Harper's Bazaar Jewellery Director Julie-Anne Dorff on Designing Your Own Jewellery

By Sotheby's

B uy jewellery, or create your own? Julie-Anne Dorff, Jewellery Director at Harper’s Bazaar, tells us about the importance of confidence in creating custom pieces and how this fits with current styling trends.


What is it about creating bespoke jewellery that particularly appeals to people?

Julie-Anne: There's a really big appetite today for creating a personalised experience. Bespoke jewellery is about the power to choose, and to define yourself. I think it’s important, as a woman, to see diamonds as an expression of choice, and of your individuality and femininity.

When you’re buying loose stones and creating jewellery you can be playful: nothing is forever. You can have it made into a piece of jewellery for a season, a year, five years, and then rework your design.

What are the trends in design?

Julie-Anne: In terms of style and inspiration, one of the trends we’ve really noticed is the return of the 1980s, and what it means in terms of fashion and jewellery. Really it’s the return of female power.  There was a time when we were really understated, but feminism is now everywhere in fashion. This goes hand in hand with the growing interest in creating custom jewellery. Don’t be scared: be daring, experiment!

Vintage has been a big trend for some time now but now people are being more creative with it. There are a lot of feminine motifs:  bows, stars, organic lines.  


How should people go about it, where can they get inspiration?

Julie-Anne: Magazines with jewellery images are great for getting ideas of what to do with loose stones, and custom pieces for specific events, like weddings. It’s about not making it a scary process: really, it just changes the way we buy. Buying like this is a way to be really creative with your stones.  You’re creating a story.

What is the appeal of coloured diamonds?

Julie-Anne: People today like to have something special about their jewellery, and they get that with these coloured diamonds: they are rarer than white diamonds and each has its own unique character. 

Don't be scared of a cognac diamond or a yellow diamond or a pink diamond. Be bold, be feminine, be confident and be different. When you have really interesting colours like these, we can seriously talk about the return of the cocktail ring. Cocktail rings have always been big, but even more so today than ever. 


Think about Solange Azagury-Partridge or Jessica McCormack. I personally love how Victoire de Castellane is pushing the boundaries of coloured stones and diamonds in creating really feminine pieces at Dior Jewellery.




The choice of colour is an emotional decision. And I think people are not afraid of emotion these days; they allow it to inform their choices more freely. This is particularly true of Millennials. 



In choosing based on how you feel, you start to create a story around everything you own. So if it's creating a story around a stone and then around a design and you and someone special have done it together, then the whole process is an experience with a greater significance. Whereas before it was very much: this is your ring, this is where it comes from and you should be really happy. And that's not enough anymore.


If you're going to create a memory, my favourites are the pink diamonds. I would design a medallion or a ring. I love the idea of a blue one if you were going to propose…because you met on a stormy night or it was the colour of the eyes of your loved one. Or as gifts for a friend who’s given birth, a pink diamond for a girl, or a blue for a boy.

How can people be sure of getting quality stones and workmanship?

Julie-Anne: When you buy diamonds through Sotheby’s particularly, you know they’ve been vetted. You’re getting a really high quality stone. There are so many people you can take your stone to and have them make something for you. There’s this artisan on Bond Street at B&M Bijoux and he can do anything. It’s about knowing the right craftsman.

People are very much into extreme craftsmanship. I think to show the craftsmanship is really important because people feel like they get more for their money. It's not just the stone but it's the entire piece of jewellery and how it came to be.


By buying a loose stone and having a piece made, you appreciate the craftsmanship even more because you've been through the journey of its creation, whether it’s a ring or a bracelet. Prince Harry recently created his fiancee's engagement ring from scratch, using loose diamonds, some from his mother's collection. He made it part of his story. You’re intimate with all the elements that go together and the whole process of creation. You can keep it for as much or as little time as you like, before you change it, remake it. It's completely yours.

(Cover image © Oliver Holms).

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