Something a little bit different on the blog now... today I let Bear Brooksbank take the reins.
The industry is awash with fresh, new jewellery designers but not many nail the skilful mergence of classic and contemporary quite like Bear. Everything from her swoon-worthy, jaw-on-the-floor bespoke engagement rings and remodelled heirlooms to her signature cute-as-a-button Bear pendant are case in point. Harper's recently named her one of their best bespoke ring designers... plus she has a rescue greyhound. Enough said.
Bear let me quiz her on her career as a professional treasure hunter, gold digger (the good kind) and keeper of all secrets (she might know that your man is proposing before you do remember). We shine a spotlight on her studio and the magic that happens within its four walls… and round off with a quickfire round of crucial must-knows (because bucketlist countries and favourite places to eat are important).
And, if you're as sold as I am, read on to find out how to get an exclusive 10% discount on bespoke and ready-to-wear pieces by Bear.
How would you describe the Bear Brooksbank style in three words?
Tactile, timeless, confident.
Where do you look for inspiration?
Shape, structure, architecture, light, colour and texture. My collection Fur & Claw is about the strength and warmth in us as women using the fur and claw of a black bear.
Through a chance meeting with Humphrey Butler [who Bear created her Fur & Claw collection with] I made the transition to jewellery starting with him working as an intern. I always considered myself to be a human magpie but thought this was the case for most young women, until I realised that for me it was much more. My Dad – an art advisor who worked for Christies for years – has always been mad about jewellery too so it was in my blood from an early age. The bottom line for me is that these incredible stones and metals come out of the ground! They are nature’s works of art.
Is Bear your real name?
No, Mary, but I have always been Bear to my nearest and dearest. Mary felt too formal – when it came to naming the business it felt more natural to be Bear along with all the lovely imagery that goes with it. I drew a sketch of a bear for my brother's 21st birthday present which Malcolm Appleby (a Scottish silversmith and jewellery designer) created into a silver belt buckle [pictured below]. This became my logo followed by the release of the Bear pendant for Christmas 2016.
Bear's rescue greyhound, Champ, in her Hackney studio
As the creator of engagement rings, do you find yourself the keeper of many secrets?
Yes! I have been saved in people’s phones as Barry Brooks or other inconspicuous pseudonyms to avoid blowing the groom’s cover. I have to be very careful about the timings of emails or texts to make sure a curious bride is none the wiser to the plotting that goes on behind the scenes. We pride ourselves on being watertight when it comes to BB jewellery secrets.
Do you usually make engagement rings pre or post proposal
(i.e. with the girl’s input too)?
It’s a real mix! In the last 6 months, it feels like the gents have really been taking matters into their own hands on the bespoke front and, with my advice, taking a risk and going for it! I get a lot of newly engaged couples going down the remodelling route, and coming to me with ‘a ring’ that needs to be made into ‘the ring’. 99% of the time people do propose with a ring, even if it is a simple gold band.
What's the starting point for creating an engagement ring? Tell us about the bespoke process.
I always tell my clients to come to the studio/our first meeting with as many or as few ideas as they want. As soon as you meet a couple you start to build a picture of who they are. I find the way they interact with my own selection of Bear Brooksbank jewellery very illuminating. Are they straight over to the antiques or what are they drawn to? Some clients have a very clear idea of what they want or at least where they want to start and some need a little encouragement. Either way I love this part of my job, building a sense of people and then designing a piece you think encapsulates this is a real privilege.