Guest Post – A day in the life of a Jewellery Designer, Managing Director and mum

Here is the latest in my series of guest post’s, today welcome Harriet, as the title states Harriet is a Jewellery Designer, Managing Director and Mom. Many thanks to Harriet for sharing with us a typical day in her life…

Harriet Kelsall

I am sure there was a time before I ran a business and had 2 small children, when I had things called lie-ins.  However now, my day starts at 6:15am when I usually wake to the sound of my 2 year old, Eleanor, singing happily to herself in her cot.  She is quite happy to sing away in there whilst I have a shower and get dressed.  Thomas, my 6 year old bounds in at about 6:45 and we go and get Eleanor dressed whilst Tim, my husband makes the breakfast.

My husband is brilliant and we share a lot of the childcare equally.  Some days he does the school run and finishes work early to look after them and other days I do.  It works out very well for all of us and we are a very happy little family.

Once everybody is up, awake and fed, it is time to face the nursery and school run.  We live in the middle of nowhere which is lovely, actually – very rural and beautiful.  However, it does mean that the nursery is a 15 minute drive away and because my son is very musical, he goes to school 30 minutes away in Cambridge where he is going to be a chorister in a couple of years.  My husband and I share the driving and we do share with another family on two mornings which helps a lot.  But usually, through gritted teeth I try to remember how lucky we are that he will have the fantastic opportunity to sing at Kings College Chapel as I face the traffic on the way into Cambridge and leave the house at about 7:30am.  I usually quickly check my e-mails and twitter account and do a quick tweet just before I leave.

Some days, I work in our Cambridge studio and other days I work in our Headquarters in Halls Green, which is in North Hertfordshire.  I have a team of nearly 30.  Most are based in Halls Green – here we work from a lovely converted barn in the Hertfordshire countryside.  We have our workshops here too.  We make everything ourselves which is quite unusual in the jewellery industry.  Almost every jeweller you will come across may seem as though they make the jewellery themselves but unfortunately much of their offerings are imported from the far east.  We like keeping things in the UK wherever possible.

Our Cambridge studio was refitted recently and we love it!  The shop was designed by Callum Lumsden (of Mary Queen of Shops fame!) this February.  So he came very highly recommended!  And he did an amazing job on our beautiful shop.  It was a challenging refit, actually, because we aren’t exactly a conventional jewellers shop.

I started the business in 1998.  I had been making jewellery for years, but only in my spare time (yes, I did have spare time once before I had children!).  I had set up a workshop in my shed and used to make commission pieces for friends, then friends-of-friends.  I remember one day, I looked and I had a waiting list of 33 people.  It was that same day that I realised that maybe it was time to actually take the plunge give up my ‘day job’ in the IT industry (as an Engineering Manager for a film editing systems company called Lightworks) and start a business.  What always made my business different was that I always specialised in bespoke jewellery.  When I started the business the term ‘bespoke jewellery’ hadn’t been invented yet.  People used to talk about ‘Commission jewellery’.  My grandmother was a tailor, though – so it was inspiration from this different industry that led me to create the term ‘bespoke jewellery’ and I brought it into the industry’s vocabulary.

Having been in the IT industry, I was very early with a website (I had my own website in 1996 – basic though it was!).  I think it was my early web presence that raised my profile within the industry so early.  When other jewellers started thinking about the internet much later, we were already there.  It was frustrating at the time watching other jewellers copying what I was doing.  There are some jewellers who, still now, take great chunks of our website – passing it off as their own concept.  And some other websites copy our design ideas but never pull them off very well! But it doesn’t bother me now – because that is just what people will do in business and even though it isn’t how I would behave, I have learned not to worry too much about what other people do and instead focus on what we are doing and try to be the very best at it.  I think it is this kind of thinking that has helped me to be lucky enough to find myself running the UKs leading bespoke jewellery design company now.

What we do is rather different from other jewellery designers.  What most jewellery designers do, is design a collection of jewellery and then they market it and hope that people will buy it.  What we do, though, is talk to a customer individually about just what they want, how much they want to spend etc.  We show them examples and help them decide what they want.  We aren’t arrogant in our approach and try to teach people the various aspects of the jewellery that they need to think through.  And together with them, we come up with their perfect ring or piece of jewellery.  It will be perfect for their style, personality and budget.

The time that many people first think of having a piece of jewellery made, is often when they are searching for an engagement ring. We are very lucky because many people then like to come back to us again for their wedding rings and later on eternity rings and birthday and anniversary presents. We love it that so many of our customers come to us again and again.  The other day, I saw somebody again who came to me for their engagement ring, wedding rings and anniversary presents.  11 years later they have just adopted their first baby and so we were making a lovely eternity ring for them – such an exciting time for them!

It is very varied who we will meet with in one day and that is something we 10 designers all absolutely love.  You never know what kind of job is coming through the door next!  Some people know exactly what they want, but more often than not, people have a vague idea but need help deciding exactly what will be right for them.  They may, for example, know they like the idea of a green stone and a diamond and have a couple of ideas and a budget of £1500 – and then we can talk them through all the details and come up with something.  We particularly like it when people have something that they would like us to use as an inspiration.  We have had some amazing ones over the years!

Toilet Roll Pendant

Once we had a customer who actually wanted us to design and make a solid silver toilet roll! I think he was a bit confused about scale – he actually originally wanted a full size one to be worn as a pendant! I think the story behind this was that he and his partner had been leaving messages for each-other inside the loo roll and he even asked her to marry him this way! We suggested making a much smaller pendant inspired by that shape, with a line of little diamonds. You only know it is inspired by a loo roll if somebody tells you this…which we felt might be a bit more wearable for her! She was delighted with the result anyway.

