Vanessa Stowers of Filigree Fine Jewels’ hope for the future is that people start to value products and services that are worthy of their admiration.
“There are a lot of hard working people out there trying to preserve the old, time-honoured skills in all areas of manufacture and is it is a hard road to follow when you are competing with cheap, imported mass produced things,” says Stowers. “We have so much pride in what we make, we put our stamp on it. It is my dream that 100 years or more from now, people will inherit something, see the stamp and know it was made by us and be really excited that they now own something special that their children too, will cherish.”
How did you become a jewellery designer?
I have always had a strong interest in art and all forms of personal adornment including fashion and interior design. In fact, if something is beautiful or has excellent design, I’m interested. As a child I attended craft clubs, painting classes and loved doing creative projects. It was a natural progression for me to follow the path of jewellery making as it combines both a design and practical element. At the time, an Arts Degree seemed the way to enter the world of art and design but after a year at Canterbury University, I realised that it was the applied aspect of art that really excited me. The ‘eureka’ moment came for me after starting an Craft Design at Christchurch Polytechnic, I had a work experience placement at a jewellery studio. From that moment on, I have always enjoyed the tangible feel of metal in my hands, not a typical sensory experience.
How would you describe your design aesthetic?
Modern with a classic overtone. I’m also very aware of current fashion trends which influence my designs. Keeping abreast of what is happening internationally also gives me an excuse to buy beautiful magazines about all the things I’m interested in and prioritise a time to read them.
What do you enjoy most about being a jeweller?
As a jeweller you experience the whole journey with a customer; both creatively and emotionally. With the purchase of an engagement ring for example, there is the excitement of the initial appointment, the design process and the sharing of thoughts and ideas. Then there is the pleasure of creating the resulting ring and subsequent happiness once the client has received it. It is a wonderful aspect of my job, to get something just right for a client and then vicariously enjoy their special day.
What was the first piece of jewellery that you ever made, and how did it make you feel?
Apart from gluing googly eyes on a polished pebble and sticking it on a ring band at Unicef Club when I was little I think the most memorable moment was making a simple silver band at a night course and being thrilled about using the gas torch.
What inspired you to open a business?
The inspiration came to open my own business through working for several other jewellery firms and recognising the lack of real service in the old fashioned sense. That is, really caring for the customer and wanting to retain them for a lifetime. This of course, can only be achieved by creating an on-going relationship with my customer and establishing a genuine rapport and trust.
Why did you choose the name Filigree?
Filigree is a style of jewellery-making that involves very intricate scrollwork, it takes a high level of skill to execute this type of jewellery, so for me, Filigree as a name reflects quality and workmanship. I also simply liked that it sounded feminine and slightly exotic!
What is Filigree’s point of difference?
We are New Zealand made, our jewellery is hand crafted on-site by a team of five skilled and experienced jewellers, and we love giving our clients the customer experience they deserve.
What precious metals or stones do you like working with best and why?
Coloured precious gem stones remain my favourite material to work with, I’m constantly inspired by the amazing spectrum of colours that the earth makes.
What is the most memorable piece of jewellery that you have created?
My biggest regret is not keeping a large natural pale blue-green emerald ring that was perfect. It was only my second year in business and this particular ring had a fairly high price point (for Filigree at the time) and I was convinced that no one would buy it in a hurry and as it fitted me, in my head it was mine. Christmas came and with it, a lady who asked to look at it, amongst the bustle and rush of pre-Christmas present buying. She tried it on with little information from me and five minutes later, wanted to buy it. I should have been thrilled as it was a big sale for me at the time but instead I was so disappointed.
What is your favourite piece(s) from your most current collection?
Flora and Fauna is the latest collection and I’m in love with the colours; pink, lemon, minty green and aqua blues – divine! We have made some really large cocktail rings using oversized coloured gems with small, coloured diamonds floral detail that are fabulous.
Are there stories behind your pieces?
Most of the jewellery at Filigree has a story due to the fact that we deal in the extraordinary. It might be the inspiration leading to the design of a piece or it might be the origin of the materials themselves. For example, we had a collection a couple of years ago that features hand carved stones and cameos that were bought in my a man who ran a family business in Italy. The cameos I purchased to make into jewellery were antique, carved by his family 60 years ago and the larger pieces were signed – I found that really special as you can’t ever replace items like that.
How was your business affected by the Christchurch earthquake?
We decided to move to Sydenham following a change in the retail dynamics after the earthquake in the Victoria Street area where we were previously situated. Post-earthquake, Sydenham is moving towards a more vibrant boutique retail environment, a self-contained pocket that over time I think will have a lot to offer as a specialised shopping destination.
If you had to describe your new store to someone in a couple of sentences what would you say?
Our new showroom is a worth a visit just for the aesthetic. We decided to push the boundaries of traditional jewellery shop design and installed floor to ceiling medieval inspired wallpaper that has a wonderful enveloping feel when you walk in. We then introduced some modern lighting and antique pieces to reflect ethos of timeless quality and old fashioned customer service.