Melbourne-based jeweller Bella Clark has quietly carved her niche in bespoke, keepsake jewellery since launching her eponymous line in late 2016.
From her spacious Fitzroy studio, she turns precious stones and forgotten heirlooms into artfully designed pieces, specialising in custom engagement rings. She also has a collection of new designs, produced in-house, which reflect both classic and modern styles. “All Bella Clark pieces, whether they are part of the collection or bespoke, are handmade to order by me personally,” she says.
Clark’s career trajectory wasn’t a predictable one, though. After graduating from RMIT with a Fine Arts degree in November 2015, she returned to university to try her hand at dental technology. “The skill set required of a dental prosthetist is surprisingly similar to that of a jewellery-maker,” says Clark. “From the technical hand and fine motor skills, to the materials you work with.”
It took just one semester for Clark to realise she wanted to make her mark in the jewellery industry instead. She launched her label with a range that included earrings, rings, necklaces and bracelets in an array of solid gold, white gold, sterling silver and gold-plated silver, often set with pearls and precious stones such as sapphires and diamonds.
Clark’s approach is to reinterpret classic styles (such as the signet ring) in contemporary designs. “Having worked closely with a lot of customers wanting to reimagine family heirlooms, I’m very much influenced by the idea of making pieces that will stand the test of time … the kind [of pieces] people will want to pass down to the next generation,” she says. The designer has been commissioned to design several signet engagement rings, unconventionally worn on the pinkie, which she personalises with various gemstones.
In keeping with this philosophy, Clark also takes an anti-fast-fashion approach. “Being sustainable is a major focus [for] my practice,” she explains. “I make to order to eliminate wastage, all pieces are handmade, and I reuse and repurpose wherever I can.” It’s no surprise then that Clark’s own preference is to work with a “solid gold situation” for its timeless quality. Sapphires, which come in a “really beautiful range of colours like white, yellow and black”, are also a favourite.
Her signature pieces – which are designed to be layered and stacked – include the Love Ring, a nine-carat yellow-gold square signet ring adorned with black and white sapphires. The Chain Sleeper earrings (with an accessible $45 pricepoint) also sell well, and come in sterling silver and a 18-carat-gold-plated silver.
Clark says one of her favourite commissions was a contemporary gold ring that paid homage to the client’s father’s ’80s signet ring. She’s also proud to have recently repurposed two white sapphires from an old ring to create two new rings (with a matte, white-gold finish) for a client and her sister.
Like many small-business owners, Clark wears many hats, from managing her own website and Instagram account to balancing customer service with packing orders. Her sister, fashion and lifestyle photographer Brigette Clark, helps her out on the label’s whimsical campaign imagery. “We get along really well so it’s a lot of fun bringing that sister dynamic into play and bouncing ideas off each other,” says Clark.
Clark is currently in the throes of the design phase for her next collection (due to launch early November) and she’s looking to experiment with new materials, including opal. “A very sentimental stone to me,” she admits – she’s a regular visitor to her grandmother’s home town of Coober Pedy, the opal capital of the world. And more imminently, she’s about to put her own spin on the hairclip trend with the launch of sterling-silver and gold-plated clips next month.