Posted January 24, 2020 by Astrid Mallet
Specialising in vintage and contempory pieces, all of the jewels are hand-picked by founder Emma de Sybel who has a discerning eye for arresting singularity. Think allusions to drama, music and exaggerated artistic style. This week, we sat down with Emma to uncover the secrets behind Baroque Rocks’ non-conformity and individuality …
When did you first realise you wanted to pursue a career in jewellery?
I have always had an affinity with sparkling jewels and a penchant for the glorious golden glamour of the Sixties and Seventies, not to mention the bold sass of the Eighties and Nineties. Career wise, I spent over sixteen years in the banking world, where statement jewellery would certainly jazz up a skirt suit. I realised that I could marry my passion for fine vintage jewellery, with a business and thus, Baroque Rocks was born!
Baroque Rocks specializes in unique pieces, both vintage and contemporary – is there a particular reason as to why you wanted to work with already made pieces which had history?
Baroque Rocks loves pieces that are unique, quirky and divinely different, for the individual who marches to the current beat! The craftsmanship, experimentalism and sheer headiness of the Sixties and Seventies saw new bejewelled boundaries being forged where art, architecture, music and jewels were thrust together into a modernist melange!
Previous jewellery conventions were thrown to the wind and the intrinsic value of a piece of jewellery was no longer solely attributable to its stones but to the artistry of the piece itself. Apart from the handcrafted, design led side of jewellery from this era, it is also important to mention that the treasures we source are not only scarce (many pieces were sadly smelted) but also have intrinsic material value and therefore, immensely collectible. These treasures continue to be wearable pieces of art, made for the design conscious heralding a flamboyant spirit.
How do you find the pieces which are available to purchase? Do you have a process before you put them online?
We source treasures from literally all over the UK; from auction houses and antique shops, to jewellers who we work with and know our house style, who in turn contact us if a piece comes in that we may be interested in. More recently we have had clients wanting us to look at their estate jewellery, which we either buy outright or sometimes take on commission.
We do indeed have a rather lengthy process before we put them online. We have each piece professionally polished (did you know that when a piece is polished the gold dust is captured and then turned back into gold nuggets to be reused – nothing wasted), and, if needed, restored by some of the Birmingham Jewellery Quarters’ finest craftsmen; ensuring that the pieces are as good as new whilst maintaining their history and heritage. I also sound cleanse all my jewellery, which staves off any naysayers who perhaps otherwise would never consider buying pre-loved jewels! Lastly, we photograph the pieces and write an often witty description, normally relating to an uplifting beat that came out when the piece was made or to a particular sartorial trend.
What is your most popular type of jewellery piece at the moment?
Our vintage gold hoops are an easy win but probably the most popular and sought-after pieces are our necklaces! We had a 1973 Gold Passport necklace, replete with photo pages and stamps in it which was recently featured in Vogue. Other examples of treasures we have had: a necklace with a thin cuboid attached to it which when twisted revealed itself as a 1970s Swizzle Stick to stir one’s cocktails, and a gold apple pendant necklace which opened up to reveal a naked Adam & Even. We also see many of our oversized vintage cocktail rings garner lots of attention. Essentially statement pieces that are brilliantly different, scintillatingly fun and spark the fire of a good conversation!
Who have been your biggest mentors in the industry and what has been the best piece of advice you have received from them?
All credit goes to James Amos, who I’ve known since university days, and is the 6th generation of the family run luxury British brand Boodles. He has hands down been my absolute linchpin for my business as he gave me the best advice: “Education, Education, Education”. Having pointed me in the right direction I retrained and went to the ‘NAJ’ National Association of Jewellers and did their JET courses; together with a multitude of other courses at the Birmingham Assay Office and the GEM A in London.
I am always learning new fascinating facts from the immensively knowledgeable Master Craftsmen I work with in Burminham, and from what I refer to as my sparkling vitamins: The Jewellery Cut’s daily articles (subscribe now!). Effectively, I completely immersed myself into a bejewelled world.
Do you feel that, like fashion, buying vintage jewellery will become more prominent in the fight for a more sustainable future within the industry?
Yes, absolutely! As the renowned jewelley journalist Carol Woolton from Vogue recently stated when writing about pre-loved jewels: “Increasingly we value the sustainability status of vintage pieces which have a green answer to the burning question for our carbon-emitting consumption. We want to forgo plastic and avoid unnecessary seasonal purchases in favour of something that’s been created to last. A pre-loved jewel provides the solution. It answers sustainability queries, lasts a lifetime – and then some; second-hand is no longer second-best!”
That said, there are tremendous inroads being made in the jewellery world as companies are far more aware and hence very much making the necessary changes with many jewellers for example already working with recycled gold.
What are your favourite materials? Are you all about the gold, the gemstones … ?
I’m allergic to silver annoyingly and don’t wear white gold, so I like to bedizen myself in an assortment of yellow or rose gold festooned with brightly coloured gemstones evoking the fun of major maximalism – guaranteed to enhance any outfit!
Favourite piece of jewellery that you own?
My absolute favourite pieces I own are a pair of 1960s Kutchinsky Sapphire and Diamond Leaf Earrings given to me by my husband and two circa 180s bark effect, gemset, articulated Bear pendants.
What advice would you give to anyone looking to break through in the jewellery industry?
The best bit of advice I would give to anyone looking to break through in the industry would be to get a mentor to avoid unnecessary pitfalls. Keep up to date by reading articles from The Jewellery Cut’s Daily Cut, network within the industry and above all, focus on your business making sure it really is viable.
Tell us about your Jewellery Cut Live experience! Are you excited about the upcoming showcase?
Baroque Rocks is not only super excited about the upcoming sparkler of a showcase that is The Jewellery Cut Live, but also really honoured to have been invited back once again during London Fashion Week.
The experience for both exhibitor and visitor alike is absolutely FANTASTIC, from meeting other jewellers and seeing their creativity born into beautiful pieces of jewellery, to meeting with press and buyers, and speaking to the public who are genuinely interested in what one does. There are fascinating talks being planned as well and some hands-on jewellery making courses too, I’m told!