Meeting the Berkshire women shaking up the jewellery industry
PUBLISHED: 15:46 09 October 2019 | UPDATED: 15:54 09 October 2019
We bring you a gem of insight into these talented Berkshire women who are shaking up the jewellery industry
Susannah King Jewellery
At just 21 years old, goldsmith and jewellery designer Susannah has been shortlisted for Young Designer of the Year in the Professional Jeweller Awards 2019
Susannah has always been creative, and aged 18, she turned her hand to making jewellery, including gem-setting, casting and engraving. She continues a three-generation long legacy of being in the handmade jewellery trade. "I was born and raised in Hayes, Middlesex. My father was born in Woodley and has a goldsmiths in Twyford, where I trained and now work. My grandfather and father are both goldsmiths, and my mother is a gemologist!" says Susannah.
"I love the village I work in. Twyford is full of alternative characters and everyone is lovely."
After Susannah launched her eponymous line of jewellery, she reveals her career started to come together after scoring small sections in a few issues of British Vogue and Brides magazine. "And after this I jetted off to Holland to work with a Dutch fashion designer from the Amsterdam Fashion Institute," she says.
Since then, she hasn't looked back. "I've worked with celebrity and political clientele, shown at February's London Fashion Week, become a Bronze partner of the National Film Awards and have been nominated for Young Designer of the Year 2019," she says.
Susannah King Jewellery is the first vegan, fine and demi-fine jewellery brand in the UK, using precious and semi- precious gemstones. "My most popular range is my Orgaya collection," she says. "It's been snapped up by five stockists in the past three months after its official launch in May.
"This collection is inspired by natural strength: its rough texture represents the peaks and troughs of life whilst the gemstones represent the wearer; the true sparkle in life. It encourages you to access your natural strength in times of turmoil.
"Nature inspires me," she adds. "Nothing is as honest and as balanced as nature."
Susannah's pieces are available in Kings Goldsmiths, Twyford, Kabiri in Mayfair, Baroque in Brighton and Bates Goldsmiths in Cheltenham. She personally operates from Kings Goldsmiths.
"My average day starts at 7.30am, when I answer emails, post on social media and plan my work," she says. "I usually sit at my bench all day either repairing jewels or creating bespoke pieces for stockists and clients.
"I believe no one can tell you where you're going. Only you know how far you can go, and no one can stop you. Nothing is impossible. And I hope to continue to be fulfilled by bringing people happiness through handmade jewellery."
Jewellery By Nasira
Nasira Kasmani is originally from Kenya, East Africa, and started her life in Maidenhead in 1972, and moved back to the area 10 years ago. "I am the oldest (and bossiest) of four siblings, a cool aunt to three nieces and one nephew, and I have two stepchildren," she says.
"I love living in the Royal borough, but I have taken a leaf out of the Queen's book and have a weekday residence in Bray and weekend residence in the West Midlands with my husband.
"Living in Bray, not only do I feel that I am living in the countryside with all the beautiful parks, country houses, restaurants and country pubs, I am still only 45 minutes from the hustle and bustle of London.
"We have amazing history around us," she continues. "I love visiting Windsor and the castle, and am fortunate that I drive past it twice a day to and from my jewellery boutique in Datchet."
After leaving university, Nasira worked in a number of sales and marketing roles and eventually moved to business consultancy, which she says taught her some invaluable lessons that she has been able to apply to her own business.
"After working in consultancy contracting roles for over 10 years, I needed a change and decided to look at opening up my own business," she says. "I have always had a passion for jewellery thanks to my mother, who always made sure that I was wearing some form of sparkle.
"My own collection was made up of precious metals and stones, however, the expense of purchasing these as time went on was literally bankrupting me, so I started purchasing high-quality costume jewellery made with Swarovski crystals and American diamonds. My collection quickly grew as it was more affordable, and I found I had something different to wear everyday. I was also no longer worried about being mugged or losing items!"
Nasira realised there is a huge market for affordable, good-quality costume jewellery that looks like the real thing and it was something she wanted to share with her fellow "bling lovers", so Jewellery By Nasira was born in December 2016.
"I love it when my clients tell me about the compliments that they receive when wearing items from my collection," she says.
"I love the personal touch and offer complimentary jewellery and styling consultations in the boutique and online via video call, which has allowed me to work with clients both nationally and internationally."
In 2018, Jewellery By Nasira was nominated for Traditional Jewellers of the Year by Britain's Asian Wedding Awards and was awarded the finalist certificate.
In 2019, she was nominated for and won Creative Jewellers of the Year by Britain's Asian Wedding Awards and also won Highly Commended Business Women of the Year by the SheAwards in the same day.
"Jewellery By Nasira has become well known for the adjustable crystal tie bracelets in a gold, silver and rose gold finishing," says Nasira. "These are delicate enough to be worn by our younger clients and if layered and stacked with other bracelets and bangles, make a huge statement!
"Layering and stacking jewellery is very popular and one of the ideas that we like to promote with the brand.
"My own personal jewellery style is simple and elegant," she says. "I like to add a touch of sparkle to my everyday look with a stunning pair of crystal earrings, a drop pendant necklace and one of our crystal-tie bracelets. To change this up in the evening when I am going out, I add additional bracelets to the look and go slightly larger on the size of the earrings."
So what is Nasira's goal for the future? "To have a Jewellery By Nasira collection available in retails stores around the country and have brand ambassadors promote it from the comfort of their own home to their client base," she says. "This, in conjunction with the online shop, will allow anyone, anywhere in the world, to purchase their favourite jewels."
