Bear Brooksbank is a fine jewellery designer and gemologist based in East London. It's fair to say that she is a rising star in the jewellery world and her bespoke pieces are simply stunning. So stunning, that when she lent me a sapphire engagement ring for a photo shoot she very nearly didn't get it back!
Bear has recently co-founded a new business called Fine Pop-Ups, alongside womenswear designer Beatrice Perry. Launching today, Fine Pop-Ups is a series of designer-led and curated shopping events. If the lineup for their inaugural event is anything to go by, these will be very enjoyable indeed. Perhaps less so for my credit card...!
It has been such fun getting to know Bear over the past year and I hope you enjoy her interview as much as I did.
Tell us a bit about yourself, Bear. I'm dying to know if 'Bear' is your real name?!
I wish it was! I have always been called Bear, but my real name is Mary. I live in Hoxton with my husband Daniel and brindle greyhound Champ.
If only my new husband had discovered you 2 years ago when he bought my engagement ring! Go on, make us swoon by telling us about the exquisite rings you create and where you find your inspiration.
I wish we had known each other too! So much of my bespoke work is collaborative and therefore each individual client provides me with inspiration. For me, it’s all about absorbing the brief, or a feeling from a client, and turning that into reality. It’s all in the chemistry!
I'm intrigued to understand how you go about making a bespoke ring. Where do you start and how long does the process take?
The process starts with a consultation when I start to put together a picture of the client, their needs and wants. We talk through design ideas they may have, be they for jewellery or more obscure references like architecture or design styles.
Some clients have a very clear idea of what they want; others are a blank canvas. I love it that no two clients are the same.
Do you enjoy working with prospective grooms? Is the engagement ring usually a secret, or do the girls get involved in the design too?
I love working with prospective grooms! It is such a privilege to share their secret and to build a picture of their beloved. I would say it’s a 50/50 split between grooms who come in on their own and couples who come together.
Can you give my grooms some advice on choosing an engagement ring?
Trust your instinct and be brave - it always pays off.
As well as designing bespoke pieces of jewellery, you re-invent treasured heirlooms. That sounds like a big responsibility, no? What sort of pieces have your clients come to you with in the past?
It is a huge responsibility! It is also a joy to remodel something loved but unworn or unwearable and to give it a whole new lease of life. It is very important to me to respect the original piece and to find out what it is about it that is most important to the client. I have remodelled more or less everything. For one project I took an old family tiara and turned it into multiple rings, earrings and necklaces for various members of the family.
What has been your favourite creation and why do you like it so much?
There are so many to choose from! In terms of a design and technical challenge, it has to be this aquamarine and rock crystal and diamond cuff bracelet. So much skill and bravery was involved in making this piece and every member of the team - from me, to the cutter and the goldsmith - wanted to make it extraordinary.
As well as a jewellery designer, you're also a gemologist. Tell us something we're unlikely to know about gem stones...
Sapphire and ruby are both members of the same family - Corundum. It’s only the colour that defines them as different.
When you're not busy in your studio, how do you like to spend your time?
I am happiest when I'm in Yorkshire, where I grew up. My parents still live there in a wonderful house designed by my brother. My family are immensely precious to me and I am the proud aunt of two nephews.
For more information about Bear Brooksbank, or to enquire about a bespoke commission, please visit her website www.bearbrooksbank.com
To discover Fine Pop-Ups and all the latest news about their designers and events, visit www.finepopups.com