty pieces with great attention to detail and quality. With them, I normally choose their larger styles and have to increase bracelet lengths as they cater for the petite Asian woman.”
Details are important and there are slider closing mechanisms on bracelet chains, though no clip-on earrings, however. It’s a big collection otherwise, with plenty of scope for customers from 20 upwards at affordable prices, with very little over €80. An Emilia star brooch, for instance, is €29.95 and pearl earrings are €19.95.
A future plan is to source a collection with semi-precious stones from India, says the entrepreneur, who now employs a team of four.
Photographed here styled with clothes from Cos, River Island, Penneys and Cedric Charlier at Costume, Knight & Day jewellery can be found in more than 150 independent retailers nationwide. See knightanddayjewellery.com for stockists.