It has been a stressful couple of days in the Lily Blanche studio as I try to fit in everything that needs to be done before I go on holiday to ensure the staff manning the studio while I am away are properly supported. There has been that familiar sense of rising panic and inevitably anything that can go wrong has gone wrong. I’ve felt like a rubbish boss, mother, wife… Even the dog is looking at me askance.
But the day has been bookended by two lovely messages. I woke this morning to a Facebook message from a customer who first contacted me back in May. She had a special birthday coming up and she liked the look of the Lily Blanche silver Memory Keeper Locket. We exchanged messages and I sent her a look book.
Today she messaged me: “My lovely family got me the memory keeper locket for my birthday yesterday and I love it… the detail is beautiful. I am on a cruise round the Med just now and have had so any compliments on my necklace, so recommending you all round the ship… Thank you again and keep up the good work. Your work is fabulous”.
Tonight, a new customer who ordered the Garnet Vintage Heart Locket earlier in the week posted a charming 5 star review on our Facebook page.
“I’ve been looking for the perfect locket for years now and came across Lily Blanche website… not only I found the most stunning vintage antique looking locket, it was also one of the best customer service I ever had the chance to deal with!! After ordering the item, I sent an inquiry and Gillian responded promptly. The item was also shipped and delivered so quickly. The locket itself looks even more beautiful than I expected! So thank you so much!! I really recommend Lily Blanche for the stunning pieces of jewellery and the excellent customer service. Merci!!”
It’s 11.45pm and I am still in the studio. I have felt anything but fabulous today but these comments from two lovely Lily Blanche ladies have really cheered and sustained me. They’ve reminded me of just how important it is to take a moment to stop and count blessings and of how vital it is to mark the special occasions in life and to spread a little kindness.
So thank you to Julie and Stephanie. Your comments have meant more to me today than you might have realised.
“I think Andy’s mum is wearing your Memory Keeper locket” said my son while watching the Wimbledon final in 2013. Sport daft, nuts about Andy Murray and eagle-eyed enough to be able to tell the difference between a toad and a frog at ten paces, my teenage son does not, however, take much interest in jewellery so I assumed he must be mistaken.
Judy Murray had bought some Lily Blanche pieces online – in fact she was one of our first online customers – but she hadn’t bought the Memory Keeper Locket, which opens to reveal six secret photographs. As Andy came close to playing the winning shot the camera panned onto an emotional Judy in the Wimbledon crowd and it was clear that she was indeed wearing the Lily Blanche Memory Keeper Locket in sterling silver. I squealed with excitement and phoned my sister, with whom I set up the business. As a small, but growing, jewellery brand, it was thrilling to think that Judy Murray had chosen our locket for this historic occasion. It was doubly exciting as our studio is based in Stirling, not far from Dunblane where Andy and Jamie Murray grew up and we’d watched their progress over the years. Shop the Memory Keeper Collection here
Later that week, one of our stockists told us that Judy had been in the shop and had bought several pieces of Lily Blanche, including the Memory Keeper Locket and the Birkin Handbag Locket. We wrote to Judy and thanked her for wearing the piece and congratulated her on a thrilling Wimbledon.
She was kind enough to write back and tell us how much she liked our jewellery. “It’s my absolute fave piece” she said. Since then, a number of our customers have noticed when she has worn the very distinctive designs and often message to tell us.Our paths have since crossed a couple of times and despite her growing profile, she has always been completely charming. It’s not always easy being a woman in the public eye, especially in such a male-dominated world as Judy’s autobiography Know The Score reveals.
It’s great to see some recognition of what she has achieved with her recent honour in the Queen’s Birthday list. Judy coached not just Jamie and Andy to tennis superstardom but a whole bunch of kids – including the late Elena Baltacha, Colin Fleming and Jamie Baker.
Despite her incredible success, Judy has stuck to her (grass)roots bringing her Miss Hits tennis programme and her Tennis On The Road to a new generation. Her values and ethos completely chime with everything we hold dear at Lily Blanche. So whatever happens on centre court this year, Judy Murray will always be our real champion. Shop the Memory Keeper Collection here
We all love a bargain. There is nothing nicer than finding something you’ve been hankering after on sale. I’m the same but increasingly I’ve become sceptical about the endless discounting the big retailers engage in. It doesn’t feel fair when brands boost the price by 25% just to be able to offer a 20% markdown to unsuspecting customers. The two for one offers in supermarkets are fuelling waste and endangering the health of our children. We’ve become so conditioned to gravitate towards the sale item, we don’t always appreciate the psychological manipulation involved.
