Bec Astley Clarke launched British jewellery brand Astley Clarke seven years ago in London. A fine jewellery purveyor, the brand has an ever-expanding online fan base and concessions in London’s Harrods, Selfridges and Liberty. This month saw the launch of their first concession outside of the capital, with a pop-up shop at Selfridges in Manchester’s Trafford Centre.
Gemma Latham sat down with Bec to hear all about the brand, collections and her personal inspirations…
About 8% of our online customer base is in the Manchester area. 150k people visit our website each month, so it’s a significant amount! I started the business 7 years ago in London and there are now about 40 of us in head office. We’re a British brand but we have a big online business that delivers all over the world.
The ethos of the brand is to celebrate coloured gemstones. That is a common thread that runs through all of our jewellery collections. We have books about jewellery and gemstones out in our concessions because we really want people to understand about the different stones available.
I like diamonds a lot but I don’t think people realise that sometimes a ruby might be more valuable, or that grey aquamarine is rarer than diamonds. One of our biggest search terms on the web is ‘unusual engagement rings’, so I think people are fed up. When I looked at the market it was heavily saturated with silver and diamonds, and I thought that was really boring.
A lot of jewellery brands have got lazy, they don’t celebrate design. I really respect fashion brands because they re always being creative and always looking for inspiration and new ideas and they are forced to think each season. Jewellery brands get lazy, they find one product that works and then rest on their laurels and that’s a really boring offering for the customer. I saw a definite gap in the market.
I’m completely in love with grey aquamarine at the moment. We use a lot of blue aquamarine and I hadn’t seen grey aquamarine on the market, it’s not a gemstone that you see around very often. I very much doubt that after this batch we’ll be able to find grey aquamarine as beautiful a quality as this again. We absolutely love it and wanted to make pieces out of it. I’m wearing the Connie earrings today, they’re named after one of my Grandmothers.
Grey Aquamarine Mini Connie Earrings
The only things my mum left me were art and jewellery, that’s the stuff you keep forever. Apart from the odd piece of vintage clothing, everything else gets thrown away. I wanted to start a luxury brand and in truth I didn’t know which category I wanted it to be in. I looked at handbags, clothes and shoes. I didn’t know much about jewellery back then, but I completely fell in love with the category because you keep it forever and even pass it down.
We’re a fine jewellery brand so we don’t sell any costume jewellery. We have fine jewellery collections which are 18 carat gold, diamonds and precious gemstones; as well as contemporary collections. We source all our own gemstones rough, they are all cut and polished for us.
We’re really well known for our stacking rings. We introduce new gemstones colours and patterns each season and people collect them to stack and mix. We use quite a lot of enamel in some of our contemporary collections and all of those are hand mixed and enamelled.
We have these gorgeous biography friendship bracelets which you can mix up and layer. Each biography bracelet has a different meaning such as protection, tranquillity, abundance. Those meanings go with the charm and what the gemstone means. We introduce a new colour palette each season and they each tell their own story.
Zadig and Voltaire, Temperley, Diane Von Furstenberg and Todds are brands I’m in love with at the moment. I wear jeans a lot. I usually wear jeans with an amazing pair of shoes and a wonderful silk shirt, for a chic but casual day look.
I really admire the style of Diane Von Furstenberg and Charlotte Rampling. I love the photos of Charlotte Rampling in the 60s, she’s wearing some of the most elegant clothes you can imagine.
So much is planned for the next few weeks! We are launching a fine jewellery section on our website, a mobile site and preparing for 2014 which is all about the US. I travel a lot because we have workshops and gemstone suppliers all over the world. I love to travel, but I don’t like to be away from my children for too long! Oh! And I’m also meeting the Queen to receive my MBE!!
The Astley Clarke Pop-Up is open now at Selfridges, The Trafford Centre, Manchester.
Words by Gemma Latham (@carnabytwenty1)