We have some really interesting customers too. One of them actually works as a clown, and he was so delighted when he came to collect his eternity ring that we had made for them that he came in on Christmas eve in his full costume and made balloon animals for all of the team and for our other slightly confused customers!) It was so funny!

Here are a few of my more recent favourites…

Amber’s lily inspired engagement ring

Modern daisy cluster engagement ring

White gold ripple inspired engagement and wedding ring set

James wanted a ring inspired by cherry blossoms

Ocean inspired engagement ring and wedding ring set

Anyway – I digress!  Where was I….yes – the school run finished, I make my way to one of our studios and help open up everything.  We take a long time each day putting our jewellery out on display and making it look just right.  Then we are ready to unlock the doors and open and say hello to everybody!

First thing, I usually leave my team to their work upstairs in the design studio.  They will see customers who walk in and chat with them about ideas.  They will also answer lots of e-mails each day helping people through their decisions and working out quotes and things for us to make their beautiful jewellery.

I usually get straight onto my computer and catch up with my e-mails from my team and often from a few of my customers.  Next, I usually catch up on all of my design projects that I have going on.  All of my other designers have about 100 -200 commissions they are working on at any one time.  However, as it is my business I have to spread my design time a bit thinner because I have lots of other strategic and planning things to do with the business instead.

There are often a few things that my design team need help with – maybe working out a tricky quote or working out exactly how to make a particularly complicated setting, or sometimes just where to find a particularly rare gemstone.  So I do a few bits and pieces like that during the day too.

I am often running some kind of promotion on Facebook  or on twitter  so I try to have a look at those different social networking things a few times during the day.

I always have a catch up with Simon, our general manager and go through anything particular he is working on.  He has been working on our Responsible Jewellery Council audit recently.  This has been loads of work.  It is basically an external audit to check that we are a responsible jewellery company and it covers EVERYTHING – from health and safety, conflict diamonds and ethics, waste management all the way through to product integrity.  I think we are going to pass which is brilliant.  The auditor was very complimentary when she left.  It has been a great process to go through, actually.  Even though it has been hard work, I feel that the business is in a much better place having been through it all.

We have had an amazing year.  This February, we were chosen as one of the very first jewellers to be allowed to work in the first Certificated Fairtrade Gold.  This was a really important moment for me because I have been very passionate about the ethics within the jewellery industry for some time.  I worked closely with the Fairtrade Foundation working out exactly how the process would need to work for us as bespoke jewellers.

Then in February, our newly refitted Cambridge shop was opened which was really exciting.  Then, in July, we won a big UK Jewellery Award for our innovation of bringing proper ‘clean sheet’ bespoke jewellery design to the high street.  Then August and September we had a couple of other industry awards and in September I was chosen as the Everywoman Retail ‘woman of the year’ which was an incredible surprise  and honour.  Consequently – there has been a lot of press interest in our company recently.  So there is usually a little time spent doing some work with the press.  Sometimes somebody wants to interview me for a magazine or other times they just want a quote about what is ‘in’ in bespoke jewellery at the moment.  I am always very happy to do this kind of thing as it is an important part of being the leader of the business and helping us to reach new people is always important too.

Despite being quite dyslexic, touch typing changed my life!  I can type almost as fast as I can think which has been an amazing breakthrough for me.  I now enjoy writing quite a few articles which would have been unheard of when I used to have to rely on a pen and ink!  I write for Business Matters magazine and often contribute to other bits and pieces, like this lovely blog, as I enjoy wittering on and it is nice to know somebody might like to read it occasionally!  So often about half an hour of my day is spent writing for something.

As the leader of a jewellery business, no two days are ever the same.  There always seems to be something different going on.  For example last week, I was at the Peter Jones Academy working out how I can help and inspire budding entrepreneurs on their course on one day, and this week I am off to a Fairtrade conference on Wednesday.  So there is always something extra to fit in.

I work very hard during the day and so that I can spend some really good quality time with the children after they come back from school and nursery.  I love picking Thomas up from School and hearing about his day. This is sometimes like getting blood out of a stone until I have given him a few snacks in the car! Then we go to the nursery together and collect little Eleanor. She is a really smiley and happy little girl, and Thomas and I love it when she runs up to us when we walk in say hello.

So then we go back home and I try to get some really good time with the children. Usual family stuff – a bit of homework help, some jigsaws with Eleanor and often some arts and crafts together if we have time. We also often go outside in the summer and do a bit of work in our vegetable garden together and Thomas loves collecting the eggs from our chickens (or as Eleanor has re-Christened them. The ‘oodle-oooos’).

So then it is the usual tea and bedtime routine and Thomas spends ages playing the piano whilst I am bathing Eleanor and getting her into bed. I then have to prize him off the piano for his own stories and bedtime.

Then after a quick supper, I’m working again! I love designing jewellery when I have some quiet in the evening, or sometimes I make jewellery which I quite enjoy photographing and tweeting about some evenings when I have enough charge on my phone. For me, jewellery design never feels like work because I absolutely love it!

So that is about it for my day. I do hope you have enjoyed reading about it and I look forward to seeing you all on twitter (@HarrietKelsall)!

 Be sure to check out Harriet’s website –


5 comments on “Guest Post – A day in the life of a Jewellery Designer, Managing Director and mum

  1. Thank you so much for inviting Harriet to guest post. Her blog post is so inspiring and her jewelry is just amazing. I truly admire her steadfast determination to adhere to her operating principles as well as her entrepreneurial success.

  2. Pingback: Possibly the Best Birthday Present ever… | Day in the life of a Busy Gal…

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