Gem Weekly 7
Providing a little distraction and adding a bit of sparkle to your inbox!
A small businesses in a big world of inequalities
Working together for a more compassionate, kinder and inclusive world.
"Everyone can rise above their circumstances and achieve success if they are dedicated to and passionate about what they do" Nelson Mandela
Back then, as a single independent young female entering a very male dominated industry, I met men who just saw me as a “little blonde bird” and it was very hard to be taken seriously. But I was never deterred, rose above their patronising and was not shy in voicing my disapproval of the topless women on their workshop walls! Slowly, I and other women coming into the industry helped change the mindset and attitudes of many men, hopefully paving the way for a more positive and inclusive experience for young women coming into the industry today.
I did of course meet men who saw beyond my gender and blonde hair and some have become supportive lifelong colleagues and friends. In general, they respect me as a designer and businesswoman, and value my talent and opinions, as I do in them and their skill as specialist craftsmen. We all recognise we need each other to achieve our common aim: To keep Hatton Garden, London’s historic jewellery quarter alive, to keep our businesses thriving and growing and to create beautifully designed and excellently crafted jewellery for people to love and enjoy for years to come.
I love hearing about inspirational women and last week I watched Hidden Figures, an incredibly inspiring true story based on the book by Margot Lee Shetterly. The film is set in 1961, and is about a group of talented and genius female mathematicians and engineers working for Nasa who were known as “human computers” before the introduction of IBM computers.
Unacknowledged for years, these women played a vital role at Nasa, and the film focuses on the successful launch of the first US maned rocket into space and three incredible extraordinarily talented African American women who helped them get there – Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson.
As I have found through my experience not all men in my industry are sexist. And as is depicted in this story, neither were all the men that worked for Nasa sexist and racist. John Glen himself was not only an iconic war hero and astronaut, he was a perfect gentleman who showed great humanity and concern for the people around him no matter their sex or race. He respected Katherine and trusted her over the recently introduced IBM computers trajectory calculations asking for her to check them before his historic space mission.
Octavia Spencer who plays Dorothy Vaughan, NASA's first African-American manager, said of John Glen he "represents the best of who we are as Americans, [Hidden Figures] is a love letter to him as well as all the woman who contributed to the space program”
Taraji P. Henson, who plays genius mathematician Katherine Johnson said "Hidden Figures is especially relevant in the currently divisive American climate. I think it's a reminder that humans are in this together. It doesn't matter your race, color, or who you sleep with at night. This movie is a reminder of what made America great in the first place".
Janelle Monáe, who plays engineer Mary Jackson, added “The country wouldn't have been able to achieve something as extraordinary as sending our first Americans into space if they allowed race and gender to get in the way. I think Hidden Figures is so hopeful. When we do come together and realize that we all pee the same color, we all bleed the same color blood, once we continue to remember that and keep that in the forefront, that's when we start changing the world. That's when we're at our greatest."
Although the film was released in 2017 these comments resonate with resent events around inequality still in our world today and we must continue to change the archaic attitudes of those among us through positive and inspiring role models and individuals speaking out to correct negative attitudes.
There is obviously still a long way to go, and this is a difficult and entwined subject where tarring people with the same brush and stereotyping needs to be tackled across all cultures. No decent human’s potential should be blocked or made more difficult because of gender, race, culture, religion, sexual orientation, age, or social and economic status. Talent and genius should be nurtured and celebrated regardless of gender, race, culture, religion, sexual orientation, age or social and economic status.
As a white female from a working class background I'm proud of my roots and the strength of my family. My dads mum bravely left her husband due to a difficult marriage in the late 1950's with three children - practically unheard of in the those times. My dad left school at the age of 15 with no qualification so he could work and support his mum and two siblings. My mum's family lived on a council estate and were so hard up at times that her mum went without dinner. But she instilled good values and repeatedly told mum "you only get out of life what you put into it". I never met her sadly, but I think I would have liked her very much!
My parents worked incredibly hard as I grew up; my memory of dad is of him continually in his work uniform, and mum undertook many poorly paid part-time jobs whilst looking after my brother and I. However that hard work paid off and they were the first in my family to buy their own home and they supported me through state school, 6th form college and two universities (the first in my family to go) to achieve 1st Class (Hons) degree and an MA from the Royal College of Art, and eventually I'd go on to run my own business.
Everything I have achieved I have worked incredibly hard for. I own it - every mistake and every success! Maybe that's why in challenging times it's hard for me to walk away. Or maybe it's the resilience or stubbornness I talked about in my previous email. Either way I acknowledge that I'm extremely lucky to have strong positive role models in my parents, who instilled good values and I will forever be indebted to them for their selfless support and encouragement which has never wavered. I appreciate not everyone starts life with these strong foundation on which to build a life.
I'm also grateful for the support and guidance received from everyone throughout my career - men, women, black and white - who have been generous with their time and expertise. I hope those I've mentored and advised across all genders and cultures will go on to do the same for others, so that we all continue to learn from each other and work together in unity for a common cause, not just within my industry but for a kinder, more compassionate and inclusive world.
“We all get there together, or we don’t get there at all”
Al Harrison, Director of Space Task Group, Hidden Figures
The significance of pearls in Hidden Figures
Symbols and message through jewellery
There are many poignant moments in Hidden Figures, but one particular one is the relevance of pearls necklace.
