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LET’S GET PERSONAL

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The modern custom-made and personalised jewellery scene.

With changes in customer segments over the last decade, and to weather the pandemic-induced economic storm, jewellery brands have been offering custom-made and personalised jewellery to keep their prestige and engage a larger audience. Here with input from three prominent Australian jewellery brands and one South African jewellery brand, we explore the state of, and trends within the Australian personalised and custom-made jewellery industry.

For many modern jewellery consumers, an item of jewellery isn’t just a fashion accessory, but an extension of one’s own personality. Thus, if one wants to showcase their personality through their jewellery, the ability to personalise and customise jewellery becomes important. In the personalised and custom-made jewellery industry, the piece’s sophistication and the brand’s reputation play fundamental roles for the consumer. Our contributors understand this all too well. 

Sophisticated brands, personalised designs and custom creations 

When asked about personalised and customised jewellery’s importance to her brand,founder of Sydney-based personalised jewellery brand Belle Fever Sarah Saputra said that her jewellery is more than just a design. 

“Inscriptions, symbols, and images add a personal touch,” she said. 

“Our jewellery is created to tell the story of the customer…the pieces we create are carefully selected by each customer to ensure they will love each one and hold that sentimental value.” 

Justin Blake is managing director of South African personalised sterling silver brand Silvery (with a registered Australian office and division), and he said the personalised pieces they offer can be either laser engraved or hand stamped by their jewellers. 

“We also offer a selection of items with birthstones as well as complete custom jobs,” he said. 

“Through our customisation page customers can let our jewellers know what they would like by uploading images or written ideas.” He said depending on the customer’s budget, design and preference, the piece will be either handcrafted, or 3D-printed and cast.

Queensland-based bespoke jeweller Daniel Bentley who heads up his eponymous jewellery brand said bespoke-designed jewellery has a special place in his business, because it allows a pure one-to-one creative process directly with the client. 

“It becomes truly personal as each design we create is an expression of the client’s own desires and our style,” he said. 

“This is an important contrast to how we design for our brand.” 

He also spoke about Daniel Bentley’s bespoke jewellery process, which he said takes an old school approach: sketching while talking about the design with the client and listening to their often-long list of desires. 

“From there, we have one or two follow up consultations, before we commence work. 

He said the most important attribute when helping a client produce their perfect bespoke piece of jewellery is trust. 

One Sixteenth Designs is an ethical jewellery brand from Cabarita, NSW, and founder/ jeweller Amy O’Shea said that her custom work has been gaining huge traction for her business over the past couple of years, especially as she moves towards “closed loop jewellery production.” 

“This means I’m focussing on using jewellery already in the loop, i.e. already mined and in circulation rather than purging the earth further for materials,” she said. 

“My customers adore the low impact this has on our planet and also that they are able to continue to wear ‘Grandma’s ring’ but in a more updated way.” 

She said this method also helps keep the costs down.

Which personalised pieces are proving popular? 

As for the types of jewellery that are popular among personalised jewellery consumers, Justin said name necklaces have always been a popular option, however Silvery’s couples rings are quickly becoming the most popular piece on their website. 

“I think it’s because we offer each ring in every ring size as we make each one to order,” he said.

In the lead up to Mother’s Day, Belle Fever is selling a lot of family tree pendants, bangles and bracelets. Sarah said each design’s metal tone, crystal type, image and shape can be customised to match each customer’s taste.

At One Sixteenth Designs, Amy said she’s noticing a move towards rings and pendants. 

Weathering the pandemic and coming out stronger 

In her Master’s thesis “Personalization of jewellery products: an added value or loss in recognition for luxury brands?”, author Anna Pozzobon discussed the way the pandemic impacted the personal luxury goods industry, which experienced a decline of -23 percent over the past two years. She went on to outline the need for businesses to adapt to new customer segments and their needs in order to ensure the business’ long-term survival.

Justin and his team addressed their customers’ needs by analysing Google search trends, and quickly adapting the ranges on offer at Silvery based on the findings.

“As we manufacture our own jewellery, we hold very little inventory so it’s relatively easy for us to create samples and have an idea to market within one to two weeks,” he said. 

Amy detailed the way she adapted to the industry slump: by running more jewellery workshops over the past two years.

“Groups of remarkable souls come to the studio and we create rings, bangles, earrings and necklaces together,” she said.

“I think this pandemic has made us all recognise we’ve been caught on the treadmill for so long and need connection and experience over consumables.”

She said a jewellery workshop is a perfect mix of all three.

As a result of the pandemic, Sarah said that Belle Fever’s designs, customer journey, marketing and operations had to be flexible and pivot accordingly.

Personalised jewellery + personalised experiences = lifelong connections 

Jewellery is an incredibly personal purchase, and being given the ability to personalise a piece or have it custom-made makes it even more precious and sentimental. This is a view that strongly resonated with Daniel. 

“Jewellery doesn’t get more unique than a piece that is specifically designed for a client; it’s one of the only ways that anyone can show off to the world a ring or necklace that is theirs alone and tied to the person or event that the piece of jewellery represents,“Only jewellery can do that, as it has for thousands of years.” 

In addition, jewellers have the ability to give customers life-long experiences such that buying jewellery from the brand turns into a fond memory. Sarah said her customers have shared how their shopping experience at Belle Fever was unlike any other.

“There are a lot of online businesses that lack that personal touch, and customers want to still feel that personal touch even if it is not in person,” she said. 

“They also desire to be treated like individuals and not as numbers, so they expect to be assisted when and how they are able.” 

To this end, she said Belle Fever customer service representatives are always in constant communication with their customers and provide them with updates as needed.

Amy said there is always a beautiful relationship between creator and customer in the handmade realm, but when it happens in a small town it becomes a magnificent union.

“My customers adore being able to come in during the creative process and see how their piece is made,” she said.

“Sometimes they even come in and make it themselves!”

Justin said there are four primary qualities at Silvery that wins them repeat business: their communication, speed, quality and range. Their high standard of communication ensures that once customers have placed their order, they will get around five progress SMS texts and emails. Their speedy service means that orders are crafted between one to three days, and delivered from South Africa to Australia within 6-11 working days (including crafting time). Remarking on their quality, Justin said their focus is on quality over profits.

“Most online stores will use plate between 0.8mm – 1mm, (but) we use 1.5 – 2mm plate for name necklaces and bars. 

“We solder all our jump rings closed, and hand polish each piece.” 

Finally, he said Silvery’s range means they are able to accommodate/capture many occasions in life.

…and if YOU want to get personal 

Amy recommends those wanting to take the leap into custom-made and personalised jewellery should maintain their unique authenticity by sticking to their style.

“You can get very bogged down if (you’re) only creating custom jewellery for others,” she said. 

“Make sure you say “yes” to the jobs you want to and intersperse each custom job with your own creations!” 

Reflecting similar sentiments, Sarah recommends those new to personalised jewellery to find their niche and focus on perfecting the customer’s journey for that niche as much as possible.

“Being everything to everyone will make you lose focus and cause you to be disorganised and all over the place,” she said.

Being organised is the burgeoning custom-made jeweller’s state of play from Justin’s point of view, remarking that businesses who want to break into this market ought to be ready for it. 

“With customisation comes many inquiries from customers, so you will find that you will need to employ more customer service assistants,” he said. 

Finally, Daniel’s advice is that businesses should listen to their clients, guide and inspire them. 

“…and then design something that embraces their ideas, and practice with hand drawing,” he said.