Some of the Lily Blanche team were lucky enough to spend part of the summer in Zambia, travelling on safari to the South Luangwa Valley and learning more about ethical gemstone sourcing and elephant conservation. Zambia is the second largest source of emeralds in the world and is also a source of amethyst and tourmaline.
Members of the Lily Blanche studio been travelling to Zambia for 30 years now and we’ve seen an amazing improvement in terms of lifestyle and economic growth for the people who live there. It’s a wonderful country and it is easy to lose your heart to it. While there are often issues with ensuring the people who live there benefit the most from a nation’s natural resources, we understand the importance of the gemstone industry to the economy and are keen to support mines which give back to the community and treat their workforce well.
We also spent time visiting one of the International Game Rangers’ elephant orphanages, part of a major conservation project to protect this amazing creature. It was great to see so many in the wild in Zambia and until the end of September 10% of the profit from sales at www.lilyblanche.com will go to this cause.
In the little video above, we’ve teamed our favourite photographs from the trip with our favourite pieces of Lily Blanche jewellery. It’s amazing how the colours and forms of the animals and the jewels work together. The tiny lion cub in the video was immensely curious and while his mother and aunt lazed in the sun, he was full of beans and looking to play. We have come back to the studio, refreshed, excited and full of great ideas for our next collections and we can’t wait to start designing with these wonderful gemstones.
Love Gillian x
The Lily Blanche peapod collection is inspired by memories of shelling peas from the garden with my grandmother. We children would each have a colander full of bright green pods and a bowl in which to deposit the little emerald spheres. It was always so satisfying to pop the pods and we had a competition to see how many and how big the peas inside were. They tasted so fresh and sweet and for me they are a real taste of summer.
There is something so aesthetically pleasing about the humble peapod. It is such an elegant shape and it struck us that it was a perfect design for a Lily Blanche pendant. We wanted a 3D effect with movement and energy and so we’ve used the pearls to create ripples in the sterling silver pod with a final pearl “pea” escaping from the end of the pendant.
Teamed with the little pod earrings, which complement the pendant but are not too matchy-matchy, the Lily Blanche Peapod collection makes a perfect set. It’s a great gift for anyone who exudes understated elegance and perfect for green-fingered gardeners.
This is a little video celebrating life, friendship and achievement. It’s about remembering to mark the key moments and it is inspired by my daughter Colette who graduates this summer. At Christmas, just after her crucial final exams, she was in hospital twice. It was a difficult and worrying time and she was concerned her illness would have an effect on her grades.
She needn’t have worried. She not only achieved a First Class Honours degree in history, she was awarded the John N Milne Prize for best social and economic history student. Along the way she has made some wonderful friendships, including Sarah, who also achieved a First and whose image is in the penultimate frame.
The friendships forged at university and college are often the ones that shape us, enrich our lives and last forever. Finally, the music is Hachiko – the Faithful Dog – by The Kyoto Connection. It reminded me of all these dogs waiting loyally for their masters and mistresses to return home from university.
We’ve designed a code Graduate20 which will give you 20% off Lily Blanche jewellery for the month of June. You don’t have to be graduating to use it. It is equally effective if you are a graduate of the university of life.
All the attention has been on Kristen Stewart’s new bleached blonde hair which she unveiled on the red carpet at Cannes but at Lily Blanche we were interested in the way she nailed the layered pendant look. Long and short pendants in mixed metals, worn together are a key look for summer and the queen of tom-boy chic pulled it off effortlessly.
“What will survive of us is love,” Philip Larkin, An Arundel Tomb
Every day my daughter wears a ring. It’s not a particularly beautiful ring or especially well made. It’s not from a desirable or famous brand. It’s not particularly on trend. But it is her most precious piece of jewellery. The ring belonged to my other grandmother, Agnes – my mother’s mother – who died before my daughter was even thought about.
Not many photographs of my grandmother exist. She wasn’t wealthy and the ring would not have cost much. The story of how she came by the ring has been forgotten but for my daughter the ring is a link with the past – her past, a very personal and precious symbol of life and love and continuity.
Jewellery connects us with the past in such an individual and intimate way. Inheriting jewellery, even if it is not particularly to your taste or if it has gone out of fashion, is such a humbling thing. A piece can be worn every day by women of different generations. It can take on the patina of the life of the wearer. It will be smoothed and worn to fit them. When it comes down the generations to you, it is alredy pre-loaded with sentiment and meaning.
There is a reason that we mark important life events with jewellery and this is because of its endurance and durability. We want the occasions and people who matter to us to be represented, not by something ephemeral, but by something precious and permanent.
My original degree was in prehistoric archaeology from Edinburgh University. I cannot begin to describe the thrill of finding a piece of jewellery on an archaeological excavation, of being the first to look at something for hundreds, sometimes thousands, of years. There is something incredibly tactile and sensory about learning about the past from the artefacts and structures left behind by our ancestors. Everything has evolved but what has always struck me is how incredibly contemporary and beautiful much ancient jewellery seems.
When you find a piece of vintage jewellery or even come across it in a museum or an antique shop, it is impossible not to imagine the original wearer, the person for whom the piece was made. Who was she? What did she do? Who did she love?
Here, at the Lily Blanche studio, there is rarely a single inspiration for a piece of jewellery. Ideas come together but running through all of the Lily Blanche collections are the themes of sentiment and meaning, of celebrating life and expressing love. We love designing and creating pieces with hidden secrets.
Nowhere does this come together better than in the Memory Keeper Locket. Based on a vintage design, updated for the 21st century, the Memory Keeper Locket opens to take six photographs. It is an intricate piece, beautifully crafted and I wanted it to be an heirloom piece, something full of precious memories that could be passed on through the generations.
The Memory Keeper was originally designed in sterling silver but recently we’ve added an 18 carat gold and rose gold version. What I love about this piece is that people often tell us why they are buying it. It cuts across all age groups. It has been given for 18th birthdays, 21st birthdays, 30ths, 40ths, 50ths – right up to a 100th birthday. A teenage girl wrote to us and told us she’d fill it with pictures of her pets. It has been given by brides to their mothers, as a thank you for the big day. It can have a very special meaning for those who have lost someone close to them.
So that is the story of the Lily Blanche Memory Keeper – it’s about love and life and legacy and I like to think that some day – in a thousand years’ time – a young archaeologist will discover my Memory Keeper Locket, filled with pictures of my loved ones and feel an intimate and personal connection with the past.