When I first established Lily Blanche I made a resolution. We would treat our customers the way I would want to be treated in an ideal world – with respect, with honesty and with integrity. I knew we wouldn’t always get it right – and we haven’t – but we would always strive to delight and surprise our customers and when we got something wrong, we would act as quickly as possible to make things better.
This has led to me pulling entire lines if two customers have been unhappy with an item, casting a single earring if a customer has lost just one and having a chain specially made for a customer who needed a size we didn’t stock. It doesn’t always make financial sense but it is always worth it when measured against those benchmarks of respect, honesty, integrity and customer satisfaction.
When it comes to pricing our jewellery, I have tried to keep our prices as low as possible for as long as possible. It is important to me that the price you see when you click on an item is the price you will pay at the check out. Everything is transparent. No hidden costs. I’d rather give all customers free chains and free shipping than give random customers occasional discounts. I feel confident that our prices are lower than our competitors and our quality and craftsmanship is higher – often much higher. If we don’t offer what a customer is looking for, we will point them to a competitor who does.
Having said that, I know that every pound or dollar or euro spent on a Lily Blanche product is hard earned and we are always grateful when customers choose to shop with us. As a thank you, we offer 10% off first orders when you sign up to our newsletter and then at least two significant discounts a year at a time when it might make a real difference.
All VIP customers (those who sign up for the newsletter) receive a 20% off code in the run up to Christmas and at another time of year. We also look to add value in other ways for VIP customers. They hear first if a highly popular, out of stock item is back and they hear about new collections and collaborations. If you would like to sign up to the newsletter, we promise not to bombard you with emails but we will try to make it worthwhile.
To become a Lily Blanche VIP and receive 10% off your first order, sign up here.
What do you give the seven year-old who has everything? How about a 12.03 carat blue diamond, of such rarity that there are only a handful in existence? Josephine Lau, the daughter of Hong Kong billionaire Joseph Lau, has the distinction of having three of the world’s rarest gems named after her. In addition to The Blue Moon of Josephine (see 3 below) Lau, who is in failing health, purchased a $28.6m 16.08 carat pink diamond which he named Sweet Josephine, and a $9.5m 7.03 carat vivid blue gem called Star of Josephine. Her teenage sister Zoe, hasn’t been left out. Lau paid US$32.6 m for a 9.75-carat diamond which he named the ‘Zoe Diamond’, and $11.9m for an exceptional ruby named ‘Zoe Red’.
With the record-breaking sale of the Pink Star Diamond last week, we take a look at the enduring appeal of precious gemstones at auction amid the continuingly boyant market for rocks on the blocks. These are the gemstones which cannot be outshone in the four ‘C’s – cut, clarity, colour and carat.
1)The Pink Star Diamond. In another era it would have graced the finger of an empress or been embedded in a royal crown but this week the Pink Star diamond, one of the rarest gems ever to come to auction, broke the world record in just five minutes of tense bidding at Sotheby’s Hong Kong when it sold to a Hong Kong jewellery company, Chow Tai Fook, for a remarkable $71m, over £57m.
The 59.6 carat stone, which was discovered by De Beers in a mine in Africa (exactly where is a closely guarded secret) in 1999, took two years to cut. It is the largest polished diamond in its class ever to come to auction. The Pink Star created a sensation and attracted a bid of $83m when it first came on the market in Geneva in 2013 but the buyer later defaulted.
At that time, Sotheby’s was forced to stump up the cash as it had guaranteed the seller a price of $60m (£48m). Rising demand from wealthy Asian buyers convinced the auction house that now was the ideal time to return to the salesroom with the flawless gem. The timing proved impeccable.
The market for rare, precious gemstones has been strong in recent years with some spectacular stones coming to market in the last decade. Previously the record was held the by the Oppenheimer Blue diamond (7) which sold for $57.5m (£46m) in Geneva in May 2016 at Christie’s.
