Designer of the Month – March

Originally training as a smith 50 years ago, our ‘Designer of the Month’ for March, John Garland-Taylor has spent the last 30 years focusing on designing his handcrafted jewellery collection.

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John works from a rural Warwickshire workshop, which, with the help of his two sons has developed a growing family business spanning two generations.

His trademark ‘GT’ armourers’ mark features on all of his jewellery pieces and was originally developed to distinguish pieces of armour that John had restored or produced for the National Trust and Warwick Castle.GT-Hallmark-no-border-100px-close-crop

 

Using traditional techniques such as forging and plannishing each piece of jewellery is individually handmade and finished by one of the team.

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I love the way the hammered texture, once polished, really catches the light and the cuff bangles are real statement pieces, great for evening wear but equally as effective reflecting the sunlight during the daytime.

 

Designer Of The Month – February

After a busy festive season February sees the return of our ‘Designer of the Month’ feature. Starting with Julie Pratt, a designer with close links to Argent, she worked with us here in the shop for over ten years and now concentrates on designing and making jewellery from her workshop in Barnsley.Julie pic

Julie graduated from Barnsley College in 1998, her love of architecture and the natural environment along with her passion for travel provide constant inspiration for her work.

 

February is the ideal month in which to feature Julie’s work, coinciding with the launch of a new collection for us here at Argent, just in time for Valentine’s Day. Julie’s ‘Hearts’ collection consists of little silver nugget pendants with heart detail, on silver chain or colourful ribbon along with a matching ring, bangle and stud earrings, we think this new collection will be a great addition to her existing range.

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Julie’s core collection is based around the classical themes of the line and the circle, using a combination of polished and matt finished silver, occasionally contrasting with gold, Julie creates simple, elegant designs. I love the fact that many of her rings are made up of multiple pieces, allowing the wearer to create their own look and making them a firm favourite with our customers.

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Julie’s work will be showcased, centre stage in our window throughout the month of February so come along and take a look for yourself!

 

Hidden Depths

World Tour Beads

 

This July saw the arrival of Trollbeads exciting new selection of World Tour beads and what better way to mark the occasion than to celebrate with our customers by offering sweet treats and champagne, giving out goody bags and holding a raffle with the opportunity of winning a £50 voucher to spend in store! Not surprisingly the event was a hit and both we and our customers thoroughly enjoyed ourselves that Sunday afternoon.

Autumn / Winter 2012

But just when you thought that Trollbeads might have packed their schedule to the brim manufacturing over 50 beads from our International neighbours as well as designing their new autumn collection, they then decide to coincide this with the arrival of their new range of Universal Unique Malwai beads!
As a family run business one wonders how on earth they manage to fit it all in, they really never cease to amaze!  Nonetheless this new collection is just as special as everything else Troll brings to its followers, if not (dare I say it) even more so in the amount of spirit founder Lise Aagaard has put into establishing the project.

Malawi Universal Uniques

Lise Aagaard and the Malawi team

This is a development that gives a well-built sense of optimism to a challenged group of around a dozen young people from Malawi who between them have varying issues in their personal life, whether these be in relation to their own health or loss of family to AIDS. Speaking of the project the Trollbeads founder gave words on her strong aspiration to lend a hand to bettering the lives of others;

 

“I am now in the position to help others. I believe the best way to do so is to help them create an existence for themselves, providing help for self help is close to my heart”.

By offering the opportunity to learn the art of glass making first hand from someone that is at the forefront of jewellery design, Lise Aagaard has given a window of hope to those less fortunate.
Each bead tells a unique story, inspired by the idiosyncrasies of the life of the maker in question which in turn forms a truly personal collection.
By all of the beads being ‘Universal Uniques’ the design not only fits onto Troll bracelets but also other leading branded bracelets so everyone can enjoy the artistry, thus giving a wider prospect in terms of commerce and sending the collective on its way to becoming completely self sufficient!

In times like these with such an unvarying inflation throughout the high street prices, it’s hard as both a consumer and a retailer not to allow oneself to get too wrapped up in cynical thoughts on where this leave the buyer and the merchant.
But then projects such as this allow us to stop for a moment and gain a little perspective on what is really important right now, generating opportunities for those less privileged, the unemployed both here and overseas. Many of us are struggling in some way but that doesn’t mean we can’t take the time to give a little back.

