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Diamonds & Granulation With Milly Maunder

Hi Milly, tell us how you first discovered jewellery making and what was it you loved about it?

My first introduction to jewellery making was actually in India when I was 19.

A friend and I, who I was travelling with at the time, did a five day silversmith course. I absolutely loved it. We sat on a cushion in this tiny room with just a small table in front of us with a torch and charcoal soldering board. This is the lady who first introduced me to the granulation technique you will see in a lot of my jewellery today.

I then went off to University to study Biomedical Science, I didn't enjoy it really and I missed the creative and experimental side of things and I knew then I wanted to work with jewellery and gemstones – at this point, I actually thought I would love to grade diamonds and value antique or auction house jewellery.

That's when I found GIA (Gemological Institute of America) where I studied Gemmology from their London campus, then took their graduate jeweller programme in Carlsbad, California. Since then I have loved experimenting with metal, pushing them to the limit to see what texture and forms I can create. I think if I'd thought about it more at the time I could have cut out everything in the middle and gone straight to California and sat at the bench.

What’s your favourite metal to work with and why?

I love working with yellow gold, I love the textures and different colours you can achieve just from a different finish, be it matte, polished, hammered or just freshly cast. Luckily yellow gold is starting to become a lot more fashionable again.

I do also love working with white gold, especially when the customer asks for a matte finish – I love the darker grey tones you can get from a matte white gold.

What are your goals for this year?

This year I have just launched my first ever wedding bands collection so that is what I am really focusing on. I love creating bespoke engagement rings and wedding bands as it is so exciting for the couple and the whole experience is so special.

I am also working on my website (currently closed for maintenance) to create a ‘buy now’ section for jewellery that will be kept in stock and available for next day dispatch which is exciting. I just hope to keep growing my company and enjoying the process.

We love your diamond designs, what is it about diamonds you love?

What is not to love???

I have an obsession with coloured diamonds, mainly browns, blacks, grey and champagne colour although I am starting to branch out to some yellow tones that I think would be stunning for summer or spring next year. I love how unique and rustic they look.

Each diamond is special and unique to the person who wears it and I think this complements the look of my designs; no two granulation rings will ever be identical. They sparkle just like a flawless diamond just in a more subtle way. I find them so intriguing.

What’s your favourite type of diamond?

Easy! A salt and pepper diamond.

They are stunning and can look totally different from all angles dependant on the inclusions and where the light is coming through.

I am really starting to love the emerald cut/octagon shaped salt and pepper diamonds so they would be top of the list for the next order.

We love your granulated designs, what are your top tips for using this technique?

Practice, practice and more practice.

To achieve the granulated look you are essentially fusing the small beads to the ring/pendant/setting. So you are trying to achieve a slight surface melt between the two. There is a very fine line between fusion and melting the entire piece. My top tip would be practice a lot and observe the way the metal is moving and how it looked just before you removed the heat. You can always add more heat but you cannot undo a melted ring!

Tell us more about your workspace and how you make it your own!

My workshop is in a converted barn at my parent’s house – I am so lucky to have such an amazing area to work in.

I have two jewellers benches – one is an old desk and the other was made for me by my granddad which he has signed and dated – I do all my soldering on one and the other is set up for finishing, polishing and assembling.

I find the two desks encourage me to move around and not sit in the same position for hours on end, I am constantly moving between the two which I find is a lot better for avoiding aching backs which a lot of jewellers suffer from.

My family's puppy (7 months now) is out in the studio with me most days which I love – if you follow me on Instagram you will have probably seen a lot of her!

When you’re not making jewellery, what do you get up to?

I love to be active; I am not one for staying still a lot. I love going to the gym and running. At the weekends I usually watch whichever brother is playing rugby and see friends.

In the summer I love to water ski and generally be near the sea. My boyfriend and I love to travel, in the UK and abroad, we have just booked to go back to San Diego (where I did my jewellery course) so I am currently spending a lot of time booking lots for us to do there.

What’s your favourite piece of jewellery you’ve made and why?

This is actually a really tough one. One of my favourite pieces of my designs to wear is the BUDO hoops – I live in them and have just made a ‘mini’ version for day to day.

The most sentimental piece I have made is a Black Diamond Solitaire that I made with money I was left from my grandfather, so this one is very special to me. I bought the diamond in California when I had passed all my exams and it was one of the first pieces I made when I came home.

My favourite design was actually a rework of someone’s diamond rings they no longer wear. We melted down the gold and then set the 8 diamonds amongst granules. It was so sparkly and special.

What’s your favourite gemstone?

I feel like most people will guess this… but it would have to be a salt and pepper diamond.

I also really love emeralds but don't often work with them, as they are not hard enough for the process of setting the stones amongst granules.

What is one top tip you’d give to someone wishing to start their own jewellery business?

Stick to your own style and enjoy it.

What’s your favourite social media platform to get your jewellery out there?

I use Instagram to advertise my jewellery and I use Facebook to advertise events I am either attending or hosting.

I have never really got on with Twitter? I find with Instagram people use it nowadays for inspiration and to find new designers. I often buy something I have seen on Instagram so it is a great platform to reach lots of people who would potentially buy from you. It is like an online portfolio really.

How would you describe your jewellery in 3 words?

Unique, handmade, granulation

What’s your favourite thing about creating bespoke designs?

I love the bespoke design process. It is so special getting to create something from someone’s imagination and usually to celebrate a special occasion.

Someone actually said to me a while ago - ‘how lovely that you always get to work with people who are celebrating, people buy jewellery to mark special occasions’ and it is so true, I love meeting with customers to create their special heirloom design.

What’s one skill you’d like to master?

Engraving, I would love to learn how to hand engrave initials scrolls and shields for rings and pendant but it is a real art and take a lot of practice. There is an amazing 3-month course in Italy I would love to take one day.

Top 3 Kernowcraft products you’d recommend!

Salt and pepper diamondspastel sapphires and the alligator tape (this stuff means I can be a full time jeweller AND have nice nails)