2) The Fancy Vivid Orange – in November 2013 the largest vivid orange diamond in the world attracted the highest price paid per carat for any diamond at auction, selling for $35m (£22m), or $2.4m (£1.5m) per carat – $15m above its estimate. Named ‘fire diamonds’ by the gemologist Edwin Streeter, pure orange diamonds remain incredibly rare, with so few having been graded that the exact cause of their colour remains a mystery. The Fancy Vivid orange is four times the size of most orange diamonds.
3) The Blue Moon of Josephine. In November 2015, this ring-mounted blue diamond, was bought by Hong Kong tycoon Joseph Lau, who paid a record $48.4m (£31.7m) for the cushion-shaped stone. He bought it for his seven-year-old daughter, renaming it the Blue Moon of Josephine, after her.
4) The Pink Graff, In November 2010 this “fancy intense pink” diamond was bought at auction by British dealer Laurence Graff for $46.2m (£29m) Described as “one of the greatest diamonds ever discovered,” at the time it was the most expensive gemstone bought at auction. Its rarity comes from the purity of its colour. While most pink diamonds show some elements of purple, orange or grey, The Perfect Pink is just that, showing absolutely no trace of secondary colour.
5) The Sunrise Ruby In May 2015, an anonymous buyer made history by purchasing the Sunrise Ruby, a 25.59-carat “pigeon blood” coloured gemstone, for $30m (£19.1m), making it the world’s most expensive non-diamond gemstone.
6) The Flawless Pear. In 2013, Christie’s auctioned one of the largest pear-shaped diamonds known to date — weighing in at an extraordinary 101.73 carats. Awarded the highest ‘D’ colour grade by the Gemological Institute of America, the stone came with the coveted ‘Flawless’ clarity, and was bought for $26.7m (£17m). Perfectly symmetrical, the finished diamond was produced from a rough diamond of 236 carats sourced in Botswana, and took 21 months to polish.
7) The Oppenheimer Blue Diamond. In May 2016, this exceedingly rare blue diamond set a new record of $50.6m (£34.7m). The 14.62-carat gem was sold after 20 minutes of phone bidding at Christie’s auction house in Geneva to an unknown buyer.
8) The Fancy Vivid Pink Cushion. Weighing approximately 16.08 carats, the diamond sold at auction in Geneva in November 2015 for $28.7m (£18.3m) It is the largest of its kind ever to come to auction, weighing in at 16.08 carats. The stone is set in a ring, and is surrounded by a double row of pavé white diamonds, a third row of small pink diamonds nestled underneath.
You may not have millions to spend at auction but for many women, a diamond or coloured gemstone ring will be their most expensive piece of jewellery and their most meaningful. If you are purchasing precious stones, the cut, colour, clarity and catat – the four Cs – are the most important attributes. Your jeweller should be able to give you a knowledgable explanation of each in relation to the gem you select.
If you are looking for something considerably less hard-going on the bank account, check out the Lily Blanche Luminous gemstone cocktail rings, in seven semi-precious stones and three precious metals. Wear them singly or in stacked in pairs for dramatic effect. Happy browsing!
It won’t have escaped your attention that pink is having a moment this spring, moving seamlessly from the catwalks to the sidewalk.
At Lily Blanche we often compile moodboards of our favourite looks/ inspirational images as we put together new collections or new jewellery combinations. This spring we are enjoing working with rose quarz and rose gold for a pink on pink intensity. To compliment our Luminous rings, we have designed a new range of earrings using the same quality and cut of gemstones which have made our cocktail rings such a great hit. These Luminous earrings will be on the website soon.
A dash of sherbert pink by way of a cocktail ring, earrings or bracelets is the perfect way to update a winter outfit for spring, be it navy cashmere, winter taupes and greys which need a pop of colour, or rich Christmas crimson. And while everyone knows pearls are a great way to brighten skin tones dulled by central heating, pale pink pearls add an extra something. Champagne pink pearls are the perfect way to overcome the formality of a pearl necklace. Whatever you are wearing this spring – think pink!
It’s already mid-way through January 2017 but it has been so busy in the Lily Blanche studio that I haven’t had time until now to reflect on the year that has just been. One thing is certain, however. It has been our most amazing and busiest year to date.
It started with a trip to Liberty London in January to pitch our designs to Julie Hassan, Liberty’s chief homeware buyer. You can read what happened on our blog. We managed to combine it with a fabulous stay at The Westbury Hotel, Mayfair – home from home for Jackie Onassis in the sixties and seventies – which boasts the best cocktail bar in London.
