UKJA Finalist Marie Walshe talks establishing a brand in a competitive market

UKJA Finalist Marie Walshe talks establishing a brand in a competitive market

International Jewellery London is thrilled to be supporting the Retail Jeweller UK Jewellery Awards New Designer of the Year category in 2016.

To celebrate, we’re finding out a little bit more about the shortlisted designer-makers and brands, including Marie Walshe, founder of Sorrel Bay Fine Jewellery.

Here the designer discusses her career in the jewellery industry, the mentors who have shaped her skills and the competitive nature of the marketplace in 2016…

Q: When did you established Sorrel Bay Fine Jewellery and what inspired you to start your own brand?

MW: Sorrel Bay Fine Jewellery launched last year to an incredible reception. Having worked in the industry for over 20 years with other inspiring jewellers, creating a fine jewellery brand of my own had been my dream for many years. The whole Sorrel Bay brand, the designs and the gemstones have been developing for many years and my dream to become a fine goldsmith has finally come to life.

I attained a BA in 3-Dimensional design though I’am essentially a self-taught jeweller, with much guidance from the renowned Phil Park who creates pieces for Solange Azagury Partridge, Jason French of Graff Diamonds and Pippa Knowles of award-winning Baroque Bespoke Jewellery (I was involved in the launching of Baroque over nine years ago. Becoming a jeweller has always felt like my destiny, so after my greatest achievement of motherhood, and the birth of my daughter whom I named Sorrel Bay, I felt ready to bring Sorrel Bay Fine Jewellery to life.

Q: How would you describe your design style and is there a particular woman you design for?

MW: I like to think of my designs as timeless and elegant. Though very much inspired by ancient styles and designs led by the beauty of the gemstones themselves, they are created to be luxury collections that are inspired by the women who wear them. Strong confident women who appreciate unique one-of-a-kind design, who are wanting a treasure to hand down to their children as future heirlooms.

I work only in Fairtrade Gold, as addressing human rights issues and the environmental impact of mining are paramount to me and my work. I like to think of Sorrel Bay as a ‘sunny’ brand, to be worn in the sea and never taken off; to become a part of the wearer because of how fabulous it makes her feel. My pieces will not tarnish or fade, my settings are flush and sleek, will not catch or scratch and are designed with both beauty and comfort in mind. I feel my work has both great design and a strong ethical background that I feel my customers can identify with.

Q: Do you have any key collections or stand-out pieces that always seem to draw the eye?

MW: I have always had a great love of gemstones and I chose to use unusual gems and cuts like rose cut diamonds with their natural fissures. I love to mix opals and geodes with accents of vintage grey brilliant-cut diamonds too. I have been collecting stones for many years and work with ethical dealers wherever possible. I feel my work is distinctive and cohesive, so even though most pieces are one of a kind or limited edition every single piece sits together beautifully.

My mix of opals and diamonds have attracted much attention since our launch, but also we have been overwhelmed by how successful our engagement rings have been. We are attracting the alternative bride, who is looking for an engagement ring unlike any other.

Q: What is it like being a new designer in the UK jewellery industry in 2016?

MW: It is exciting but it is incredibly competitive. I am truly passionate about what I do and the reward for me is not only a financial one but in knowing that each piece of Sorrel Bay jewellery will have its own story. To be awarded New Designer of the Year at the UK Jewellery Awards 2016 would be a great achievement for me and would be an amazing boost at such an exciting time for us. There are many challenges ahead, but staying true to yourself, your design style and your ethics are the best tools to help you stay unique in a very tough market. Sorrel Bay is fast growing a loyal customer base so we feel confident and ready for the challenges ahead.

Q: If you could learn one thing from a mentor or peer in the industry what would it be?

MW: As a creative I think you always feel there is more to learn. If I could I would sit on the shoulders of as many of the fine goldsmiths out there learning all the amazing tricks of the trade. I am never happier than when I’m at the bench, but being given an insight into propelling Sorrel Bay to becoming a globally recognised would be invaluable.

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