[12 MINUTE READ]
Happy Friday all and welcome back to another interview! Is anyone else missing getting completely dressed up and fancy? Well, here’s an idea: how about we bring back jewellery into our lives? Yes we know we’re still in quarantine, but hear us out. It’s minimal effort- unlike makeup it glides off effortlessly at the end of the day- comfy AND sparkly enough to make you feel ‘put together’ for yet another Zoom call.
This week we had the absolute pleasure of chatting to not one, but two fabulously inspiring ladies: Arabel Lebrusan, founder of Lebrusan Studio and Co-Founder of The Vintage Ring Company and Claire Roberts, Co-Founder of The Vintage Ring Company.
Lebrusan Studio is a jewellery designer brand that sells luxury jewels, with a focus on ethical sourcing and manufacturing, designed by Arabel Lebrusan.
The Vintage Ring Company sells affordable and unique, pre-loved vintage rings. So, if you’re up for bringing a little ‘bling’ back, just keep reading. We hope you enjoy this one!
Hi ladies! Could you start by describing your backgrounds and how you feel that has influenced you both today?
AL: For as long as I can remember, I’ve been busy drawing and making things - and I’ve always had a fixation on anything sparkly. When I was a child, my mother had a beautiful pendant in her jewellery box; a miniature eagle clasping a sapphire in its claws. She only wore it on very special occasions. I still remember my fascination whenever she took it out of the box. This was the jewel that ignited the flame and got me hooked on beautiful jewellery. 40 years on and, here I am, very lucky to still be spending my days thinking about lovely shiny things.
CR: I was obsessed with reading from an early age and still have a towering pile of books beside my bed today. There was never any doubt that literature and writing would be part of my future. In terms of my interest in jewellery, that came later. My favourite jewel as a child was my mood ring. I was very sad when it eventually turned my finger green and I had to throw it away.
Oh, I can completely relate to that Claire. I was deeply loyal to my mood ring. So how did you both get your start in the jewellery industry?
AL: Following a BA in Fine Art, I knew that my path would lead me to becoming an artist and jewellery designer. I immediately took a Goldsmithing course – six hours at the bench every day for three years – before studying for an MA in Jewellery Design at Central Saint Martin’s.
CR: I studied Linguistics at UCL and was contemplating becoming a speech therapist, but it would have involved staying on for an extra year and I was keen to get out into the world. I got a job writing for a travel company and enjoyed travelling the world, writing about the hotels I stayed in. My next job was working for a luxury publisher whose portfolio included a magazine about jewellery and watches. Within a few years, I was enthusiastically editing it.
"Increasingly, we’re seeking brands that can tell us the name of the person who made our product, show us a photo of the workshop where it was created, or tell us a story about the community our purchase has helped."
So quite diverse backgrounds in a sense, but you both took a similar turn. So when did you decide to start up The Vintage Ring Company and why?
AL: For many years I worked as a freelance fashion jewellery designer for other companies; an experience that provided me with first-hand insight into the good, the bad and the ugly. I soon became aware of some serious ethical issues in the industry. Driven by a determination to change the status quo, I adopted a deep investigative focus on ethics in the jewellery industry when studying for my MA. All along, I knew that my end goal was to set up my own ethical jewellery brand; a platform to show the world it is possible to enjoy beautiful jewellery without the need to exploit.
CR: I was the managing editor of The Jewellery Editor for many years, and while I was working there I had the time and the resources to contemplate the ethics of the industry in which I was working more deeply. In particular, jewellers like Arabel were drawing my attention to issues that I either wasn’t aware of or hadn’t given much thought to. When we decided to set up The Vintage Ring Company towards the end of 2018, it felt right. I have always loved vintage jewellery, which is full of character and charm compared to many of the new jewels created today. Our ethical credentials are squeaky clean.
