British jewellery designer Natalie Perry creates ethical and sustainable everyday luxury jewellery, inspired by the stories she has collected on her travels. Here she reveals when she first discovered her love of jewellery, the importance of sustainability in the industry, and the best places to shop for jewellery in London
When did you discover your love of jewellery?
From a very young age. I studied art textiles at school and found myself always completing my projects by creating a jewellery piece. I then discovered an article in a magazine that included an interview with a jewellery designer, and that’s when I realised that it could be a career. After that, I set my sights on applying for jewellery-related courses at university and I went onto complete a degree in jewellery and accessories design.
What is the best thing about your job?
The creative outlet it offers me. I need to create things and use my hands, and luckily my job offers me the chance to do this most days. And, of course, knowing that when I sell a piece of jewellery, it is helping developing communities in Peru.
How would you describe your collections?
I design each of my collections to be easy to wear, timeless and with a focus on the little details. I try to design for today’s women – to create pieces that can be styled in different ways, such as interchangeable ear jackets, and necklaces that can be worn at different lengths, so the pieces are versatile in your wardrobe. My collections celebrate the beauty of imperfection and act as alternatives to the classic pieces women want in their jewellery box. I want to ensure each piece is unique and there’s beauty in the little details.
Where do you find your design inspiration?
My travels. I’m a keen traveller and the sights and stories I collect along the way never fail to spark my imagination. My debut Floral Fragments collection was inspired by the fading murals from ancient Indian palaces and depicts the ancient mandala symbol, so iconic in India, which also represents strength, completeness and femininity for the wearer.
How important are sustainable practices to you?
The reason I decided to use Fairtrade gold in my collections was because I was so moved by hearing the story of a Ugandan miner during a Fairtrade gold event in London in 2015. The miner, Josephine, told us of the amazing, positive changes Fairtrade had made to her life and to those of her colleagues. They had received proper health and safety equipment, education, and also a refining machine which made their jobs much easier – something that would have taken them two or three days now only takes them a matter of hours. Once I heard how Fairtrade had positively affected her life and the community around her, I knew this was the only way forward for my company. Not many people really know about the dangers of mining but when you hear it first hand, you can’t ignore it.
What goes into creating sustainable jewellery?
It’s all about knowing where your materials come from and ensuring these are sourced ethically and that the wellbeing of each person involved in the process is catered for. My Fairtrade gold comes from the Sotrami mine, high in the Andes mountains in Peru. As this is a Fairtrade-accredited mine, I know that the miners earn a fair price for their gold and work in safe conditions. I also pay an annual premium for Fairtrade gold. It goes directly to the miners and they can choose to put into education, healthcare, community or environmental projects.
How can consumers make more ethical and sustainable choices?
There are so many new sustainable brands popping up that are doing amazing things to ensure we’re protecting the planet and the lives of people sourcing our goods. You can find so many of these online. If you love a particular brand and are interested in their sustainability credentials, then I’d say: just ask. When purchasing a new item of clothing, follow Livia Firth’s rule: you ask yourself, ‘Will I wear this a minimum of 30 times?’ The amazing thing about fine jewellery is that, unlike clothes, it will last a lifetime and will hold its value if you take care of it. When shopping for jewellery in particular, personally I’d always choose to support independent designers, who work much more closely with their production teams. They can create more unique and personal pieces, and have much less impact on the environment.
What do you like most about living in London?
It’s such a vibrant cultural hub and there’s so much to do and see. I particularly love the galleries and museums we have in London, and my favourite is definitely the V&A.
How would you describe your own personal style?
Feminine, eclectic and sustainable. I take care of my clothes and wear them over and over again. I style my dresses, which can be colourful and patterned or a classic LBD, with chunky boots and black tights. I have a penchant for accessories, so chic shoes, handbags and, of course, gold jewellery are key to finishing off my look. I don’t like to think too much about what I have to wear in the morning, so the easier it is, the better.
Which are the best places to shop for jewellery in London?
EC One, based in Exmouth Market, is a beautiful destination for jewellery with a strong design aesthetic and narrative, and you can find my collection there. Liberty is a treasure trove of the world’s best jewellery designers. I also love Gallery 196 in Primrose Hill for amazing Indian fashion jewellery – each time I visit it reignites my love for India and makes me want to go back!