What's Inside A Travelling Jeweller's Briefcase?
Most of us adore travelling but have you ever thought about taking your trade on the road with you? That's exactly what Jack from Silver Road Jewellery decided to do - he followed his dreams to travel the world whilst also pursuing his passion for jewellery making - making and selling wherever he went! We chat all about his experiences as well as how he had to adapt his business during the coronavirus pandemic.
We also find out more about the tools Jack took on his travels, proving that you only need a small collection of tools to create stunning jewellery designs - check out Jack's designs below, including jewellery featuring unique Australian boulder opals and rough crystals.
"I had found my calling and was excited to learn more..."
Hi Jack, how did you first discover jewellery making?
My dad was a practising goldsmith when I was growing up, so I was always in and out of his workshop from a young age. I loved to watch him work. I enjoyed playing with the tools he used and he’d even let me have a go at making my own jewellery.
It wasn't until some years later though, that I truly discovered jewellery making. I was seventeen and had just finished college, feeling pretty lost in life. My dad said there was a one-year apprenticeship I could do at his work so I immediately agreed. I loved every second of it. It came so naturally to me – I understood how to work with metal. I had found my calling and was excited to learn more.
Tell us the meaning behind your name, Silver Road Jewellery!
My original name was The ‘Travelling Jeweller’. This name worked for me at the beginning because it was exactly what I was doing. I had just begun my (what turned out to be a seven year) travelling adventure.
As I began to meet people from around the world, I noticed that my name was causing some confusion, particularly in regards to its spelling. This meant that potential customers were not able to find my social accounts like Instagram and Facebook.
So it was time for a change!
The meaning behind ‘Silver Road Jewellery’ is a combination of different aspects of what I do and where my brand started. I chose the name for three reasons:
1. Silver is my material of choice and I was making the majority of it on the road, whilst travelling.
2. More broadly, the name touches on the journey of how silver became a widely popular material in jewellery making.
3. ‘Silver Road’ is a play on the words, the ‘Old Silk Road’ which I thought was very apt for my brand.
Jack Shares What's Inside His Briefcase, Sharing The Only Tools He Needs!
"While I was living in New Zealand I bought a van to travel in. Then it hit me! I could set up a workshop in the back of it!"
What was your motivation to make jewellery when travelling around the world?
When I first left to go travelling, I packed some basic tools – a couple of pairs of pliers, some wire and a few beads in my backpack – with the idea that I might make a few pieces when I was away. It was fun to make wire bead jewellery but I really missed goldsmithing.
While I was living in New Zealand I bought a van to travel in. Then it hit me! I could set up a workshop in the back of it! So I got the bare essentials sent over to me and I finally had the means to goldsmith again. Eventually, I had to sell the van so I adapted my jewellery set up to be able to take it anywhere.
As an on the road jeweller, what were your essential tools and equipment in your portable workshop briefcase?
What was the best and most challenging part of being a jeweller on the road?
The best thing about it is the freedom to do what I truly love anywhere I want, and I mean anywhere – from the rural beaches of New Zealand to the snowy Alps of France, or even the incredible city of Bangkok! The most challenging thing can be getting the supplies you need to make the jewellery you want and I found that I couldn’t always take the more hazardous items in my bag because of customs regulations. I had to be creative with what I used and how I used it.
What advice would you give to those wanting to make jewellery while on the go?
I would say start small. Next time you want to go on a trip and want to get some making action on the go, think about what you want to make and just take the exact tools you need to make it. You’re not going for a high street fashion finish - you’re going for an on the road piece of art. You will soon learn what you need to get the work done and adapt your own techniques that suit your new minimalist style.
How does your love for travelling influence your designs?
The influence can come in many forms. Sometimes it can be as simple as seeing a landscape I love and want to recreate. Then it could be the fashion or style of the people I'm surrounded by. Other times it can be the introduction of a gemstone that I have never seen before.
Where has been your favourite place to make jewellery and why?
Two places jump to mind. The first is New Zealand, where it all began. Just having a workshop set up in the back of a van in such an amazing country was one of the best things I have ever done and is something I truly intend to do again soon!
The second place would have to be in the ski resort of Niseko, Japan. Out of the window from where I lived, I could see this beautiful dormant volcano, called Mt Yotei! It inspired a collection of jewellery that the locals loved and it really connected me to the town and area so much more than I already was.
"I had to rethink everything when it came to reaching people and started from the beginning..."
With the pandemic, how was your business affected and what did you do to adapt?
At first, I found it really hard as most the jewellery I sold would be to people that I met on my travels. I would hardly use social media and started to feel pretty lost with what to do and how to reach people.
But now I would say that, in a way, it was a blessing in disguise. I had to rethink everything when it came to reaching people and started from the beginning. I focused on my social media platforms and really trained to improve my skills in this area. The more I worked at it the more people I began to reach. This in turn has allowed me to have personal connect to my customers, have conversations and engage with people again. Even though it has not been in person, it has still been really nice.
With your dad being a goldsmith, how do you think his work has influenced yours?
My dad was a jobbing jeweller and he would craft amazing pieces for his clients to the specifications they required. He showed me that there were no boundaries when it came to jewellery making and this opened my eyes to the creative possibilities of the trade!
What was your experience like doing a goldsmith apprenticeship?
It really was a great experience. I was constantly learning new skills and improving my abilities. When you start to work on jewellery worth over £20,000 and have the confidence to know you can do it, it is a great feeling. The only downside to this apprenticeship was that I was always working to someone else’s brief which didn’t allow me to be very creative.
Would you recommend doing a degree in metalsmithing?
This is a very easy answer. Yes!! In my opinion, having 3 years solely dedicated to one thing, no matter what it is, is the best thing you can do!!! Of course, there are downsides to studying metalsmithing. Your level of practical making skills might not be good enough to create a piece you have designed. On the other hand you have a free run to do what you want without the pressure of making money to pay bills. The course helps you to get a great grasp on design and gives you a good understanding of the industry. I believe most of my course mates all used their degree for their future careers.
How do you come up with new jewellery collections?
I never start by designing a collection. I will normally get inspiration to make one item of jewellery. Then that one item will inspire a collection. For example, let’s say I see a very unusual gem that is hard to set, so I would create a special setting that will work. Then the final outcome will inspire my next collection.
"I first discovered Australian boulder opals whilst I was living in Australia. So whenever I use them, they remind me of those days..."
We love your boulder opal jewellery! What's your favourite thing about using this gemstone?
I can’t pick one thing, so here are a few. The colours are incredible and the variety of colour is endless. The fact that they are always different shapes and sizes, really allows me to get creative and constantly inspires new jewellery. And finally I would say it is the sentimental attachment I have to them. I first discovered Australian boulder opals whilst I was living in Australia. So whenever I use them, they remind me of those days.
We love your view on gender-neutral jewellery designs, tell us more about this.
The concept came from my time in Australia, men there wear jewellery a lot more than in other parts of the world and they also wear gemstones in their jewellery. This is not very common in England but as a goldsmith I have always worn jewellery with or without gems. Then I started to notice random sale patterns with my jewellery. A piece that I really thought a male would buy, a female would buy. On the other hand, I would design a smaller ring which I would have in mind for a woman, but a man would buy it for themselves. This made me really start to think about what makes jewellery feminine and masculine.
What are your goals for the year?
I appreciate very much how social media has allowed my business to survive over the last year but this year I really hope to host some markets and meet my customers in person. Not only in England, but in other countries in Europe and maybe even Canada at the end of the year.
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