I started writing this post initially about jewellery trends for the coming season, but got side-tracked whilst thinking of all the trailblazing jewellers I know, and subsequently how hard it is to maintain the freshness that got them there in the first place. Starting a jewellery business in today's times, in London (or any big metropolis) is something that I've been thinking a lot about recently. Part of my work as a jewellery consultant is giving creative advice to jewellery companies and designers starting out, and another part of my work is to write about them on the blog, so I generally come across a lot of people trying to achieve success as a jewellery designer. Very, very few 'press release' emails catch my attention, and I thought it would be worth sharing my experience as to why this is the case.
Starting a jewellery business in the current market is not easy, mainly due to the exceptional amount of competition making it extremely difficult to stand out, as well as painfully high metal prices stunting free-flowing ideas and concepts, compared to in, say, the 1960s.
But don't let that put you off. Read on for my tips on how to start a successful jewellery brand...
AM I DOING ANYTHING NEW?
- Esoteric references with personal meaning help evolve a design handwriting. Sketchbook snapshot from our interview with London jewellery designer Flora Bhattachary
This is the first thing to ask yourself when looking at your designs and ideas. The jewellery market in the UK is saturated with similarity; in style, form and brand look and feel – we aren’t short of companies who profess to have an ‘edgy’ or ‘minimalist’ look, and ‘dainty’ stacking rings and chains are in abundance. Sigh. There are also so many new brands who seem to have borrowed from others – a bit of a spiky silhouette here, skinny double rings there…all thrown together without much creativity and a definite feel that they are following the zeitgeist rather than starting anything genuinely new. This is perhaps understandable with prices for gold and gemstones still very high, and dainty and skinny shapes and styles are the easiest to achieve at a certain price-point, but this is no excuse. Be new.
DEFINE & CONQUER YOUR STYLE
- Honing and developing your own signature style | Sketchbook detail by jewellery designer Fernando Jorge
I do not believe that what a designer can achieve creatively should be limited by budget. I walk through tradeshows with an uninspired, sinking feeling, as I see yet another jewellery brand launch with no real uniqueness or authentic originality; with few pioneers or game-changers on show. Be brave and bold. Please.
- Creating a strong personal style, like jewellery designer Fernando Jorge, is crucial.
The jewellers who I feel are setting the standards in creativity and leading the way this year are certainly not following trends, and as their style is unique and authentic to them, it will be hard to be emulated by others. Hence they truly stand out amongst the masses. To be a strong, desired jewellery brand you must first define and conquer your own style, and stay true to that style, to the niche you have created, and imbue everything you touch with that feeling. Which is a lot easier in theory than in practice.
EXPLAIN YOURSELF: DESIGN A WINEGLASS
Ok, not literally. But this exercise is a good one to see how strong your brand DNA really is. Many successful jewellers are asked by other companies to collaborate, as they want a piece of their style. Hannah Martin and Hendrick's Gin (pictured above) is a great example of this. Probably before Hendrick's even asked Hannah to design for them, they had a good idea of what it would look like, because Hannah Martin is such a strong brand with a very true sense of design identity and a cohesive, recognisable design handwriting.
- Pages from Hannah Martin's sketchbooks showing her diverse and surprising points of inspiration
From the dozens of new jewellery brands launching every week, very few achieve newness in style, or uniqueness in its truest sense, mainly because they are either chasing someone else’s style or they aren’t being authentic to their own style. As a designer or creative person this is all you have - your vision, your ‘take’ on the world, and when you’re able to convey this through a piece of design, again and again so it becomes cohesive and comprehensive, to the point where you could design a wineglass, for example, and everyone would know it was you who designed it, this is when you’ve achieved a successful brand. And hopefully, a successful business.
- Unusual styles and personal references. Sketchbook detail by Flora Bhattachary
It’s hard to sell a product that isn’t unique, and I always advise new brands to be as niche as possible initially. You design jewellery from grains of recycled coffee? Excellent. Your new collection is based on gang culture in the Bronx from the 1970s? Again, excellent. You design 'gold and silver jewellery' that is 'exciting' and 'quirky' and 'bold', 'with a twist'? Not so good.
- Unique design from authentic, personal references and inspiration | Sketchbook detail by Flora Bhattachary
ORIGINALITY VS COMMERCIALITY
Commerciality is important, but it’s much easier to add this in and develop your range from a starting point of originality, than it is to add originality to a commercial range that adds nothing new to the market. You can add commerciality as your business grows as you learn more about your customer and what they want, but without the ‘undiluted’ pieces acting as the backbone to your collection, reinforcing your style and becoming triggers in people’s minds when they think of your brand, you’ll just be another London based brand scrambling to catch the attention of editors and journalists alike.
For jewellery start-up consultation/advice, please email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org