This brings me to my next account of an ethical jewellery venture, which too is led by the same form of premise as is held by Lise Aagaard and is just as fresh off the press.
It goes by the name of Cornerstone and while being a completely different project this and Trollbeads are united through the mutual ethical concepts that are the driving force behind these organisations.

Cornerstone started its life back in 2011 when distinguished jewellery designer Paul Spurgeon took a trip to South Africa where he led lectures to small businesses, sharing the personal philosophies behind his brand. It was there that he was struck by the work of local jeweller Nqobile Nkosi who has become the first person to ever open a jewellery store in his home town of Soweto.
Inspired by such revolutionary movements Paul has since collaborated with Nqobile to form the project as a means of progression, taking such labours of love out of Africa and into Europe.

Currently the designs comprise mostly of silver and enamel due to the current market and project funds, through time as business flourishes Nqobile and his team hope to gain full independence of, with the prospect to expand their horizons both artistically and within industry; and it is the proceeds from the project that will go towards turning this vision into a reality.

 

The brand was officially launched at The Jewellery Show in Birmingham earlier this year and this was swiftly followed by the support of The Jewellery Show London and Treasure in their naming Cornerstone as their Social Enterprise partner for the June show at Somerset House. Meanwhile Weston Beamor have offered a helping hand in providing all of the casting and silver for free and in August Paul organised a sponsored bike ride from London to Paris to raise further funds as well as to promote interest within trade press and further afield.

These projects prove to consumers that when it comes to jewellery, there need not be any reason to compromise on style when choosing to direct the focus on ethical means of manufacturing. Who would know, when viewing these collections that established designers such as Paul and Lise were working with ethical motives? The fact that the making of these pieces is done with such conscious makes each one all the more candid and unique and just goes to show that there really is more than meets the eye when it comes to big name designers.

 

 

For further information on the Malawi Universal Unique beads as well as other Trollbead and Paul Spurgeon products available please visit our website.

Big brands vs. independent designers

Amanda Cox's Lily collection

Independent jewellers are often known for their small designer collections and products you wouldn’t really be able to purchase from bigger jewellers. That’s what makes them special.

Over the last couple of years everything has gone mass market to meet the demands of the consumer and the type of jewellery they want to purchase. As we’ve mentioned previously, the charm craze and rise of Pandora has played a huge part due to a number of reasons. The advertising spend from bigger brands enhances the popularity and gives customers a sense of confidence when purchasing that jewellery product. It is harder than ever for individual designers to compete.

Customers often move with the trends which can put individual designers at risk. Some designers don’t work to the current trends and can often fall behind as customers move towards the bigger brands. It can be seen as safer for independent jewellers to invest in big brands, having more confidence in their success; whereas in the past, individual designers were seen as more successful offering a wider choice to the consumer.

Jeremy Heber

Including collections from smaller designers brings something different to the market but also demonstrates our continual support to jewellers who are trying to compete against the likes of Pandora and Links of London. We have a gorgeous and completely individual collection from Amanda Cox, called ‘Lily’. Her contemporary use of pearls appeals to all ages and her collection pushes the creative boundaries in jewellery design. We also stock ranges from Julie Pratt and Jeremy Heber, who both use gold and silver together in their work, rather than separating the two materials. Many people like to wear a mixture of gold and silver and these collections offer an ideal way to wear them together in a stylish and fashionable way.

Julie Pratt

At Argent, we stock a mix of big brands and small designers, so we are able to keep on trend for some of our customers, but also have the individual choice for other customers. Stocking only big brands would exclude the opportunity for difference and variety for our customers, with the risk of becoming uniform with the mainstream jewellers.

Argent strives to support small designers and we believe in the individuality and timelessness of their designs. We have a great relationship with the designers and they are a pleasure to work with, maintaining a very personal approach to business. We aim to offer our customers variety and the type of jewellery associated with an independent jeweller. Customers can be assured that when they come to us, they will find something different and not something they could purchase in every other jewellery shop.