Our studio is full of chatter, much of it idle, some of profound, most of it hilarious. But we decided the time was right to delve into a more intentional conversation between Ash, our founder, and Claire, the founder of Botanica Jewellery and not so coincidentally the brand with whom we share our studio.
Ash: I think we should probably start at the beginning, and the biggest question I know we both get asked, why share a studio with your ‘competition’?
Claire: I really do believe in community over competition. I think running a business as a solo entrepreneur, like we both do, can be quite a lonely isolating thing. Jewellery is such a unique industry with unique challenges. Sharing a space and partnering with another jeweller that I trust in in the way that I trust you really helps with the feelings of overwhelm and with sharing of knowledge. Having known you personally before we took this space together…
Ash: You mean from that moment you marched into my old studio and said “Hi I’m Claire I think we should be friends”, and I said “Right I’ll go put the kettle on”?
Claire: Yes, exactly since that time I literally steamrollered you into being friends with me, 100%. Having known you beforehand I wasn’t going in blind. I knew what your ethics were and how you ran a company. I knew that we were on the same page around the type of environment we wanted to create for our teams, the way we treat our customers and what our boundaries are.
Ash: I think the right partnership is key. We run two quite different brands but we believe the same things about the big issues in life and business.
Ash: That takes us quite neatly into the next question. Our jewellery styles are quite different but we share a common passion for quality, creating pieces that are designed to last. I know you have some BIG feelings about quality and what that actually means in jewellery terms, can we chat a bit about that?
Claire: I sure do have some very big feelings about quality. Jewellery has become a commodity rather than a deeply personal item to treasure. I think as an industry we have done ourselves a disservice in the quality of the pieces we put out there to try and keep up with trends and compete on price with mass produced jewellery. I don’t believe jewellery should be purchased for a season and then dumped. I know we’ve both seen it, people walk in here with a ring they bought only last year from a different brand, it has snapped and they want it repaired. But, it’s so thin that there is not enough metal to repair it. It's obviously not every jeweller, there are many jewellers, like yourselves who are creating fantastic pieces that face the test of time.
Ash: So true. A huge mark of quality in my mind is for how many years, or even how many generations, the piece can be worn and enjoyed.
Ash: What are the top three things you think a customer should look out for if they ae wanting to purchase a quality piece of jewellery?
Claire: If they are shopping online, I would say to look at how much information is provided about the piece. I don’t think jewellery should be sold online without a clear description of what the metal is. We see a lot of pieces that just say “Gold”. Is it gold plated? Is it 9 karat gold? 18 karat gold? Thicknesses are also key, there are so many pieces out there without thicknesses listed, how can you tell if a ring is going to withstand daily wear if you don’t know how thick the shank is? Anything less than 1.4mm and I start to worry.
Another thing that stands out for me, and we are seeing a lot of online jewellery stores pop up, is whether or not there is information about who the goldsmith(s) are. There is so much jewellery that is being bought in from international mass production houses and then being marketed as local because the brand importing it is based locally.
Ash: A good practice is for consumers to look out for pictures of the studio and/or some work in progress shots. Because if there are no behind the scenes pictures then you really have to wonder what is going on behind that shiny finished piece you are seeing online.
Claire: This is a topic I could go on and on about but I think the last thing I would say is, if you, as the consumer, are unsure about something, reach out. I make the pieces so I am going to be able to give you clear answers. If a company doesn’t have the answers for you, or they skirt around the answers, I think that is quite a clear indication that either they aren’t making the pieces themselves (or inhouse) or that they don’t have the knowledge you need when talking about quality, goldsmith crafted jewellery.
Ash: What about pieces customers are purchasing in person? Any tips there?
Claire: One of the main things I would say, is when purchasing rings, look out for a solder seem. If you can see pitting, a jagged line at the join or can see clear construction marks that means the piece hasn’t been made with the type of care you should expect from a piece designed to last.
I think the other is just to pick up the piece, feel its weight. Does it feel that it has been put together with the kind of metal thickness that will last.
Ash: Precious metals are fairly dense, a good weighty piece (relative to its scale obviously) is a solid starting point for quality.
My coffee cup is empty. I guess that means it’s time to head back to our workbenches. Thanks for the chat.
Claire: Always happy to talk at length about a topic so close to my heart.