Natalie Perry’s latest fine jewellery collection “Pholoon Fragments” encapsulates the beauty of India and its flora – in all its delicacy, lace-like forms, and natural imperfections. With a shared workshop in London at the Goldsmiths’ Centre, Natalie’s early passion for the creative arts has flourished into a full-time career, seeing her breathe life into her precious and responsibly-sourced gemstone and gold creations.
Whilst speaking online to Natalie, her excitement to have been selected as one of the thirteen jewellery designers and makers for the Goldsmiths’ Centre’s annual new talent showcase, Shine 2021, is palatable. Natalie’s passion and enthusiasm for craft and jewellery making started at an early age. She explains:
“I’ve always been creative, from a very young age. My favourite subjects at school were art and textiles. Whilst I was doing my GCSEs, I found that I’d always end up making a piece of jewellery for my final year projects, but it was only around the age of about 16 that I started to realise that being a jewellery designer was actually a viable career. I then decided to apply to study jewellery design at Middlesex University and graduated with a degree in Jewellery and Accessories."
Her unique jewellery pieces artfully capture the intricate architecture and flora of India – a love cemented during her first year of university. Having won the Isabella Blow Design Scholarship, Natalie was awarded £5000 to create a piece based on the English magazine editor’s life. She decided to use the grant to travel to India. There she first worked as a jewellery designer for a leading diamond jewellery house Kothari Jewels in Jaipur, and then joined the leading British designer, Alice Cicolini, whose work is inspired by India. Here, she focused mainly on Kundan Meenda jewellery, which is usually made using 24 carat gold and diamonds, and most often worn by men and women on their wedding day.
After her studies, Natalie went into jewellery PR, where she represented international and UK-based jewellery brands, which helped give her a foot into the industry. By 2017, Natalie had built up enough experience and confidence to launch her own jewellery brand at London Fashion Week.
Her latest fine jewellery collection “Pholoon Fragments”, which translates from Hindi as “containing or made of flowers”, is a reflection of her creative confidence. Made from 100% recycled nine carat gold, set with responsibly-sourced rose-cut diamonds and brilliant cut white-diamonds, Natalie passionately describes the inspiration behind the collection:
“Although [Pholoon Fragments] was created at my workshop at the Goldsmiths’ Centre in London, it was inspired by my trip to India, and the ageing forts and palaces around Rajasthan in particular, such as the Rani Mahal Palace in Bundi. I drew inspiration from the floral murals on the palace’s crumbling walls – so it’s really a collection that captures and celebrates the beauty of imperfection.”
Natalie has always been mesmerised by India – its amazing architecture, its vibrant colours and beautiful decoration. She finds that
“even mundane things like lorries are a sight to behold when they drive by. I wanted to experience the culture and get an insight into the beautiful craftsmanship that is still very prevalent there today.”
With craftsmanship in jewellery dating back hundreds and thousands of years, Natalie sees India as a world leader in jewellery making – in terms of the techniques used, and the rich tradition of hand-made items.
Her design style is both organic and irregular, often choosing gemstones that could be seen as flawed, and transforming every stone and every piece into something completely one-of-a-kind. Natalie’s favourite piece from Pholoon Fragments are the Two Blooms earrings. A real head-turning, large statement piece, the Two Blooms earrings instantly elevate any outfit. Despite their size they are lightweight and comfortable, ready for everyday wear with a beautiful movement when worn.
Sustainable making is also a really important aspect to Natalie’s work. Her debut collection which launched in 2017 was made from certified Fairtrade Gold sourced from the Sotrami mine in Peru. Since then, Natalie has worked predominantly in 100% recycled gold and she remains an ambassador of Fairtrade Gold and part of the Fairtrade Goldsmiths Registration Scheme. She explains that:
“During my time working in jewellery PR, I learned a lot about Fairtrade gold, and became really passionate about ensuring that the products I was putting out into the world were ethically made from start to finish. At the moment, I predominantly work in 100% recycled gold, which means that no further mining processes have gone into sourcing the gold that I use in my collections. I also work to commission in certified Fairtrade Gold upon request from my customers.”
Natalie has built up a close relationship with all her suppliers. She understands how important it is to know the people who actually source the products and materials, which are all also made locally. She uses UK suppliers for everything to keep her carbon footprint as low as possible. Yet, Natalie also realises that it’s sometimes hard to be completely sustainable in the making process, and adds:
“I don’t claim to be perfect, but I’m always looking for ways to make sure that I’m operating in a way that is as sustainable as possible.”
With big plans on the horizon, Natalie hopes to launch a new collection of 18 karat recycled gold diamond engagement rings, and wedding rings to match later this year. In 2022, after a year of physical distancing, her sights are set on meeting more customers face-to-face, getting her work out there to be seen – not only by women who have their own personal style and enjoy buying things for themselves, but also by men who may be buying for their girlfriends, friends or family. And as we draw our conversation to a close, she explains:
“For me, what's most rewarding about being a maker is my jewellery finding a home. Having customers tell me that they love them, and that they will have them in their lives potentially forever, is the icing on the cake. It’s such a lovely compliment when people want to wear a piece that you’ve made.”