When I was first invited to a meeting to discuss the “Jewellery Quarter Lifestyle Event” in the late Spring, I have to admit to being slightly in the dark. When those present at the meeting spoke about the “BID” I didn’t know what they meant. Finally I plucked up the courage to ask and realised that “BID” stood for “Business Improvement District” and that the Jewellery Quarter in Birmingham had one.
In an area which has a BID, certain qualifying businesses pay an amount of money to the BID and that money is used to market the area, to raise its profile and to improve its appearance and profile. In a nutshell, the aim of the event we were discussing was to raise the profile of the Jewellery Quarter to other sectors of the City.
Now – and forgive me for those not really interested but – I have lived in Birmingham for 18 years and although I know it pretty well, I have never really paid the Jewellery Quarter much interest but oh my goodness, the talent there is incredible and I will never buy jewellery from anywhere else, ever again.
My role was to speak primarily with the jewellery designers and makers, to visit their premises, to take photos of their work and then (with the help of the lovely Partners at John Lewis Solihull who kindly let me have the use of their store and who lent the clothes to me for the event) to put the jewellery with various outfits for models to wear on the night.
The talent within the Jewellery Quarter is unimaginable. From established jewellers working on commissions for people such as The Duchess of Cornwall, Fearne Cotton and Pixie Lott, to young women who are just starting out cutting beautiful pieces from leather and making 3D jewellery in silver and gold, to established jewellers and gemmologists who make incredible contemporary pieces, I was blown away. Tucked away in studios no bigger than box rooms in old factories which have been divided up into units, and with room only for a computer, some machinery (and thank you cards) these amazingly talented jewellers find themselves in a catch 22 situation with not enough income for a shop but equally people don’t know where to find them to buy their pieces to generate that income. So, that was the purpose of last night’s event – to bring that talent to a wider audience.
To set the scene, this shot was taken as people arrived at the event, which was held at the Birmingham School of Jewellery – the biggest school of jewellery in Europe. We had over 20 businesses exhibiting, about fifteen of whom were jewellers and the rest were made up of other businesses within the Jewellery Quarter. Several jewellers couldn’t be present as they were collecting awards on the night, which was fantastic.
I had it mind that the clothes should form a backdrop to the jewellery, which largely meant avoiding frills, print and fussy detail so that the jewellery could stand out against a background of silks, velvets, colour and texture.
I chose to wear a plain full length black Coast dress and I first wore a necklace by Glenn Campbell which I followed in the second half with drop earrings worn by Lauren-Elizabeth (no pic as yet – hope to find one from someone, somewhere!)
I found this picture on twitter which someone had taken whilst I was doing my bit!
This necklace by Glenn Campbell took three, eighteen hour days, to make and was made especially for an exhibition at Goldsmith’s Hall called “Growing talent”, the aim of which was to show the development of a group of talented young designer-makers. For anyone interested, you can read more about it here.
Now that it is back in Birmingham Glenn is looking forward to exhibiting the piece here. The necklace is priced at £2700 and each individual link was shaped, flattened twice, then heavy paper was pressed into the link to give it the fine surface texture. Each link then had a hole punched into the top and was curled round and joined up. Here’s a closer picture of the necklace, which was incredible to wear.
Over the next few days I hope to bring you the outfits, and the jewellery, that the two models were wearing . For some reason, which escapes me now, I forgot to ask someone to take a photo of each model before she came out, or else I would have had material for 12 blog posts at my fingertips *weeps*
We had an amazing team working on the event and hopefully the exhibitors will benefit from the event hugely, which we are planning on repeating in the Spring.
Here’s a link to the Jewellery Quarter Bid and if anyone is planning on having any jewellery re-worked or commissioned, or if anyone is looking for an engagement, wedding or eternity ring – or if anyone just feels that they deserve a treat and want something special making – I would love to point you in the right direction. I need to do some shopping by proxy of I fear that things are going to get tricky at home!