Few jewellery designers can claim a link between their profession and the British Armed Forces. Which is why Jan Richardson is as exceptional as her contemporary pieces.
Jan's father was an RAF pilot, so the family relocated every few years. As a result of interrupted schooling, Art remained her one consistent subject. However, despite gaining an Arts Degree then running a business in London, it was the move to Wokingham 30 years ago that proved to be the catalyst to new opportunities, culminating in a design and teaching career.
"There is so much going on in Berkshire. I love being on our boat, or walking through Coombes Woods," she says.
"My work space is a shed in the garden where I focus on whatever range I'm working on. My most popular designs are organic with flowing lines and scroll work. It's important to have a range, a whole story."
The 63-year-old allows original ideas behind each piece to evolve while simultaneously being open and aware of surrounding influences. Perhaps that's why she's occasionally ahead of her time. "A while ago I produced a cheese plant leaves range; now I see them everywhere. I had no idea it would be a vogue image this season!" she says.
There's also consciousness surrounding the permanence of her creations. "I want to make jewellery that is individual and has longevity," Jan says. "Jewellery is something you choose to wear every day. If you don't like it, you won't put it on."
An equally important element of Jan's life is teaching. After moving to Berkshire she became Resident Jeweller at Bracknell's South Hill Park Arts Centre. "I was asked to apply for the role and stayed for six years, building up the classes while running my business making jewellery and being a mum at home," she says.
Jewellery design equipment includes varying sizes of pliers and files, as well as barrel polishers, soldering torches and numerous others. Jan's workshop has more than most. "I'm a tool magnet! People who have stopped their businesses approach me to buy their tools. I can't let a second-hand tool go!" she admits.
"I'm just happy to enjoy what I'm making at the time. The most satisfying thing is to hone down on a technique, and right now, that's stone setting," she says. "And I love teaching; seeing what students achieve and enjoy, what they get out of it. You've got to concentrate on the things that interest you, to keep learning."
Paula Kamers lives in Bray with her husband and two sons. "We moved here in 2016 just after we had our youngest, to escape the noise and bustle of London, and to give us a bit more space to raise our children," she says. "We were drawn to the idea of being able to have a garden and to be able to walk the boys to school each day. We also wanted a friendly community, where our boys will form a group of nearby close friends, playing in each other's houses in a safe environment.
"And living in East Berkshire there are so many great places to enjoy the river, be it walking along the Maidenhead riverside path, having lunch in Cookham, or heading into Windsor. With the children we particularly enjoy visiting Eton Dorney; a fantastically tranquil place full of wildlife, where my husband taught our eldest to ride his bike, and will soon be doing the same with our three-year-old.
"For family days, I love the Crown in Bray. When the weather is good you can sit outside and enjoy the sunshine; or a simple picnic by the river is hard to beat."
Paula moved to London in 2005 from Brazil, where she studied graphic design at University. "I hadn't originally planned to stay in the UK, but fell in love with London and made some great friends, ending up working at a bank in the city."
However, finance was never her passion and when she fell pregnant with her second child, she decided to make a change. "I love jewellery and I'm fascinated by natural stones. They are so colourful, beautiful and unique! I also always wanted to have my own business, so I researched my business plan for Mosaico and decided to go for it," she says.
"I used to hang clothes labels on my ears when I was a child, to pretend they were big long earrings. And when I was a teenager, I remember being given my first pair of dangly earrings, which was amazing! It's always been a passion."
Paula had been considering selling semi-precious gemstone jewellery for a while, so she knew it was something she had to at least try, or live with a "what if" question forever.
"In Brazil, there is a variety of affordable but gorgeous jewellery, as the population is naturally expressive and colourful. People love to experiment with different pieces that feel special with each wear, but without costing the earth," says Paula.
"My business partner, Jenny Prentice, shares this passion for natural stones and jewellery, and had similar influences due to her family roots in South Africa. We thought that this particular mix of our own backgrounds with the UK, and expressing them using the wide variety of natural stones available, would create a new angle to the semi-precious gemstone jewellery market."
Paula and Jenny source their stones and findings from well-established UK wholesalers, who are ethically conscious and hold relevant 'Fairtrade' accreditations. "Jenny and I select high-graded stones together based on the most unusual markings, colours and shapes," says Paula. "We often spend hours inspecting possible stone choices to find the right combinations for our new designs. In our minds, each stone is unique, and their natural imperfections often make them more interesting than ones other people may consider 'perfect'."
The gemstones are then complemented by high-quality metals such as 925 sterling silver, gold-filled and vermeil settings, from certified wholesale partners.
"For centuries women have worn jewellery to celebrate their femininity, power and individuality," says Paula. "And we want women to celebrate their individuality and make a statement through colours, striking features and the energy each stone can bring to their look."
She says that is the reason they also offer a bespoke service, where you are able to customise any of their designs in your favourite colour, stone or metal. "We want that piece to be really special to you," she says.
"I feel really lucky to be doing what I love for a living, and we want to take Mosaico as far as we can," Paula adds. "The positive feedback we get from our customers, and when they come back for more, is what motivates me to keep striving. We want to share our passion with as many people as possible."
- Honest Mum Vicki Psarias: Windsor, summer 2019 and a day at the races - I'm not sure there's anywhere as pretty as Windsor in the summer. Windsor Castle and the Long Walk bathed in sunlight never fails to make my heart sing. Soppy but true! No wonder it's such a haven for tourists