….but we are all fabulous.
As regular readers will know, I am all in favour of promoting women and their concerns whether they are women in academia, women’s health issues or women in art. Women in business are also to be admired and supported, but until recently this was not something I had direct experience of.
In January of this year, the Institute of Directors announced the shortlist for its inaugural ‘Women Changing the Business World’ Award. I know this now because during the course of this year one of the nominees played a significant role in my life…
Following a romantic proposal over dinner at the theatre restaurant in Stratford some months ago, my then boyfriend (now fiancé) and I decided to take our time in finding the right ring. We went on recces to Manchester, the Oxo Tower and Hatton Garden in London, but didn’t find anything that really grabbed us. We wanted something special and I wasn’t keen on a diamond solitaire. In the meantime, I was looking for ideas online. I kept coming across unusual and lovely designs and very soon a pattern emerged: the vast majority all came from the same site – Harriet Kelsall.
I was put off pursuing this option initially by a couple of things. First was the fact that I was a bit scared of the whole process of designing a ring. I had this dream of walking into a shop and seeing the perfect ring and the idea of designing it from scratch seemed a lot of potential worry for something that would be expensive and couldn’t be sent back if I didn’t like the end product. My second problem was the location – they are based in Cambridge and Hertfordshire, both a bit of a time investment to just visit one shop. Because of my first reservation, it didn’t occur to me to explore further and I now know that they are happy to design for remote customers – over the phone or even by Skype.
As time passed and we weren’t finding anything we liked, I kept looking at the HK designs online. Fate stepped in and we visited Cambridge on a weekend away with my future in-laws. I had some time to myself and went to check out the shop and see what it was like. As soon as I walked into the shop, it felt good – the atmosphere was calm but rather magical and soon after I arrived, a lovely woman (Amy) came and chatted with me. She put me at ease and gave me a business card and a few weeks later my OH and I made an appointment to meet with one of the designers, the lovely Tom.
Tom at work
We arrived armed with pictures of things we had seen and a clear idea that we wanted a silver coloured ring with sapphires and diamonds. Tom rustled up a couple of designs on the spot and we went from there, choosing a sapphire, the metal type, ring size, ring profile, all there and then over the next 2 hours. I had a few anxious moments that night and returned to the shop the next day to review our choices and again Amy was extremely friendly and helpful. We returned home and over the next few days Tom worked up the sketches so we could see in more detail what our ring would look like and he patiently answered my many questions over the phone.
We decided to go ahead and we are so glad that we did. We now have a unique ring which we both love and which has received many compliments.
According to the HK website, Harriet Kelsall Bespoke Jewellery began life in a spare room in Harriet’s home in 1998, but by early 2000 they had moved into their first studio in Weston, North Hertfordshire. Today they are a team of 35 people and have an additional studio in Cambridge. Although Harriet did not eventually win the IoD award, she has been nominated for and won many others, including SpecSavers Everywoman in Retail Awards “Woman of the Year” in 2011 and UK Boutique Retailer of The Year in 2013.
Harriet Kelsall with her Woman of the Year award and Dame Mary Perkins, Founder of Specsavers
One of the things that most impressed me about our experience from a business perspective was Harriet Kelsall’s commitment to ethical jewellery. The jewellery business can be an unscrupulous and dangerous enterprise, especially for the people mining the raw materials. Very often this can impact on women and their children, for example, mothers continue breastfeeding whilst working with noxious chemicals. The HK commitment to ethical practice saw them chosen in 2011 as one of the first twenty jewellers worldwide to launch certified Fairtrade gold and one of only 42 jewellers in the UK to be certified to date (http://www.fairgold.org/where-to-buy/country/united-kingdom/). Each piece of Fairtrade jewellery piece carries a special Hallmark of the Fairtrade logo. Only jewellers who are licenced to use the Fairtrade logo are able to have it Hallmarked as such. They are also able to offer coloured gemstones such as sapphires, rubies and peridot which have been mined under Fairtrade principles.
I haven’t yet been to their Hertfordshire shop and workshops where you can see the jewellery actually being made, but there is a café there and the pictures on their Facebook page suggest they are also committed to providing great food 🙂
I am sure the future will see Harriet and her team, including the lovely Tom and Amy go from strength to strength, and in January, I will be keeping an eye out for next year’s shortlist for the IoD Women Changing the Business World Award.