Emma de Sybel, the mind behind the madness of ethical vintage jewellery company Baroque Rocks, describes her career and journey into the jewellery industry as “absolutely bonkers”.
After 16 years in banking at J.P Morgan, the mother and wife was desperate for some balance and symmetry between her career and personal life. The constant in both was her self-professed biggest vice: buying jewellery.
This business-savvy Wall Street woman took her passion for statement pearl necklaces adorned with solid gold charms and created Baroque Rocks. Under this mantle, she offers fellow magpies vintage gold jewellery from the 1960s to early 2000s, bringing new life to her finds. She describes her growing treasure trove as affordable and sustainable jewels that “aren’t going to cost the earth”.
Baroque Rocks founder Emma de Sybel at The Jewellery Cut Live
Sustainable blasts from the past
Not only does every Baroque Rocks client receive a truly one-of-a-kind design, they can rest assured that their purchase is as ethical and environmentally friendly as they come. Sourced exclusively in the UK to maintain a low carbon footprint, Emma finds her treasures at auctions, private vintage jewellers and, on occasion, at estate sales, when a mother-in-law’s taste doesn’t quite match that of the new bride’s.
From there, every single piece is brought to her right-hand man in Birmingham’s Jewellery Quarter, by whom they are polished and cleaned. With a Midas touch, the craftsman takes the dust from each polished piece to local bullion dealers, where they smelt the remnants into 100% recycled gold to be sold to the jewellery industry or used to fix up other Baroque Rocks jewels.
The beauty of a Baroque Rocks piece is that there is no new mining or manufacturing involved in the process, even when a vintage jewel needs a little bit of extra TLC before it is ready to be sold. In cases of lost stones or gems that need replacing, Emma uses her cooperative of setters and artisans in the Birmingham Jewellery Quarter to find loose gemstones that fit the aesthetic of the design, proving that one jeweller’s cast offs can truly be another’s treasure.
Provenance remains important, of course. With a recent find – a vintage 1970s textured gold ring that mimics a stack of two rings (pictured above)– Emma felt that the gems needed to be changed. She swapped out two red garnets for a rectangular-cut pink garnet and aquamarine. However, should you buy this vintage treasure, you will not only get the ring with its shining new pink-blue gemstone combo, you will also receive the two loose red garnets she removed – gratis – so that the provenance of the ring remains intact should you ever wish to revert to the original design.
Once satisfied with the spiffed-up look of a piece of vintage jewellery, it is time for a spiritual retuning. Emma sound-cleanses each piece herself with tuning forks in order to bring the stones and metal back to their natural soundwaves. This process provides clients with jewellery that has been cleared of all past-life energies, so that – from a metaphysical perspective, at least – they are truly the first to wear it.
Each item is then gift wrapped in beautifully branded packaging, sourced in the UK, which Emma encourages her customers to upcycle into change purses or other keepsake holders. There is a full circle of life in a Baroque Rocks piece of jewellery; nothing gets wasted.
While ethics is the driving force behind Baroque Rocks, there is something else that unites the collection of vintage jewels – each piece always has a clever angle or use. From gold penknife pendants and articulated gold cat charms to tourmaline signet rings, there is a statement piece for every mood, with a style that can and has endured through decades of fast fashion. As Emma says: “It’s better to invest in a piece of jewellery that will last generations, rather than a dress that might not even last the season.”
With that in mind, why purchase something that has been recreated time and time again when you could stand out with an original piece? Much like its namesake, the baroque pearl, jewellery curated by Baroque Rocks does not conform to the aesthetic of the high-street jewellery store. Inspired by her love of music – previous curations of jewels include The Ice Vice Baby Edit, The Kitchen Disco Edit and The Rocket Beats Edit – Emma chooses pieces that are different and bold. “The crazier the pieces, the better,” says the jeweller, who often creates playlists to accompany her curated collections, which she shares with her clients.
Absentmindedly playing with her solid gold 1970s cocktail stirrer necklace pendant – which would pair perfunctorily with the Baroque Rocks gold cigar aerator pendant for a wild night out – she chants her mantra: “You don’t have to conform to society. You don’t have to conform to anything. When you purchase a Baroque Rocks piece, you will have something that is irreplaceably unique.”
Doing what she does best, Emma continues to be a force for good as well as good times, reminding us that old can always be made new.