That is so refreshing to hear. So, we are really interested in sensitive skin here at CAROLINAGMX. Is sensitive-skin something Lebrusan Studio and The Vintage Ring Company consider throughout the manufacturing process?
AL: We only use silver, gold and platinum in our jewellery; all noble metals typically considered to be hypoallergenic. We’re aware that some alloys contain nickel, which is a famously allergenic element, so we try our very hardest to avoid those.
We’re experienced and take time to chat to our clients about their metal experiences and preferences when creating their jewels. For example, if a customer told us their skin was sensitive and prone to reactions, we’d advise against silver and encourage them to consider a pure metal like yellow gold instead. We believe that jewellery is a simple pleasure; something to be enjoyed for years on end. We’d hate for one of our customers to develop a rash and feel unable to enjoy one of our pieces anymore, so we do everything in our power to make our jewellery wearable.
I love a personal touch; advising customers appropriately can make all the difference. Do you think people are more conscious of the materials they use in their jewellery nowadays?
AL: I feel that what people are starting to crave is a sense of connection with their fellow man; increasingly, we’re seeking brands that can tell us the name of the person who made our product, show us a photo of the workshop where it was created, or tell us a story about the community our purchase has helped. We’re more aware than ever before of the damage we’re causing to our planet thanks to social media and communication, and it’s frightening. I believe – or at least, I hope - that our priorities are shifting. Now, what customers want is to feel that they’re not powerless but helping.
I see this a lot too, and it makes me hopeful. So how does sustainability factor into Lebrusan Studio and The Vintage Ring Company?
AL: Sustainability is the entire focal point of Lebrusan Studio; it’s the point of difference that enables us to succeed. It’s this commitment to beauty from within that encourages clients to revisit us time and time again. They know that our jewels are jewels they can feel truly proud of wearing.
CR: It is the number one reason why we founded The Vintage Ring Company. There is no more sustainable jewel than one that has been recycled.
And could you each tell me about your absolute favourite piece?
AL: Without a doubt, it has to be a pair of diamond-encrusted earrings shaped like baroque guns that I made some years back. They were the first jewels that I ever used to address the issues of non-ethical sourcing and provoke serious reflection in the viewer. The earrings are created to appear as though the perfect match; completely identical to the naked eye. The only difference is that one is created using ethical, traceable materials, and the other isn’t. This piece proves that it is possible to create beautiful jewellery using ethical materials.
CR: All of our rings are pre-loved and I love our Edwardian daisy rings. Set with a cluster of diamonds to form the petals, they are utterly ‘of the era’, yet they remain truly timeless. I would choose one over a single stone solitaire ring every time.
They are truly stunning! Could you tell me about your biggest challenges in starting up a jewellery business?
AL: I think making ourselves heard over a multitude of other voices was the most difficult part. There are so many products out there, so much noise, so many businesses with budgets way bigger than ours. Shouting loud and getting noticed has been an ongoing fight, but one that’s become well worth the struggle.
CR: I also think that sourcing the rings correctly was tricky because there is an element of luck involved. There are a finite number of vintage rings in the world today, which makes finding a special one even more satisfying.
That must be so thrilling when you find the right piece! What is your favourite thing about having started Lebrusan Studio and The Vintage Ring Company?
AL: By far my favourite aspect of being Lebrusan Studio’s founder is the freedom it allows me. I could be pitched up in a cabin in the back of beyond and still communicate with my staff and clients on an immediate basis; that’s the beauty of running an online business. I’m not bound to one place; I can offer 100% from whichever continent and time zone I find myself in.
CR: For me, hearing from happy customers is one of the best parts of the job. I recently received an email from a customer who had treated herself to a beautiful Art Deco emerald and diamond ring for a birthday; she had just been doing the hoovering wearing the ring, with a massive smile on her face. I also love the flexibility, which allows me to be present for my daughter when she needs me.
Flexibility is really important when you have a family. On that note, would you say you both have a work/life balance?
