Jewellery Mavericks: An interview with Kathryn Bishop
Kathryn Bishop is a bright, stand-out journalist whose passion for jewellery is unsurpassed.
She’s currently working as a senior writer at The Future Laboratory, a futures and trends consultancy, but it doesn’t end there. Boldly supportive of women in the jewellery trade, Kathryn is also a co-founder of the Women’s Jewellery Network and is the youngest Council Member and Trustee of the Goldsmith’s Craft and Design Council.
Her enthusiasm for the industry has seen her comprehensive articles featured in some of the top jewellery publications and media outlets.
In the third of our Jewellery Mavericks series, here’s what Kathryn told us about the roots of her admiration for jewellery, the worst misconception about the business and what excites her about custom design.
Who was your greatest influence in shaping your taste in jewellery? Do you remember when and how your passion was kindled?
The seed was definitely planted when I received a Cleopatra-themed jewellery kit for Christmas as a kid, and spent ages trying (and failing!) to string this intricate beaded collar. But I truly fell for jewellery when I landed a Saturday job at a store called Bloomsbury Jewellery in my hometown of Bath. It sold fine jewellery by the likes of Dower & Hall, Stephen Webster, Me & Ro and Tina Engell, alongside striking silver collections from designers around the world. The stories behind the designers’ work was Bloomsbury’s USP and it struck a chord with me – it was so unlike the high street chain jewellers that existed elsewhere in the city.
Since then, I suppose my taste has been shaped by the notion of storytelling and identity, so while it has been no single person, my jewellery box has been shaped by everyone in my life.
I wear charms from my aunts, grandmothers and best friends, have engraved pendants with my family’s initials intertwined, have pieces I bought myself at key moments, overseas, or just because I couldn’t resist them. Equally, there are pieces I’ve waited years for, and those that were special gifts – for example, a pair of diamonds studs when I finished working at EC One’s London store to write at Professional Jeweller, which I treasure greatly.
You can wear only one piece of jewellery for the rest of your life, what piece do you choose and why?
This is so tough. Could I choose three?
Firstly, I have this rather weighty 30” silver necklace that means quite a lot to me. It features two silver ingots that belonged to my parents, who each got one while they were dating, back in 1977 – the Queen’s Silver Jubilee. Years later, mum’s was in the bottom of her jewellery box, and Dad’s was in his messy drawer – you know the type Dad’s have. When I was in my early 20s I got really into long necklaces, so I ‘adopted’ the ingots and added them to the chain. Now, it’s something I wear regularly – the ingots clack together when I walk, which is a quite comforting sound.
Secondly, the two signet rings I wear on my left hand, stacked up. The gold one I designed for my 21st birthday, so I’ve now worn it every day for 10 years. The silver one was given to me by a close friend, when I was her maid of honour two years ago. It’s engraved with a dove, as a symbol of freedom and exploration, and on the inside is etched with the word ‘philia’, which is Greek for the love you have for a friend. Again, something I treasure greatly because it links back to a very memorable and meaningful time.
Is there an item which you consider both a simple accessory and a piece of art, both everyday and statement?
I know I have just mentioned them, but the signet ring, for sure. I’m not from the classic family that would wear signet rings – I wear mine on my middle finger for the irony, and aged 21 I chose it to show that a signet ring didn’t have to be tied to the classic connotation of Eton boys or family crests used for wax seals. It’s been great to see my friends embrace them in this same way, with their own engravings or special designs that make their own personal statement. I have to say, Laura Lee Jewellery has been a huge influence on me and still is in this respect. Her engraved pendants, equally, are artistic, wearable and say something of the wearer.
What are the biggest trends you’re currently seeing in the jewellery industry?
It’s been interesting watching jewellery become so much more accessible, both in terms of design and pricing. But in terms of trends, I think the idea of ‘play’, be it through artistic inspirations, colour or creative silhouettes, has made its mark this past year and hints at things still to come. In Copenhagen recently, The Jewellery Room’s Fashion Week showcase featured jewellery inspired by Matisse, cute wire-work animal pendants, hoop earrings depicting faces and baroque pearls softening the angles of square bangles – the one thing all of the designers there had in common was a really upbeat and enthusiastic energy and again, a sense of playfulness.
Is custom-designed jewellery a trend or is it to stay? What are the advantages of custom pieces to off-the-shelf ones?
It’s here to stay. In fact, it’s always existed – the difference now is that you don’t have to be wealthy, per se, to create a bespoke piece. Now, jewellery can be easily personalised with a preferred gemstone or engraving or different metal colour. Of course, the advantage here is that no one else has the piece you’re wearing. It’s yours and extra special for that very reason.
Are there any simple rules the soon-to-be-married should follow when designing the dream engagement ring or should they be led by imagination only?
I think everyone should dare to dream and create something special but the one rule I’d always suggest: think about wearability.
What you do for work, for example, might impact whether a ring has claws or a rub-over setting, and with this also, think about how well the stone – or stones – will wear over time. When it comes to design though, I would recommend people dare to try something different – jewellery is such a vibrant means of expression, that choosing a round brilliant solitaire feels rather boring nowadays – but maybe that’s just me!
What are the most common misconceptions in the jewellery industry you believe first time buyers have?
Sadly, some still hold the a train of thought that a better price can always be found elsewhere or that a jeweller will be overcharging them. Luckily, however, the push for transparency in the jewellery industry, and elsewhere, has lessened this and I believe younger shoppers in particular are more interested in paying for craftsmanship, design skills and quality than trying to find a bargain. Ten years ago, during my time working in jewellery stores, it was fairly common to be asked for a breakdown of the cost of the metal and stones because a ring in the palm of a hand didn’t always ‘look like’ its price tag.
When you think about customisation of a ring or jewellery piece, what gets you excited?
This is a little bit cheesy, but the potential to design or be part of creating an engagement ring is pretty special. I’ve helped a few friends over the years and it’s always been an honour to be asked to help them find a stone, or to recommend a designer, or to even be there when they visit a jeweller for a bespoke consultation. Unsurprisingly, I’ve had plenty of time to think about my dream ring. The only thing that has stuck over the years is the stone: a cushion-cut Ceylon sapphire. That very light, soft purple-blue colour gets me every time…
A huge thanks to Kathryn for sharing! Visit the possibilities of custom to see how ring designs can be personalised and to learn more about how you can make your ring design yours.
Headshot Photography: James Maiki