As made-to-measure fashion has grown in popularity in Australia, so too has the interest in bespoke and handmade jewellery. Australian customers increasingly want to be involved in the ideation and construction of the pieces in their jewellery box.
“In Australia now, we’re having this moment where you have lots of small to medium-sized brands [gaining popularity] and using traditional handmade techniques, sitting in the studio like us,” says jeweller Natalie Fitch of Natalie Marie jewellery.
Whether you’re looking for elegance or edge – or both – you’ll find what you’re looking for in our round-up of the finest local labels creating bespoke pieces.
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Melbourne-based designer Seb Brown established his eponymous label in 2010. He’s built a reputation for his distinctive jewellery, specifically non-traditional engagement rings, and every piece is a one-off. His website features a portfolio of past ring designs – each made to reflect the personality of the wearer – to help inspire you. Custom orders are available through consultation with Brown directly.
Melbourne jeweller Bella Clark launched her bespoke jewellery label in 2016. She makes the kinds of jewels that instantly transform any low-key ensemble. “All pieces, whether they are part of the collection or bespoke, are handmade by me personally,” she says. “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 people will want to pass down to the next generation.”
For example, she’s designed several specially commissioned signet engagement rings, unconventionally worn on the pinkie, which she personalises with special gemstones.
Katherine Bowman’s work is heavily influenced by her studies in fine art history. Art references are evident in many pieces, and she specialises in maximalist, sculptural shapes. Bowman offers in-person custom consultations on Saturdays at her Melbourne studio, but if you live elsewhere she can work with you via Skype. Average delivery time for her bespoke pieces is three to five weeks.
Natalie Fitch launched her Sydney label Natalie Marie in 2012. Since then, she’s amassed a throng of local and international fans – Meghan Markle among them. Much of Fitch's time is dedicated to working with customers on bespoke commissions – engagement rings specifically. “There’s been a big shift away from traditional diamonds towards different, coloured stones,” explains Fitch. “It’s such a personal, intimate process. Customers now want to be involved at every level, adding hidden meanings to their pieces.” Custom rings take a few weeks to six months to complete.
Sculptor and Lucy Folk collaborator Seala Lokollo-Evans recently turned from clay to custom jewellery with her label La Sea. Every piece is one-of-a-kind, made-to-order, and designed and handcrafted in Melbourne. The label is best known for its Memory Rings made in sterling silver and solid gold, in which Lokollo-Evans engraves markings and symbols meaningful to the wearer.
Talk to Lucy Folk if you want an engagement ring with personality. “Our customer is rarely looking for a traditional solitaire style,” says Folk. “They’re keen to focus on the design and the combination of stones and diamonds that put a spin on classic shapes.” Folk takes appointments for bespoke pieces in her Melbourne studio, and on location when travelling. “There is nothing we won’t do. We have a lot of banter with our clients and are very honest about what we think will work best and how to keep our brand identity within the constraints of the brief.”
Teeps the Jeweller
Tim Parker’s Adelaide label specialises in engagement rings that showcase minute attention to detail, and which often feature unusual gems or settings. For those with more traditional tastes, Parker also offers classic pieces and works with clients to find the right balance between edge and elegance. He has a background in architecture and is influenced by geometry, furniture design, art deco, mid-century modernism and traditional Japanese art.
Arrange a time to sit down and have a chat at Parker’s Adelaide studio, where you can share your vision for the piece before determining a budget and choosing your stones. Parker then melts, rolls, shapes, fills and solders every aspect of the piece by hand. The stone-setting is also done in-house.
Melbourne’s Tessa Blazey specialises in custom engagement rings – she’s often asked to rework gothic elements into contemporary, organic shapes. Her designs are highly sculptural, with stones secured in claw settings that resemble the talons of birds of prey. It’s this balance of dark and light that makes Blazey’s work so intriguing. Stones are rough-cut, bands are uneven and fingerprints can be seen across the metals.
Melbourne-born Olivia Cummings moved to Istanbul at the age of 24 to learn jewellery-making with the artisans of the Grand Bazaar. She started her label Cleopatra’s Bling in 2011, and now splits her time between Istanbul, Paris and Melbourne. For her latest collection, Cummings worked with artisans in Jaipur and Istanbul to create hand-etched gold rings adorned in enamel; gold bangles furnished with emeralds, rubies and diamonds; and rose-gold chandelier earrings set with freshwater pearls and garnets.
For custom pieces, begin by filling out an online form specifying what kind of piece you’re after (ring, earrings or pendant) and which stones you’d like (choose from opals, rubies and Australian sapphires – available in green, black and yellow).
Ben Manning’s Utopian Creations is a South Australian fine jewellery label with a focus on sustainability and ethical production – all pieces are made from either fair-trade or recycled metals. Manning sources unconventional materials for his mostly bespoke pieces: there’s flecked topaz that’s been hand-collected in Queensland; salt-and-pepper diamonds from Botswana; even prehistoric and space materials. All stones are investigated to ensure ethical production.
This article first appeared on Broadsheet on September 20, 2019. Some details may have changed since publication.