Leonardo DiCaprio, Judy Murray and Our Year Of Living Amazingly!

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.

Thanks to Liberty for the opportunity!
Thanks to Liberty for the opportunity!

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.

Flowers at Liberty London
Flowers at Liberty 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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Jim Kerr and Simple Minds getting ready at the Scottish Buisness Awards
Jim Kerr and Simple Minds getting ready at the Scottish Buisness Awards

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.

Josh Littlejohn with Leonardo Dicaprio
Josh Littlejohn with Leonardo Dicaprio

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.

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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.

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Did I mention the food? Here is Clementine, one of the orginal Lily Blanche’s great grand-daughters outside Nobu New York.

Clementine wearing the silver memory Keeper Lcket Nobu Manhatten.
Clementine wearing the silver Memory Keeper Locket, Nobu Manhattan.

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.

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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!

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Victoria’s Jewels

VICTORIA14_glamour_26aug16_itv_b_720x1080When we haven’t been swooning over Rufus Sewell’s world-weary Lord Melbourne or declaring “I am beyond peaches” with the back of our hand pressed melodramatically to our brow a la the wronged and dying Lady Flora, we’ve been star struck by the costumes and jewellery in the ITV mini-series Victoria. The imperious Jenna Coleman carries off tiara after tiara, Star of Empire brooches and gobstopper diamond necklaces with aplomb, not to mention the Imperial State Crown – all 7lbs, 6oz of it.

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The Victorians loved jewellery and their eclectic taste at a time of incredible industrial and technological advance means that their treasures are among the most sought after collectors’ items. There was a massive vogue for all things Scottish during Queen Victoria’s reign. Tartan crinolines, Paisley shawls and luckenbooth brooches were all propelled in the the fashion spotlight by the Queen, in much the same way as the Kate Middleton effect works for British designers today.

Victorian jewels

The cutting and polishing of precious stones improved immeasurably with the new tools and technology of the industrial revolution, not to mention the explosion in design and creativity, exemplified by the Great Exhibition at Crystal Palace in 1851.

In jewellery, classical designs became popular, boosted by the widespread interest in new archaeological discoveries in Greece, Rome and Egypt. Naturalistic designs, encrusted or enameled gemstone fruit and flowers, were staunch favourites. Botany became popular in the wake of the expansion of Empire and the establishment of botanical gardens across the country and this new interest was reflected in jewellery fashions. The influence of romantic poets, such as Wordsworth and Byron, and of the Preraphaelite artists meant that romantic pieces were also popular.

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At Lily Blanche we specialise in taking the best aspects of vintage styles and marrying them with 21st century techniques and design.

LILY BLANCHE Garnet Vintage Heart Locket
LILY BLANCHE Garnet Vintage Heart Locket

A number of our key pieces are based on  Victorian designs, such as the Lily Blanche Amethyst Locket, the Vintage Heart Locket and the Memory Keeper Locket, which opens to take six photographs. Our Creative Director Gillian Crawford has a degree in archaeology from Edinburgh University, with a special interest in ancient metallurgy. She has a passion for antique jewellery.

LILY BLANCHE Vintage Amethyst Locket in sterling silver £180.
LILY BLANCHE Vintage Amethyst Locket.

Our favourite resource for studying vintage jewellery is the Victoria & Albert Museum in London. If you haven’t been, do visit. It is a wonderful treasure trove which never fails to inspire us.

Lily Blanche Memory Keeper Locket
Lily Blanche Memory Keeper Locket

Life, love, legacy and lockets – the story of the Memory Keeper Locket

“What will survive of us is love,” Philip Larkin, An Arundel Tomb

Life, love, legacy
Life, love, legacy

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.

Across the generations
Across the generations

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.

Lily Blanche and children in India
Lily Blanche and children in India

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.

Silver Memory Keeper Locket
Silver Memory Keeper Locket

 

 

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.

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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.

 

Lily Blanche Memory Keeper Locket
Lily Blanche Memory Keeper Locket

 

 

 

Wedding Lockets

It has to be one of the most romantic gestures ever. When Brad Pitt married Angelina Jolie at their family home, Chateau Miraval in Correns France, he gave her a locket containing a photograph of her late mother, Marcheline Bertrand. Angelina’s mother, whom she adored, died of ovarian cancer in 2007 at the age of just 56. Brad and Angelina had been dating for two years but Marcheline did not live long enough to see the couple marry or to meet their brood.

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By giving Angelina the locket, Brad ensured her mother’s “presence” at the wedding and ensured she remained in everyone’s thoughts throughout the day. Wedding lockets have long been a feature of Eastern cultures with Indian brides wearing a wedding locket on their big day. Now they are beginning to take off here.

At Lily Blanche requests for wedding lockets have soared in the past two years. As weddings becoming increasingly personalised, brides look to include meaningful gestures that have significance for them. The wedding locket, with the picture of a parent, grandparent or special friend who cannot make the big day, is a popular way to include them in proceedings and keep them close to your heart.

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Six of the Best –  Wedding Lockets

  1. The Memory Keeper Locket. Our special locket comes in sterling silver, 18 carat gold or rose gold vermeil. The Memory Keeper Locket opens and takes six photographs. It’s a wonderful piece that can be filled with memories of the big day and makes a really special piece for a bride, mother of the bride or groom’s mother. The locket is hallmarked by the Edinburgh Assay Office and is engraveable. Choice of chain lengths available.
  2. Gold Love Lockets in Emerald, Sapphire or Ruby. These beautiful lockets contain a tiny diamond surrounded by precious stones. Chose from emerald, ruby or sapphire. The lockets in 18 carat gold vermeil are engravable and come on an 18 inch or 24 inch chain.
  3. Gold Key Locket. This sterling silver filigree heart locket with a little key in 18 carat gold vermeil is one of our most popular pieces. It’s a pretty and romantic piece which will go with almost any style for wedding dress. The locket opens to take two photographs or a lock of hair. Also available with a rose gold key.
  4. Rose Gold Feather Locket. Feathers appear when angels are near is the saying which inspired this locket and it is especially relevant if the person you are commemorating by wearing it at your wedding has passed away. The locket can be engraved and can be teamed with matching earrings, bracelets and pendants so that the entire bridal party can participate.
  5. Garnet Vintage Heart Locket. This stunning locket in sterling silver is a real statement piece. With a crimson heart-shaped garnet at its centre, it is the ultimate romantic locket. Hallmarked in Edinburgh, the locket looks fabulous on a bride who has red roses in her bouquet.

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    LILY BLANCHE Garnet Vintage Heart Locket
  6. Gold and Sapphire Locket. This fabulous small locket is based on a gorgeous vintage piece in my grandmother’s collection. Made of 18 carat gold vermeil, the locket opens to take a tiny photograph. It features areal sapphire at its centre so you can combine the “something blue” tradition.Lily_Blanche_gold_locket_sapphire