I tracked Wilson jewellery down after falling completely in love with some of their pieces in Red Magazine's Christmas shoot. After being a stylist for over 20 years Sarah built Wilson jewellery as the perfect storm of antique high quality details mixed with contemporary styling. Her jewellery uses the highest quality gold plating and vermeil, whilst being super affordable. Read on to find out what made Sarah start up the Wilson and how she makes each piece so unique...
Hi Sarah! Tell me a bit about your childhood and how you feel that has influenced you today?
I was lucky enough to have a great childhood, with happy memories of family times & adventures with travel. My family and I had a really close relationship, plus our grandparents were always around too! I didn’t play much with toys and if I wasn’t training at the local swimming club, I spent most of my time dressing up. This involved raiding my mother’s wardrobe (particularly her shoe collection, which was incredible!), delving into my grandmothers’ jewellery box and drawing up different make-up looks.
When I got into my early teens I discovered the wonders of charity shops & car boot sales. I LOVED scouring around for fabulous finds and putting different outfits together, and adding different touches to the high street fashions at that time. My first treasured find was a beautiful small men’s grey wool Jaeger trouser suit. It was far too big but I managed to work it and I wish I had still kept it!
My grandmother influenced me hugely. She was a striking, handsome woman and her style was simple. However, she always wore beautifully cut designs with strong chunky gold, masculine chains, and she had the best art deco costume jewellery too!
What made you want to start in the jewellery industry and tell me a bit about what inspired you?
I came to this new career pretty late! I had been a clothes stylist within the photographic industry and a personal stylist for the last 20 years. As part of my career hunting down clothing and accessories with just the right shade, style and fabric was already part of the job and I love it.
Jewellery was always a passion of mine and I would often create my own personal collection from pieces that I had found on my travels. I loved nothing more than scouring old antique markets looking for interesting and unique accessories. I have always drawn to Edwardian and modernist mid- century jewellery, and I would mix styles and elements to create something unique.
About 18 months ago I had a quiet month at work which coincided with my friend’s birthday. So I went on a hunt, found a few pieces and made her a bracelet. She was very ill at the time and it made me re-evaluate how I spent my time. I have always loved making jewellery, and both friends and strangers had always noticed and complimented the pieces I had made. So I decided to take £500 out of my savings and see what I could create during the quiet month I was having. The pieces ended up selling straight away and I loved the process of creating them.
My styling obligations got busy again, so I kind of left the jewellery-making for a little bit. However, in the background I would meet with suppliers , had a few charm designs made up, and established relationships within manufacturing. It was during a flight home that I was reading an article in Red Magazine on setting up your own business and following your dreams. From there and then on the flight that I wrote a business plan for Wilson Jewellery on the blank back pages of the book I was reading at the time. The next day, I started to put it into action and a year later here we are!
How do you come up with ideas for new pieces?
There are two sides to Wilson Jewellery; the contemporary collection and the reworked antique collection. I draw a lot from my childhood memories as well as my grandmother’s style. Ideas are often sparked during the process of making a particular piece. Once I’m in the zone, I can design quite a few pieces at once. I don’t draw designs before I make them, I have an image in my head and a starting point from which I build from.
For the contemporary range, it is quite straight forward. I create designs that I would want to wear and ensure the pieces are strong enough in design to be worn alone or easily layered. All the pieces are quite simple and elegant but have a touch of masculinity about them. Somewhere there is always a clash; if I use a skull, there’ll be a pearl nearby to soften it. The antique collection is forever changing as it is based on “one- off” finds from scouring the markets and I love this!
I can find an antique piece, be it an old buckle, dress clip, medal, button, charm and know instantly the design I am going to create around it. Other times, I will buy something and hold on to it until I come up with an idea that feels right. I can also hunt for months for a particular item, and I just can’t find what I’m looking for. When I do find it though, the thrill is exhilarating and I will be at my workbench for days. A lot of people have suggested I recreate the old designs with new materials. But for me that just doesn’t work; it takes away all the history of the piece and that’s what makes the reworked antique collection so special. It isn't just the unique design of it, it is also about the items history.
Has working with influencers always been part of your brand ethos?
Influencers are key in the social media world we live in today. Working on my own, I love collaborating with like-minded influencers and I have met some really lovely people, making some lovely friends along the way.
What is the best part of your job?
The customers reactions without a doubt. To make something that you love and feel so connected to and to have a total stranger buy it and love it just as much is really heartwarming.
What is your favourite piece that you have ever created?
I really don’t have just one. Because of the reworked antique collection, there is a constant flow of new designs with pieces I love for different reasons. I do get really connected to these designs in particular and they are hard to part with at times! At the moment though, I am loving the Blue Enamel Icon medals. I first came across these as a little girl when I was travelling around Europe with my parents. I think I was in Venice when I saw them first.
I travelled to the Paris antique markets recently to hunt them down and managed to secure a beautiful, vintage collection from the 1950s! I’ve created two designs around these icon medals. They work so well worn solo but also layered with other chains by adding a pop of colour and intrigue. The other design which I’m loving right now is the vintage Chanel Glass Toggle and Vermeil TBar. I could not believe it when I came across these vintage Chanel glass toggles for sale; the antique dealer was unaware of what he was selling! They were designed for Chanel in the 1950s by Archimede Seguso using Murano glass which was handblown in their studios in Venice. I love the mix of materials in this piece. I’ve attached them to a masculine chunky gold plate belcher and created a lariat style necklace. This is a classic example of the style of Wilson Jewellery - elegant, simple and a bit mixed up.
What has been your biggest challenges in setting up Wilson Jewellery?
That has to be social media and self-promotion! I’m not tech savvy, so getting on top of social media, website design etc was a sharp learning curve.
What Makes Wilson Jewellery stand out?
I hadn’t thought about this question before. I suppose maybe a few things. The mix of contemporary and antique elements in a piece as well as the clash of styles. The jewellery has a good mid-range price point, but is different to high street designs. Another key factor is that I make every piece by hand which customers like.
What has been your biggest pinch-me moment so far with Wilson Jewellery?
That would have to be my first placement in Red Magazine. After all, this was the magazine that had inspired me to set up the brand to begin with! To be then featured in the magazine only a few months later amongst their main fashion pages was just amazing.
What Inspires You?
I am inspired by so much! By my husband and my children, as well as the other imporatn people in my live. I am inspired by strangers who’s paths I’ve crossed, different countries I’ve travelled, iconic fashion designers, fashion editors, writers, cinematography, history of fashion, textiles, the natural world around me.
What does an average day look like for you?
An average day usually starts early with a run, followed by a strong coffee. I then take the kids to school and walk the dog. I will post on social media and check emails. After that I will then review orders and manage those that need going out that day. I will then sit at the workbench working on new designs for the reworked antique collection and/or make-up new stock for the contemporary collection. Every day is different in terms of when I finish working, but it really doesn't feel like work so I can easily be producing new designs until really late!
What words do you live by?
To remember that life is short, to trust your gut, and be positive and be kind. We are all just people on a journey through a pretty short life, doing what we can to be happy and feel free.
What’s next for Wilson Jewellery?
I’m launching an earring range in the new year with both contemporary and reworked antique which is really exciting. Securing a dog walker too would be fantastic!
If you fancy checking out some previous interviews you can find them here. All images are via Wilson Jewellery.