A Brilliance idea that gives Island jewellers their chance to shine

A festival devoted to the luminescent skills of gemmologists, designers and horologists seeks to burnish the reputation of an industry which deserves to be better recognised as an Island jewel. Emily Moore explains

THINK of Jersey and it likely that the Island’s finance industry, iconic cow and beautiful beaches are among the first things that come to mind.

But take a stroll through town, or venture to one of the out-of-town shopping destinations, and you will notice the wide array of jewellers who call the Island home.

And now many of those businesses have come together to launch the inaugural Brilliance Jersey Jewellery and Watch Festival, which starts on 21 October.

‘It was an idea which came out of Covid,’ explained event co-founder and Jersey Pearl director Julia Williams. ‘It started as a spark from a conversation with Visit Jersey and has quickly developed into a really exciting event which will bring industry members together and provide an interactive series of events for Islanders and visitors to enjoy.’

With 14 businesses, including the Harbour Gallery – where the work of six Genuine Jersey designers is on display – taking part in the festival, Julia and fellow co-founder Melanie Mayer Davies are excited about the range of workshops, talks and visits planned for the two weeks.

‘The response from the industry has been fantastic and has generated a great opportunity for gemmologists, horologists and designers to open their doors and show people what they are doing,’ added Melanie, who is a director of Rivoli and Story by Rivoli.

‘People are used to seeing the end product in the showroom, or to working with a designer to create a bespoke piece of jewellery, but this is an opportunity to go behind the scenes and learn more about the process involved in bringing those pieces to market.’

The festival also offers people the potential to meet master jewellers and craftsmen from the UK.

‘A number of businesses including Hettich and Swarovski will have representatives over from the UK, while Rivoli is running a Meet the Master Craftsman event, with hand-engraver Stephen Munro,’ added Julia.

‘Steve is incredibly talented. He is the man who sits at Wembley during the FA Cup final and engraves the winners’ name onto the trophy.

‘He can copy people’s handwriting, or take their fingerprints, and engrave ID bracelets or wedding rings with them to create a unique gift or memento.’

Other events on the programme include a Diamond Masterclass with Aurum’s diamond expert Richard Blampied, an audience with word-class jeweller Catherine Best, a Fine Jewellery Workshop with craftsmen from Hettich’s London workshop and demonstrations from Genuine Jersey members Victoria Bardsley and Victoria Liddell.

There are also opportunities for Islanders to ‘breathe new life’ into sentimental family heirlooms with reimagining events at Jersey Pearl and Catherine Best.

It is the personal nature of jewellery, and the stories behind people’s purchases, which inspire both Julia and Melanie.

‘I started working in the family business as a teenager but joined the firm properly when we opened the Swarovski store, now Story by Rivoli, in 2007,’ said Melanie. ‘I love the feel-good factor associated with jewellery. Buying jewellery is a happy experience. Whether people are buying a gift, choosing a special piece to celebrate a wedding or anniversary or selecting a treat for themselves, there is always a story behind the purchase and, as a result, the jewellery tends to have huge sentimental value to the wearer.’

‘There is also a huge history of people celebrating special occasions during holidays to the Island,’ added Julia. ‘People love treating themselves on holiday and many people buy engagement rings or eternity rings during their breaks. When they go home and open their jewellery box, they then think about the Island and remember their time here.’

And, with Covid having hit the hospitality and retail sectors particularly hard over the past two years, the women are hoping that Brilliance Jersey Jewellery and Watch Festival will help to give both sectors a boost.

‘Visit Jersey, and everyone involved with hospitality, is keen to extend the season as much as possible and events such as Brilliance are a great way of attracting visitors to the Island in the shoulder months,’ said Julia.

‘As the idea for the festival gained momentum, we pitched the concept to the Visit Jersey Events Incubation Fund, and are both delighted and hugely grateful to have received support, which has included the creation of a wonderful film to help us promote the initiative overseas.’

Having secured sponsorship from Rossborough Private Clients, the women are now hoping that Brilliance will become an annual event.

‘Having united our industry’s members, everyone is asking why we haven’t got together before,’ said Melanie. ‘We are all now full of ideas for future events and are already starting to approach potential visitors for next year.’

‘I think Brilliance is a great way to showcase the brilliance of the industry and also raise awareness of the huge breadth of talent we have in the Island,’ said Julia, who is a fellow of the Gemmological Association. ‘We have a mix of multi-generational businesses – some of whom have been trading for more than 100 years – award winners and world-renowned designers, all based here. We also have every style of jewellery represented from the most elegant international brands to the work of local designers and everything in between.

‘This festival will not only bring all those strengths together but will also show people the potential to develop a career in jewellery. From design, watchmaking, goldsmithing, branding, design and photography, there are so many avenues to explore in businesses ranging from traditional family jewellers to multinational businesses such as Jersey Pearl, which has 25 stores.

‘I go to jewellery fairs all around the world and Jersey is there alongside all the big boys. While we fly the flag for the Island around the world, this is now a chance to fly the flag for our industry locally.

‘I want everyone to be proud of what we have in the Island and to embrace it and get involved. Both those in the trade and Islanders should look at our industry and recognise that Jersey is not just about finance, cows and dairy but that the Island is also really good at jewellery.’

And while the festival will give people the opportunity to learn more about the stones and processes involved in jewellery-making, it is also, say the women, a chance to showcase the breadth of talent in the Island.

‘People love their jewellery. They have their own style and they have an emotional attachment to their pieces,’ said Mel. ‘What they may not realise, however, is just how much scope there is to create truly bespoke people. This festival plays into the trend for personalised jewellery. We are just waiting for people to come to us with their questions and ideas and find the jeweller that best matches their style and personality. Within this festival, there is a jeweller for everybody.’

The Brilliance Jersey Jewellery and Watch Festival runs from 21 October to 6 November. More information, including the full list of participating businesses and programme of events, is available at www.brilliance.je

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