Precious AND PERSONAL
The enduring appeal of jewellery is even more enhanced when it’s created specially for you by a local jeweller
Look back through history and there’s hardly, if ever, a time when we humans haven’t adorned ourselves with jewellery. Jewellery design and designers are an important part of our artistic culture, and jewellers are a constant presence on the high street, enduring through even the toughest of economic times, it seems.
RILEY & RILEY
Mark and Tessa Riley established Riley & Riley in Ipswich in 2004. Both have been in jewellery all their working lives, with significant jewellers around the country. Riley & Riley is completely independent, supplying and making stylish, quality jewellery with the highest level of care and service at competitive prices. They stock a wide range of jewellery, engagement rings and wedding rings, silver and gold jewellery, their own hand made in-house range, the famous Aldeburgh Pebbles, jewellery from Kit Heath, Muru London and V-Jewellery, a small range of watches and some period and second hand pieces in Aldeburgh. Prices range from under £20 upwards. Jewellery sets its own fashion trends and Mark says currently it is trending along the lines of the Arts and Crafts movement.
“Many of our customers are looking for things not mass produced – hand-made pieces and personalised pieces. If I make an engagement ring or say, one of my Aldeburgh Pebbles, I make it, personally, at my workbench in Aldeburgh or Ipswich, from start to finish. A qualified gemmologist and diamond grader, Mark has been making jewellery for years, but only introduced his first collection into stock about five years ago, shortly after opening a second shop in Aldeburgh. “Of course, I don’t make everything we sell, and we do have stunning pieces made by fantastic manufacturers from home and abroad. Things from nature are continuing to be popular, starfish, bees, seahorses, pebbles and, of course, amber, particularly in Aldeburgh.” Mark thoroughly enjoys the world of jewellery.
“Every day we work with beautiful precious things,” he says. “Sometimes jewellery is bought as a ‘treat yourself’ present, but so often it is for a significant event, an engagement, a wedding, birth of a child, anniversary or birthday. What could be better than helping people find a beautiful piece of jewellery to commemorate a big occasion in life?
“We have lots of customers who have ‘grown up’ with us, bought their engagement rings from us, wedding rings, eternity rings, and now they come into the shop with their high school age family. To have that kind of relationship is special.”
Jewellery maker Marisa Arna started out making hand-thrown ceramics, mostly porcelain, selling tableware and decorative work from her studio in ThorpeLe-Soken, at fairs, galleries, the Conran Shop, and the V & A shop.
She focused on making jewellery in late 2006, following a short course with master silversmith Richard Whitehouse, based in Manningtree, and sold to customers who had been buying her ceramics. She showed her first collection of handmade jewellery at a craft trade fair and held a Maker of the Month solo exhibition in May 2007 at the old Firstsite gallery in Colchester. Since then she has undertaken specialised training with masters in goldsmithing and stonesetting.
“With jewellery, it was love at first site,” she says. “I love the smaller scale, perfect for my hands and strength. I love
the constant technical challenge and stimulation. There are so many different fields within jewellery, so many different skills. Proper mountmaking, where all the settings, everything is handmade, is like engineering on a smaller scale.
“Jewellery is a lot more personal than ceramics, particularly the bespoke work. It can be for a celebration or a commemoration. It can involve recycling, such as remodelling an heirloom or an old piece of jewellery into something that can be enjoyed and worn for many more years.
“I also enjoy communicating with people, sitting down at the studio and talking to them about what I can make for them, to suit their taste and lifestyle and for that specific occasion. I meet so many lovely, interesting people who can be local or may have travelled quite a long way. It’s a very much appreciated bonus.”
Marisa has a studio with a gallery selling her work and other hand-picked, UK-based, jewellery designer-makers. Her work is mostly various collections in silver and gold, including some rings with precious and semi-precious stones.
“My rings are always very popular, both in gold as well as silver, with diamonds or coloured stones. Mixed colour pieces in white (or silver) and yellow or red gold or silver and oxidized (black) silver have been steadily in trend. The square rings are becoming more and more popular because they are very comfortable to wear every day. I have been using various colour sapphires, spinels and tourmalines, as well as aquamarines. For some, diamonds are the only stones and forever. Occluded diamonds are a less pricey and more understated and some customers prefer them. Yellow gold has been increasingly more popular, but also more and more people are wearing my contemporary silver collections.”
ABOVE LEFT: Jewellery designer Marisa Arna at her studio in Thorpe Le Soken.ABOVE RIGHT: Triple diamond Annabelle ring in three colours by Mark RileyRIGHT: Mark Riley, jeweller at his workbench in the Aldeburgh shop
Marisa Arna white and yellow gold bands with diamonds
Riley & Riley Aldeburgh