With Valentine’s Day on the horizon, we sit down with Lila’s Jewels to find out what pieces would make the perfect gift for your loved one
Lila’s Jewels offers an eclectic mix of pre-loved antique and contemporary jewellery that it has lovingly restored. Each item is assessed by an on-site gemologist and then reconditioned in specialist workshops to bring the jewellery to its absolute best. Finally it is hallmarked and then presented for sale. Lila’s Jewels showcases an interesting collection of styles, with Edwardian and Victorian items presented alongside retro pieces of the 30s and 40s.
To find out more we caught up with Catalina Rosca, or Cata, who is one half of the dynamic duo that founded Lila’s.
How did you become a jewellery designer?
Getting into the jewellery business was a matter of circumstance. I was lured by this world and with every passing year I would explore another aspect of it, from trends and buying to gemology, history, appraising and so on. Designing and making jewellery seemed a bit intimidating to me, but one of the advantages of having your own workshop and materials is that you can just have a go and immerse yourself in a fun project. It soon became a joy because managing and numbers can be quite stressful at times and making a beautiful thing ‒ starting from scratch and ending up with an actual wearable object that you worked with your bare hands ‒ is simply magnificent and fills you with satisfaction.
What made you want to stock vintage pieces alongside your own collection?
If you have a chance to look into antique jewellery, you’ll soon realise that although technological advancement has been really spectacular over the last centuries, when it comes to jewellery things haven’t changed radically. It is amazing to see pieces that were handmade with incredible craftsmanship 300 years ago and that would be a challenge to reproduce now. Filigree, enamelling, hand engraving and making intricate mechanisms are all rare skills now. So when I see an old piece I can’t help falling in love. They’re not just beautiful sparkly things; they’re pieces of history. Luckily there are a lot of people who appreciate vintage and antique pieces just like me so it wasn’t difficult to turn passion into business.
What are the inspirations behind your own jewellery collections?
Our collections combine historic style and modern attitude. Victorian brooches become contemporary necklaces; our range of engagement rings has roots in the art deco period; and salt and pepper rose cut diamonds remind us of Georgian rings. Our aim is to preserve some of the history of a piece, but reinterpret it to fit the lifestyle of the modern, independent woman and the ethics of the current century.
What are your favourite pieces for Valentine’s Day?
Valentine’s Day is a popular occasion for proposing, so engagement rings are a big focus over the period. If someone were choosing a gift for me, though, my personal favourites are colourful dangly earrings.
What would you say is the brand ethos behind Lila’s Jewels?
Our ethos is to enhance the experience for the most important and personal events in people’s lives by helping them choose the perfect jewellery in a really personal environment ‒ and ensuring they make an ethical choice.
How do you source ethically produced diamonds and gemstones?
First of all we recycle a lot of gemstones ourselves from old damaged pieces, and we believe this is the most ethical option when it comes to sourcing stones. There’s no need to add more pressure to an already controversial and sometimes compromised domain. If we don’t have what the customer is looking for in stock, we go to a reputable supplier of recycled diamonds or we can provide fully traceable Canadian diamonds with CanadaMark. With regard to coloured stones, we work with a number of reputable suppliers and we try to find out as much as we can about the source and then inform the customer.
Where do you find the best vintage jewellery?
I constantly follow auctions from around the world and do a lot of buying using this route, but my favourite finds and my biggest pleasure are markets. Marché aux Puces in Paris would have to be top, but I generally scout places wherever I go. I’ve recently visited Morocco, for example, and I bought some lovely rings from the beginning of the 20th century. They are art deco in style and clearly made in Morocco during the French occupation, probably for some French ladies who appreciated the European fashion of the time and were stationed with their husbands in northern Africa. The rings are quite unusual and a great find. I’m not so sure my kids appreciated the detour that much, though.
What advice would you give to someone looking for a special vintage piece?
Really consider which styles would fit with you and your lifestyle. I truly believe jewellery is made to be worn, so unless you’re a collector there’s no point in buying something with the intention of wearing it but never actually doing so. What would work with your other pieces or lifestyle? Do you want a magnificent piece for special occasions or something to wear daily? A lot of the antiques are quite delicate, so it’s worth discussing with the jeweller whether these would be the right option for you.
Then do a little bit of research on styles and periods. Art deco is always top, but art nouveau pieces are quite rare and command higher prices. It’s good to restrict your focus otherwise you can get lost quite quickly in the myriad possibilities. Chat with antique jewellers and visit them regularly or let them know what you’re after; they can get in touch with you to let you know when they have something that might interest you. It’s usually a very personal interaction.
What do you like most about London?
I love London for its vibrant atmosphere and incredible opportunities. There’s always something interesting to do or learn thanks to all the museums and galleries ‒ along with a bunch of innovative people always busy to create new experiences.
Where are your favourite cities to shop?
I’m afraid I’m quite boring when it comes to personal shopping. My business ethos reverberates into my personal life ‒ or is that vice versa? I’ve made an effort in the last few years to restrict my clothes and shoe shopping to pieces that I really like and I’m convinced I’ll be wearing for a while. I have certain brands I prefer, which are my go-to when I need something new, and I’d rather spend a bit more and get something of quality that I’d wear for a long time. I’m particularly known for my inability to let go of the shoes I love, even after wearing them a very, very, very long time.
Apart for jewellery buying that is also for business, I never travel specifically for shopping. When I’m on holiday I prefer buying utilitarian objects as souvenirs, something characteristic of the area but with a function. So I now have a Moroccan rug, a Portuguese cataplana dish which we use quite often, traditional Italian serving cutlery and so on.
Lila's, 117 Lordship Lane, London SE22 8HU