The jewellery buyer’s love of Alice Cicolini knows no bounds, and she has zero problems mixing neon and vintage – it’s a masterclass in emotive exuberanceDecember 18, 2020 By Rachael Taylor
If you love independent jewellery design, then iconic London department store Liberty is your Mecca. Its ground-floor jewellery hall is filled with quirky designs, trending styles, names to know and vintage finds, and the woman in charge of making that happen is Ruby Beales.
Liberty jewellery buyer, and certified magpie, Ruby is one of those women who wears jewellery well. Spend any time at all chatting with her and you will find your gaze dropping to take in her eclectic totem of bracelets, on-point ring game or layers of necklaces. She is the queen of the stack.
Ex-fashion PR and former accessories buyer at Net-a-Porter, Ruby made the leap to Liberty and its famous jewellery hall in 2019. “Having worked as a buyer across all of accessories, I decided that I wanted to concentrate solely on jewellery and the job at Liberty came up; it felt like fate,” she says. “The best part [of the job] for me is seeing the workshops of the designers I work with; quite literally where the magic happens. When I visited Shaun Leane’s atelier in Mayfair the first time, I came away feeling so inspired. It blows my mind how clever and creative they are.”
A key part of Ruby’s job is to be an arbiter of taste, and as such she is constantly evaluating which jewellery brands to bring into the store. “I look for great craftsmanship, ethically sourced materials and sustainable production,” she says of her thought process when seeking out jewellery designers to add to the line up at Liberty. “In terms of aesthetic, it has to have that sprinkling of magic. It’s hard to explain, but it has to have the ‘Liberty je ne sais quoi’; the feeling that you have discovered something – something unusual and exciting.”
Though this past year has rocked many a retailer, Ruby says that the jewellery department at Liberty has forged ahead, hinting that we should expect to see new collaborations, brands and exclusive jewels at Liberty in 2021. “We haven’t let a global pandemic slow us down,” says Ruby, whose personal lockdown survival plan has included walks in the fresh air, regular intakes of colour, Fleetwood Mac and “the occasional” nip of gin. That, and continuing to support her beloved Norwich City Football Club, of which she has been a season ticket holder for the past 23 years, “for her sins”.
As a certified jewellery influencer at one of London’s best spots for contemporary jewellery, Ruby is often someone we turn to for advice on the next-big thing in jewels – which is why she is on the judging panel for The Jewellery Cut Live in association with Fuli Gemstones Bursary. But what’s in her personal collection, and which designers would come top of her fantasy shopping list? Time to find out.
What was the first piece of jewellery you ever received?
“An antique opal Moi et Toi ring from my parents. This is probably when my obsession with vintage pieces and antiques was born.”
Most recent jewellery acquisition?
“My most recent piece is a reworked vintage Wedgwood signet ring from British brand Ferian. I love everything about this brand; it’s so charmingly British, but at the same time modern. Each setting is made from recycled gold and is adjusted to fit the vintage jasperware cameo. I’m quite a sentimental person and Wedgwood always reminds me of my grandma and mum as they wore the original pieces when I was younger.”
If money was no object, what piece of jewellery would you buy?
“I have a lot on my wish list at the moment, so it would be pieces rather than piece. I have an obsession with enamel and I would love a big Georgian Bague au Firmament ring. Made popular by Marie Antoinette, it literally translates as ‘Ring of the Heavens’. The combination of deep-blue enamel or glass with glittering diamonds was named so because of its similarity to the night sky. There’s something about that celestial combination that I find irresistible. There’s also an antique diamond plaque ring on the Kojis counter at Liberty that has been haunting me for months. Otherwise, I would love to collect a piece from each of my favourite brands at Liberty – Polly Wales, Sia Taylor, Selim Mouzannar and Alice Cicolini – like a hall of fame to commemorate this time in my life. One can but dream.”
Is there a particularly sentimental piece of jewellery in your collection?
“I would say a sapphire and diamond Art Deco-era ring, which I fell in love with one day in a jewellers back home in Norwich. Unbeknown to me, my parents went back and bought it but saved it for many years, presenting it one Christmas Day, late in the evening. I was so shocked they had had it all that time. They can obviously keep a secret better than I can.”
Have you kept wearing jewellery during the lockdowns?
“Why, of course. What’s the point in keeping it in the jewellery box? Some pieces I wear every day, like my grandmother’s wedding ring and my teeny Aurum + Grey ‘R’ necklace, which is so discreet it goes with everything. Then I decide what mood I am in and go from there. If I’m feeling cheeky, it’s my Rubies Boobies necklace from Anissa Kermiche. If I need a bit of a perk, then something colourful from Roxanne First. Always mixed in with antique pieces.”
Which jewellery designers are catching your eye right now?
“My love for Alice Cicolini’s work knows no bounds. We have just developed an exclusive capsule together, which launched in Liberty this month – think neon enamel with juicy bright tourmalines and garnets. It’s just what we need to see right now, colour and cheerfulness. Seb Brown, who is sold exclusively though Liberty, is also a favourite of mine. I really admire how his personality shines through his work. The unique combinations of stones and cuts, and the way they’re set so no two are alike is an alchemy that creates incredibly special pieces. And last but not least, I am having a bit of a Melissa Kaye moment right now. Anyone who knows me, knows about my love of neon [and, so Melissa’s collection of neon enamel gold jewellery]. Her pieces are impeccably designed – she used to be in engineering before jewellery – and her diamonds are just so clear and sparkly.”