Jewellery journalist, Rachael Taylor, gives us the inside scoop on what it's like to write about jewellery professionally, how she got into it, and what her secret indulgences would be if she could choose any jewel in the world to own. Hear her thoughts on the topic of jewellery as art at our next exhibition in South Kensington.
Have you always had an interest in jewellery?
I have always had an interest in jewellery, although I would not say I’ve always had incredibly good taste in jewellery. My early introductions to precious metals were straight out of a Littlewoods catalogue - leaping gold dolphin necklaces, curb-link chains, signet rings. I was a bit of a tomboy and my tastes reflected that. Although, all this is really trendy now, so perhaps I was just a (very) early adopter! My appreciation and understanding of jewellery truly developed when I landed a job at industry magazine Retail Jeweller in 2008, which was more by chance than design. I was already working for the publisher at the time, and someone suggested me for the role. It turned out to be a great fit, and I was soon completely immersed in the jewellery industry and totally enamoured by everything I was learning and seeing, and the colourful characters I met. It was a whole new world, and one that I still enjoy a decade after my first encounter.
What is the most interesting thing you have discovered about jewellery since you started writing about it?
Other than the people - and that really has been a huge part of why I’ve stayed reporting on jewellery - I would have to say that I’ve become totally fascinated by gemmology. This came to me slightly later in my career. In the early days, I was very much focused on the people and businesses driving the industry, but when I started to write for Maria Doulton’s website The Jewellery Editor in 2015, when I started freelancing, I was commissioned to write a series of stories that delved deeply into different gemstones - how they are formed, the chemical compositions that create their colour, the history of their discovery, how they are best used. Perhaps because I hadn’t written too much about the specifics of the stones themselves before this, I did a lot of research into each, reading GIA reports, talking to experts on each stone. It really fired something in me, and I felt like after years of writing about jewellery, I suddenly had found a whole new vein of exploration and discovery. A few years later, and I’m still learning about and discovering gemstones I hadn’t heard of before. It keeps it interesting.
“It really fired something in me, and I felt like after years of writing about jewellery, I suddenly had found a whole new vein of exploration and discovery.”
If you could own any jewel, which would it be and why?
Do I have to pick just one?! That’s incredibly hard, when I get to see so many beautiful jewels. I’m going to cheat here, and pick a few on my current wish list: I love Polly Wales' rings with the sapphires cast into the gold; all of Fernando Jorge’s jewels give me a stomach flip, but if I had to pick one it would be the Stream earrings with diamonds and milky quartz (I borrowed a similar pair for a photo shoot I did out in Dubai and never wanted to return them); and for a bit of fun, I really love Alison Lou’s emoji necklaces, particularly the MWAH! in gold with rubies; and earlier this year, I was a judge for the EC One Unsigned jewellery design competition and we picked Anissa Kermiche as our winner, and I’ve not stopped thinking about her cheeky Rubies Boobies pendant in brushed yellow gold vermeil since.
“All of Fernando Jorge’s jewels give me a stomach flip, but if I had to pick one it would be the Stream earrings with diamonds and milky quartz.”
Who or what helped you most to develop your career in jewellery?
There have been so many people along the way, who have helped me in different ways and I’m hugely appreciative to them all - those who commissioned me to write for them, gave me a job, made introductions, invited me to events. Also, I really want to give a special mention here to the people of the British jewellery industry (very general, I know!), those outside of the media/PR worlds who are actually making and selling the jewels that I write about. I’d covered a few different industries as a journalist before I found my home in the jewellery industry, and I have to say that this is such a friendly, open industry, filled with people who are willing to share their time and expertise, and don’t roll their eyes when I ask the same question for the fifth time, don’t know a name they’ve just dropped, or ask them to - very slowly - take me through a particular process or technique. What I love most about my job is that I get to dip into other people’s. One day, I might spend my time at a manufacturer’s learning the ropes, the next I could be in a retail store or a designer’s studio. People have been very receptive and trusting towards me, allowing me inside the inner circle of the industry, and that's helped me to get stories that other people just wouldn’t be able to.
“What I love most about my job is that I get to dip into other people’s.”
What has most surprised you about the jewellery industry?
Perhaps, that it’s not quite as silver-spooned as you might expect. Of course, there are the well-connected and well-heeled working in this business, just as in any luxury industry, but there are also a lot of down-to-earth hard-working people too, who don’t carry the airs and graces that you might expect them to given the kind of products they work with. Step into the back rooms of the biggest, most lavish ateliers and you’ll find the salt of the earth working on creations for royalty and the rich and the famous. Designers, too, often started out as apprentices or poor art students scraping a living. I love that. Even the queen’s personal jeweller, Harry Collins, who I interviewed recently, left school at 16 and now has a workshop in Buckingham Palace. Though the products the industry creates sometimes have an air of elitism about them, the industry itself doesn’t.
“Step into the back rooms of the biggest, most lavish ateliers and you’ll find the salt of the earth working on creations for royalty and the rich and the famous.”
What were the biggest challenges you faced?
The biggest challenge of my career was creating and launching a magazine while pregnant with my first child in 2010. It was a tough, but very rewarding few years for me. I was just a few weeks pregnant when I was approached and asked to launch Professional Jeweller magazine, and only 25 at the time, but luckily for me they decided to trust me with the job regardless. It was such an exciting time and an incredible opportunity to be able to build your own magazine and website from scratch, and I did my best to put all my energy into it despite all the usual uncomfortable side effects you get from producing your own human. I remember having to lie to the check in staff at the airport about how far along I was so that I could get on the plane to Baselworld, where we launched the first issue, a couple of near-faints running between meetings, and working right up to the day before I gave birth (despite him being a week late).
Plus, I only took four months off work, so then, of course, there was juggling a new baby with a new publication. It was all worth it though, and the magazine was a huge success at the time and I later went on to launch WatchPro and the Hot 100 projects before I left to go freelance when I had my second child in 2014 - I’d learned my lesson first time round!
To read more about Rachael and discover the latest features she has written click here.