Our Liberty experience and the boost we got from it was just the start of a whirlwind year. We couldn’t have anticipated the huge success of the launch of our Memory Keeper Lockets in Gold and Rose Gold vermeil. These have been bestsellers in 2016.
Our Luminous gemstone cocktail rings were also a hit and prompted us to design earrings to match which will launch in a few weeks. Watch this space!
The graduation of Colette, great grand-daughter of the original Lily Blanche, with a first class honours degree in History was a fantastic occasion and we marked it with the Lily Blanche Vintage Key Pendant, the perfect way to mark key moments in life. You can see the video below.
Summer saw us on a trip to Zambia, emerald capital of Africa, and a wonderful place to go on safari. The kids bungee-jumped off Victoria Falls and I stood at the very edge of the falls and looked down into them – an unforgettable experience. And then there was the safari in South Luwanga Valley. So much inspiration came from this trip. You will see it played out in the collections we launch this year.
The fantastic success of Andy and Jamie Murray this year put mum Judy, an amazing woman and fantastic advocate for tennis, into the spotlight. Many of our eagle-eyed customers noticed Judy was wearing her Lily Blanche Birkin Locket during the BBC Sports Personality Of The Year Award and on the private plane with Andy when he became No 1 in the world. I was lucky enough to catch up with Judy at the fabulous Blytheswood Square Hotel in Glasgow for a quick interview which ran in the Sunday Times. (As many of you know I have a background in national newspapers and still write from time to time). Judy told me about the importance of parents in supporting their kids in sport. We’re big fans of her Miss Hits programme and Tennis On The Road. She’s a truly inspirational person and she has raised two sporting superstars with grace and modesty.
In October I was lucky enough to attend the Scottish Business Awards Dinner with Leonardo DiCaprio where I met up with Jim Kerr and Charlie Burchill of Simple Minds. I first met Jim 10 years ago. It was great to hear their stories about family, friends and rock ‘n’ roll. They had the entire business community on their feet with a high-octane rendition of Don’t You (Forget About Me) during the dinner.
But the real highlight of the evening was catching up with Josh Littlejohn, founder of Social Bite – an incredible entrprise to help homeless people in Scotland. Josh and his girlfriend Alice not only allow people to pay ahead for coffee and sandwiches for people who need them at the cafes they run throughout Scotland, 20% of their staff are from the homeless community. Their latest venture is to build a village in Granton, Edinburgh to house people who have lost their homes. The Social Bite Village is the Lily Blanche charity of the year and we have given a proportion of our profits to the cause. We’re really grateful to all the customers who have made this possible.
As anyone running a thriving business knows – it’s not all fun and creativity. It can be lonely and exhausting and more evenings than I care to remember have seen me still in the studio, working at the bench or the computer, at 11pm. But in October I managed to grab a few days in New York.
We made the most of the time, staying on Park Avenue and enjoying shopping, the sights, the museums and the fabulous food in downtown Manhattan. I took my sketch book and found ispiration in the Faberge exhibit in the Met.
Did I mention the food? Here is Clementine, one of the orginal Lily Blanche’s great grand-daughters outside Nobu New York.
Back in Scotland we were invited to collaborting with the avant garde fashion magazine Fated and Fabled for the Eternity Feature in their Alchemy issue. It’s one of our favourite publications for the sheer creativity of their styling and photography. We were delighted with how they showcased the Lily Blanche collections and wove them into a story. You can see some of the images on our Instagram and Facebook feeds.
The team continues to grow, with Eva and Robbie joining. Our web guys, Tom and Toms have been fantastic and we’ve loved everything that Carlie our graphic designer has done. Marsaili has taken fantastic photography for us. Emma has made some beautiful pieces and we’ve had vital strategic help from Colette, Clementine, Alexander and Colin. We’ve been working one-to-one with Google and Facebook this year to develop our digital marketing strategy which has been fantastically exciting and we’re developing new collections which we will launch soon. Later this year we are planning a new model shoot.
It’s been an amazing and exciting year with our best Christmas ever and we’ve got to know some incredible customers. Thanks for sharing your stories with us and for shopping with Lily Blanche. We realy appreciate every one of you and the support you’ve given our business. I hope you continue to visit our website and social media pages in 2017.
Now all I have to do is ice the Christmas cake – just four weeks late!