Everyday Love Stories – David and Beryl Barnes

 

“No matter who my dad met, he always seemed to touch people and leave that special something”

When Lily Blanche customer Helen Thompson got in touch last month to tell us she had chosen the Gold Feather Locket for her mum Beryl and wanted to give it to her on her birthday on September 9th in memory of her father David who passed away last year, we were really touched by her thoughtfulness.

Helen sent us the photographs she wanted to use in the locket. When we saw the photo of David in his hat, we were smitten and wanted to know more about the charmer in the panama.

Helen told us that David and Beryl had met at a mutual friend’s wedding and Beryl offered to buy David a drink. It was the start of a great romance. They were engaged and married within the year.  That was 40 years ago last September. Sadly David lost his battle with cancer just before their ruby wedding anniversary and so Helen’s parents didn’t get to celebrate their special day together.

“I took mum away to a place we went as kids and we celebrated it together with dad in spirit,” Helen says. “My dad had done lots of jobs over the years but he ended his career at Greater Manchester Fire Brigade as a hydrant mechanic”.

David grew up in Radcliffe and was proud of his broad Lancashire accent. He lived his whole life there till 2014 when he moved with Beryl to live next door to Helen in a little village called Hawkshaw where he’d always wanted to live. This is where he spent his last couple of years being cared for by Helen and enjoying his granddaughter.

“He was so happy there,” Helen recalls.  “The photo of mum and dad was taken at a fish and chip shop in Whitby nearly a year to the day before he died. He loved it there. It was his favourite place and held so many childhood memories of holidays for him.

“And the picture of my dad in the hat just epitomises how he was always – happy and laughing and the most loving person you could meet. No matter who my dad met, he always seemed to touch people and leave that special something. I’m heartbroken he’s gone I miss him every day he was my best friend as well as my dad. But I believe we will all be together again one day so I look at it as not saying goodbye to him just see you later”.

Lily Blanche Gold Feather Locket

It was an absolute privilege and joy to work on the photographs for Beryl’s locket. We reshaped and resized them digitally and then printed them out on high quality photographic paper. Helen approved them by email before we sent them off to her, along with some spares. She chose two and popped them into the locket.

This week, Helen emailed to tell us Beryl had received the locket. “Well it was my mum’s birthday on Saturday and she absolutely loved the locket. She had a little cry as did I and said she will have dad with her everywhere she goes now. So thank you so much for everything you have done for us”.

 

The privilege was all ours. You can read Helen’s review of the Rose Gold Feather Locket on our Facebook review section. We love hearing the stories behind the photos in the lockets so please do share them. If you need help with resizing or printing images please email gillian@lilyblanche.com. You can see the Lily Blanche Feather collection here

Lily Blanche – lockets for those who love and are loved. #everdaylovestories

 

 

 

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Back To School – For The Last Time

It’s back to school for us this week – a ritual which has been performed annually in this household for twenty years, since my eldest started at nursery as a tiny tot. But this year, it is different. With just one of my three children still at school, this is the last autumn we will be looking out uniform, buying new stationery and hunting for lost kit of a morning before rushing for the school bus. The baby has started sixth form. How did that happen?

If you have young children, it is almost impossible to imagine such an ingrained part of your life coming to an end but this year, for us, everything will be poignant – the last Christmas dance, the last parents’ night, the last school report. I still have all the projects from primary one -all wobbly handwriting and wonky drawings –  in a cupboard, all the school photographs, all the reports…

These things are about to become part of our family history, to be dug out at future family gatherings, cooed over and laughed over. Do you remember when…? Threads of a tapestry binding siblings together in shared experience.

We are good at marking special occasions – birthdays, anniversaries, Christmases. But all too often it is the occasions for which there is no ritual or tradition which are the most affecting. How do you mark an empty nest or a fledgling about to spread their wings?

Charming Chick Pendant by Lily Blanche

For my dchildren, a tiny reminder of home and childhood is a comforting thing. My eldest daughter is forging a career in Manchester – experiencing the joy of a smart suit, a morning Starbucks, a grown up pay cheque. But it is comforting for both of us to know that she is still wearing the little sterling silver teddy pendant she got all these years ago. It may be tucked away beneath the collar of a business shirt but we both know it is there – a link with home and with the past.

Lily Blanche Tiny Ted Pendant

Often it is the little things, a picture in a locket or a shell from a much-loved holiday spot slipped into a blazer pocket that lets them know that you’ve remembered and that while they stand on the brink of a scary and exciting new world, some things endure – home and happiness and family and security and love and laughter.

How do you mark these precious moments in your family? We’d love to know.

 

From Stressed To Blessed In A Day.

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.

The dog is unimpressed

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”.

Lily Blanche Memory Keeper Locket

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!!”

LILY BLANCHE Garnet Vintage Heart Locket

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.

Gillian x

Wonderful Wimbledon and Why We Have Judy Murraymania

“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.

Silver Memory Keeper Locket

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.

Judy Murray wears the Lily Blanche Birkin Handbag Locket

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

 

The LILY BLANCHE Memory Keeper Lockets were a hit

Respect, Honesty, Integrity And A Word About Discounting

 

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.

Lily Blanche is designed to surprise and delight

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.

Lily Blanche Memory Keeper Locket

 

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.

 

Eight Gemstones That Wowed The World

 

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.

Lily Blanche Luminous Collection – Garnet

 

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!

Lily Blanche Luminous Collection

 

 

From the Catwalk to the Sidewalk – Think Pink!

It won’t have escaped your attention that pink is having a moment this spring, moving seamlessly from the catwalks to the sidewalk.

From blush to rose, pink is having a moment.

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!