Claudia Bradby’s pearl jewellery has been worn by Helen Mirren and the Duchess of Cambridge, and the British jeweller has just picked up Designer of the Year at the National Association of Jewellers (NAJ) Awards.
Fresh from a tour of jewellery shops across the country – which she has dubbed Pearls & Prosecco – Bradby takes time out to speak to The Jewellery Cut about the latest trends in pearl jewellery, friendship bracelet revivals, why Instagram influencers need to do more than just post pretty pictures to spark her interest, and which pearl jewellery she wore to Harry and Meghan’s wedding.
You’ve been travelling the country with your Claudia Bradby Prosecco & Pearls tour. Can you break the rules, and tell us what happens on tour?
It is a great opportunity to tell my story – how it all began, why I care so much about pearls, how I design. As well as tell some of the stories behind my designs and to clarify how pearls are grown, and what a cultured pearl actually is. It awakens such strong interest in the customer, to know it is not just another item off the production line, but thought about, with heart and story behind it
Do you meet many interesting people on the road?
I love meeting people. I have always worked with my husband on his fictional books – my first job was as an assistant literary agent, but that’s another story. My main area of expertise, apart from strong narrative, is character development. I just love people’s stories – who they are, what they do. We often get groups of friends coming to the events, which I love. One lady had come with her gym friends, and she had heard about my jewellery from a blogger, Nikki of Midlifechic, and had started rewearing her mother’s pearls as a result. This led her to buy one of my necklaces, and she came to the event to find something to go with her necklace. That sort of journey is amazing to hear about. I bring my whole range to the events so she was able to try on lots of different pieces, finally finding one that worked.
Have you had a particularly memorable customer meeting of late?
I loved meeting a customer in Bideford, who is a magistrate. She had first bought my jewellery from a shop in Bath, moved to Bideford, and was thrilled to find a local shop stocking my designs there. She was so interesting and had such an interesting life. And she had amazing glitter threads through her hair – not what I expected from a magistrate.
What are the key trends in pearl jewellery right now?
The trends I am seeing are an interest in more unusual baroque shaped pearls, and statement earrings – mismatched items, and more organic shapes. I have channelled this into some really lovely statement earrings for spring/summer.
You’re bringing back friendship bracelets. Can you tell us a little about that?
While not a key tend for us, the friendship trend is here to stay so I wanted to bring in something that was a more affordable stacking bracelet. It has sold really well and is especially good for a slightly different bridesmaid gifts, 16th birthday presents and does the job of giving something traditional whilst being relevant, modern and, more importantly, wearable. I am working on a more substantial item for winter, which can be engraved.
How do you source your pearls?
I hand select the majority of our pearls in Hong Kong from five to 10 different suppliers. As you know, they are not a cookie cutter item and it is my biggest challenge to keep the consistency of our high quality, whilst keeping prices steady. There are so many pearls available at so many different prices and qualities and getting the right one for each of my designs is key. It is the best part of the job, though, when you find just the right pearl for the design you have in mind. Or, alternatively, when you see something and just fall in love with it, buy it and then find the right design for it later on. I sometimes sit on an idea for over a year.
If you had to pick a standout piece from your collection, what would it be?
My personal favourite is our cirque lariat as it encapsulates so much of my design ethos. It has one single beautiful pearl. It is infinitely adaptable to different looks – you can wear it five different ways. It always looks fabulous, and when I wore it to Harry and Meghan’s wedding someone asked me if it came from Tiffany’s. But it doesn’t wear you, it adapts to each person to take on their style. It looks modern and stylish without being ‘a look’.
Your pearls are constantly popping up on stylish bloggers, too. Do you have any favourite influencers that you like to follow?
I don’t follow that many, but the ones I do I feel have something really interesting to say. I personally think there is an overload of women simply posting pictures of themselves, albeit lovely ones, but with nothing that interesting to contribute. I don’t want to name names, but the ones I follow are those that have a viewpoint that is interesting, or an energy that I admire. I am, though, surprised at how important they have become to me. Feeling part of a network of women who note the vicissitudes of life, as well as the fun bits, is hugely supportive to me as a woman and I love discovering new and interesting bloggers of all ages.
What can we expect to see from Claudia Bradby in 2019?
I am focusing strongly on earrings this year, design wise, launching our seascape collection in early March. This is a very personal collection for me, inspired by the light on the sea. I am currently reading The Blue Mind, which is exploring how and why the water has such a profound affect on us. I walk by a river every day, and it is very centering to me. And anyone who knows me well, knows how much I love the sea. I went surfing on New Year’s day and am still feeling the chill and the glow.
Helen Mirren wearing Claudia Bradby silver and pearl Duo earrings
Claudia Bradby yellow gold-plated silver and pearl Orb bangle
Claudia Brandby silver and pearl Signet collection
Claudia Bradby silver and pearl Trapeze earrings
I hand select the majority of our pearls in Hong Kong from five to 10 different suppliers. It is the best part of the job, though, when you find just the right pearl for the design you have in mind
Claudia Bradby works with smart Instagrammers who she feels have something to say
Claudia Bradby silver and pearl Savanna earrings>
Claudia Bradby silver and pearl Signet ring sits elegantly on the middle finger