AL: I’d like to think I do… Until the occasional morning comes when I wake up and feel like something’s pressing on my chest and telling me I need to slow down. When that happens, it’s time to start meditating again to regain balance. This always works. I wish we were taught meditation at school, so it was a default part of our daily routines and not something we struggle to make time for!
CR: I used to be allergic to routine, but that all changed when my daughter was born. Now I can see why children thrive on them; it is comforting to know what you are going to be doing and when. I think it also reduces stress. I wake up, answer emails, spend time with my daughter before she heads to school, and then I start on the to-do list. My work/life balance see-saws quite dramatically sometimes, but working from home makes me feel more in control.
I completely agree on the meditation thing Arabel. It helps me ground myself too. What do you think makes both Lebrusan Studio and The Vintage Ring Company stand out from other companies?
AL: Our unique offering. We marry traditional craftsmanship with distinctive design and sustainable materials. We design all of our pieces personally, so our vision is uncompromised. People choose Lebrusan Studio not just because they want a piece that exists to sustain our planet and the people living on it, but because they want a noteworthy and unusual jewel; one that will turn heads and attract compliments.
CR: At The Vintage Ring Company all of our vintage rings are priced under £2,000 and each come with a certificate of authenticity, signed by The Goldsmiths’ Company. This guarantees our customers that their ring has been professionally assessed. Transparency is key; we wanted to make it very clear that every ring is authentic and exactly as described, particularly to those who are buying vintage jewellery for the first time.
"I am fascinated by diamonds and gemstones. Beyond their outward beauty, they have such strong symbolism, and the fact that they were formed deep within the earth, millions of years ago, still blows my mind."
That’s fantastic! And for each of you, what has been your biggest “pinch-me” moment so far?
AL: My designs being worn by Queen Letizia of Spain… OMG! To this day, I’m still so proud.
CR: The first ring we sold was a big moment for me. It made me realise that we are not alone in our love of jewellery that comes with a beautiful backstory.
Firstly, wow! A queen has worn your designs...wow. And secondly, you’re definitely not alone; I think a backstory adds everything to a piece of jewellery. What inspires the both of you?
AL: The people I work with; from small-scale miners to skilled stonecutters and hand-engravers, my colleagues and my business partners. We are all valuable assets in a sturdy, interwoven net that uplifts me every day, providing me with a sense of purpose and the drive I need to continue creating.
CR: I am fascinated by diamonds and gemstones. Beyond their outward beauty, they have such strong symbolism, and the fact that they were formed deep within the earth, millions of years ago, still blows my mind. I am definitely a gem geek.
What’s your average day like?
AL: The early morning is dedicated to mother duties, which means running around like a headless chicken. I spend the rest of the morning working on my most artistic jewels in my studio at home. In the afternoon, I come into the office and deal with the urgent stuff. Evenings are a combination of “mummy-time”, dance classes, cooking, and a final helping of work before I go to bed. Life’s quietened down at that point, so I can give the work my undivided attention.
CR: I work from home most of the time, which is a blessing and a curse. I have the River Thames on my doorstep so I always try to take a walk by the river at lunchtime, but that doesn’t always pan out... I was working last night to get a piece of work ready for a deadline today, and shortly my alarm will go off for an auction I have been watching. There really is no average day and that works for me.
That must keep things very fresh and exciting. What words do you live by?
AL: “Live with passion and make the most of today. Life is too short.”
CR: “If you only read the books that everyone else is reading, you can only think what everyone else is thinking.” Shamelessly stolen from Haruki Murakami.
Thank you for those; both are resoundingly important! Finally, what’s next for Lebrusan Studio and The Vintage Ring Company?
AL and CR: Growth.
Like what you read? Head to Lebrusan Studio and The Vintage Ring Company to shop. Alternatively, if you fancy checking out some of our previous interviews, you can find them here. All images are via Lebrusan Studio and The Vintage Ring Company.
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