Jewellery can have many hidden messages and symbolism and this is a big subject for perhaps another Gem. But touching lightly; The Queen's vast collection of brooches are believed to be carefully chosen for their relevance to the occasion she is attending. Much speculation was made of the political messages behind brooches she wore during Trumps State Visit – one was a lovely Moss Agate Flower brooch gifted to her by Barack and Michelle Obarma, and another one was the Queen Mother’s Palm Leaf brooch which her mother wore at the funeral of King George VI. Make of that as you wish!
You can see some examples of The Queen wearing some of her brooches in this gallery. You will also notice that more often than not the brooches are accompanied by a pearl necklace.
When Katherine Johnson was moved to the Space Task Group in 1961 she was told the dress code is a dress just below the knee, heels and no jewellery other than a single string of pearls.
Throughout history pearls have always been a symbol of wealth and status and even though they have moved in and out of fashion, they have never gone out of popularity with the wealthy. Although generally in the 60's pearls fell out of fashion, Katherine had lived through the 50's so in 1961 they would have still been associated with elegance, femininity and high profile women such as Jackie Kennedy, Audrey Hepburn and Grace Kelly.
But, after the successful space mission and the major contribution from Katherine, attitudes had begun to change and Al Harrison and the team bought her a single string of pearls as an engagement gift. For Katherine this was a significant symbol of belonging and that she deserved them as much as anyone else, which indeed she did!
Pearls are the birth gem of June
There is a huge amount that I could tell you about pearls but I came across the fabulous Instagram page of RASOPALA who has featured posts throughout June all about pearls, which is well worth a visit. There is also a concise whistle-stop history of pearls here and here.
In the mean time I thought I'd share a selection of bespoke pearl jewellery I've made over the years. I don't think I've ever been commissioned to make a pearl necklace so if you have a special occasions that you may need a string of pearls for, then please do get in touch! ;)
I incorporated Robs own black pearl into an 18ct white gold and diamond engagement ring for Jo. A natural ridge around the centre of the the pearl gave a practical solution to hold the pearl and a unique design feature.
These beautiful, rare matching natural yellow trillion shape sapphires were set into a pair of 18ct white gold and pearl earring for Liz's June Birthday! The sapphires can be worn as simple studs or dressed up by adding the dangling pearls!
18ct white gold and pearl engagement ring from Lee to Marisa. A very simple ring design with clean lines, which sets off the purity of the pearl.
A pair of clean lined pearl earrings designed for Eva. A stunning contrast was created by setting the white pearls against the black Rhodium plated white gold.
Lara inherited a large pearl that she wanted to incorporate into her engagement ring from Lewis. As an architect, I helped Lara realise her design for clean and bold ring.
This 18ct yellow gold, diamond and pearl ring was made to commemorate Barbara's 60th birthday. The simple pearl is framed by a circle of pave set diamonds
Eileen had a jewellery box full of jewellery that she didn't wear, but it all held memories from birthdays gone before and also a ring from her late mother. Eileen wanted a ring that celebrated all these things, so we combined all the stones, pearl and more diamonds and made this stunning platinum remodelled Cocktail Ring.
You can explore more bespoke pieces on the bespoke gallery on my website.
LGBT Pride Month
During lockdown I intended to design a necklace inspired by many wonderful children's Rainbows of Hope in windows on my early morning walks, but time has whizzed by!
So during this months LGBT Pride Month, I thought I'd design a simple pendant that combines the LGBT rainbow, the school children's Rainbow of Hope and the recent issues raised around inequality in our fragile world.
The necklaces will be made to order (from the design below) and 10% of profits will go to Action Tutoring, an education charity supporting pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds.
The pendant is 18ct yellow and white gold and made up of three circles that fit together and hang freely on a fine chain. The outer circle measures 12mm in diameter making a delicate symbol of unity. A hand engraved inscription reads: Come together and unite for a kind, compassionate, inclusive world.
Price: £900.00 (incl.VAT). Please email for enquirers. As this is made to order it can be customised with your own inscription and gold combinations.
Each necklace sold will help provide private tutoring for a disadvantage child who might have the potential but not the tools or opportunity to thrive!
Returning to my studio
In my previous email I mentioned that I was tentatively looking to return to the studio part-time from the 22nd June for work I can't do at home. However mum's health relapsed, so my temporary decamp to stay with them in sunny Luton has been extended for a little longer and I appear to have adapted to new New Normal...
Traveling to Hatton Garden on public transport is my main concern so my days during the week may vary, but I intend to make Sunday's a regular day for meeting clients by appointment. If you feel comfortable doing that then face masks will need to be worn by both parties, and we can easily social distance. I also have antibacterial surface cleaner, surface wipes, latex gloves, face shields, paper towels, soap and 5 litres of hand gel! Jewellery, or anything that needs to be handled will be wiped before and after.
For anyone who doesn't feel comfortable visiting - which is perfectly understandable - then we can talk over video call which I have already successfully practiced during Lockdown.
We will find a way!
The future of these Gems
Thanks to everyone that answered my little survey regarding the future of Gem. Your little gift through the post will be winding its way to you soon.
Gem came about as a response to Lockdown and Isolation and have gone from daily to weekly and I’ve introduced Little Gem which will go out at random times with offers and treats!
It seems you like these Gems dropping into your inbox - which is great news! Although the general consensus is you'd like to receive them bi-weekly or monthly. So as I've inadvertently started sending them bi-weekly due to juggling too many balls and life chucking a few curve balls, I will continue with this and re-evaluate in a few months, which is pretty much how most of us are negotiating Covid life!