Susannah Fairley got her start in jewellery at just sixteen, selling pieces at markets around Melbourne. In the years since she’s gained a 40,000-strong Instagram following, and a fanbase that includes Gigi Hadid, Montana Cox, Miley Cyrus and Megan Gale.
“I flew to LA for some jewellery shows and to meet with our new agents, and I met Megan Gale in the lounge,” Fairley tells Broadsheet. “We spoke about fashion and jewellery, I told her I just launched my brand and gave her a bracelet.”
Fairley woke up the next day and saw her Instagram account blowing up with thousands of new followers. Gale had posted a photo of the bracelet.
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“Being so green, the thought had actually not even crossed my mind that she would post a picture,” Fairley says. “I think I was more excited that she actually liked my designs.”
The former accessories buyer and product developer for Just Group launched her eponymous label in 2013, and her husband Jeremy came on as co-owner three years later.
"I didn’t want to be another expensive, unattainable jewellery brand,” says Fairley. “I wanted to create beautiful jewellery that doesn’t necessarily follow trends, can be worn every day and added to over time, to complete or elevate your outfit.”
Her label taps into the distinct feeling that comes from wearing a singular or otherwise special accessory, in part because of the designer’s meticulous approach to materials. She hand-picks pearls and semi-precious stones (such as turquoise; emerald; and pink chalcedony, a member of the quartz family) from a small selection of merchants, most of them family-run, all over the world.
Pre-Covid, Fairley would travel to gem fairs to meet suppliers, but now she reviews stones in video meetings before they’re sent to her manufacturer in Bali, which has been making jewellery for more than 35 years, to be hand-made to her design. “I never wanted my jewellery to be generic, or for even one piece to not be at standard that I wouldn’t wear myself,” she says.
Her new collection, Champagne Sunsets, draws on shapes and formations found in nature, with pieces inspired by the free-form lines and natural finishes of the gemstones and freshwater pearls that feature within. “I’m conscious not to take away from their beauty and vibrance,” Fairley says.
This trust in the source material lends a restrained elegance to pieces. Stones are set in either 18k or 24k gold, or sterling silver, but that structural element is kept minimal, allowing the gem or pearl itself to take centre stage. Where a more involved design does come into play, it’ll reflect the organic form of what it holds.
Fairley uses symbolism in her designs, too. Pearls, which the designer says represent purity and protection, are prominent, including in this 24k gold-plated necklace necklace inspired by the sea. And a pearl-string pendant necklace featuring a lion and a sun symbolises strength. Malachite – said to represent nature, energy, rebirth and growth – is also seen on repeat, as is chrysoprase – optimism – and emerald, a symbol of love and compassion. “The world needs beauty and optimism more than ever,” Fairley says. “And this is something I always try to convey through jewellery.”
Fairley’s new collection is available online. Pieces range from $69 for a hand-hammered silver band to $495 for a 14k gold necklace with diamond pendant.