If you follow us on social media, you’ll already know that 2017 marked 30 years of my being in the jewellery trade!
Looking at this photo of me at my 21st, it’s strange to think that I’d already been in the industry for 5 years by then. I often get asked how I got started or what made me get into it so here goes…
It all started with a jeweller called Harry whose son Stuart I was great mates with at school in the UK. One day, Stuart brought along a load of old silver chains that Harry didn’t want and together we sold them – to other kids at school! Already interested in making things, I enrolled in silver smithing evening classes at the local college and bought a load of silver from Harry to practice with.
After learning those basic skills, when I left school I was able to score an apprenticeship at a jewellery store – thanks to Harry’s connections. It was very tough because the pay was minimal but I learnt a lot over the next few years. Apart from hand making jewellery, I was learning heaps about traditional jewellery techniques from all the antique jewellery that came into the shop for repairs or remodelling.
Highlights of my apprenticeship were my gemmology course in Birmingham’s famous Jewellery Quarter and going to the equally famous Hatton Garden (London’s jewellery quarter) for day release. Here I sat with an elderly jeweller who had made original Art Deco jewellery! Imagine how awe inspiring it was to be shown those classic geometric style pieces, handmade in the 1920s by the very man who was showing it to me!
When my apprenticeship was over, I stayed on at the same jewellery store in Milton Keynes for a long time. Later on, I even had apprentices of my own. But while the work was varied and never boring, working above a store in a shopping centre wasn’t much fun. The surf was calling and in 2001 I was able to move to Australia on a skilled visa. Where I immediately gave up surfing.
Fast forward to 2008 when I needed to make an engagement ring for my then girlfriend, Becky! I wanted an old cut diamond to reflect my love of antique jewellery and there was only one person I wanted to ask…. Harry, of course! Still in the UK, he supplied me with a beautiful old cut 1 carat diamond, approx 150 years old for which I made this simple white gold ring to show it off.
In 2007 Becky built the first DFJ website, as part of a university project, which started attracting our first customers. Three years later, I was feeling pretty cheesed off with working for other people so we decided to go it alone and built a fantastic studio.
There have been a lot of changes in the jewellery trade since I started: Diamond certificates were a rarity back in those days, whereas now we almost never sell a diamond without one. Computer Aided Design (CAD) wasn’t really available to jewellers but has lead to a whole new style of jewellery. And of course since the 1980s, jewellery is being manufactured cheaper and cheaper overseas. Weirdly, this has lead to new opportunities for me as more and more people are seeking out local manufacturing jewellers who will be able to make something that will last!
Looking back, it’s scary to think that the jewellery I made when I first started out could soon be classed as vintage! As with most careers, in jewellery you never stop learning and I will still enjoy doing that until I attain grey nomad status and disappear off around Australia in my Landy!