My Week: Harriet Kelsall of Harriet Kelsall Jewellery Design

Harriet Kelsall, founder of eponymous jewellery company HKJD, on blood diamonds, unusual commissions and why she hates to sleep.

by Rebecca Burn-Callander
Last Updated: 09 Oct 2013
I am a total workaholic. I would rather work than hang out with my friends. I believe that if you’re not prepared to spend every waking hour on your business, you won’t be a success. I get so frustrated when people tell me, ‘I’m going to give up my day job to focus on starting my company.’ It’s bollocks. If you can’t find an extra 20 hours a week to put into your business, you’re not cut out to be an entrepreneur.

I started my bespoke jewellery business from my shed when I was working full-time in the computer industry as an engineering manager. It was a tough job: I wouldn’t get home till 9 or 10 at night. But, no matter how tired I was, I would always spend an hour or two at my workbench making pieces. My husband used to take me away from what I was doing at 3am and say ‘You have to go to sleep!’ I don’t like sleeping. It’s boring. I wish I didn’t have to.

These days I’m usually up at 6am and in bed by midnight. I work a six-day week - Saturdays are a particularly busy in the jewellery industry. I’ve struck a nice balance between leadership and creativity: I work on strategy; I assist designers on complicated projects; and do a lot of press stuff. Since we won the Specsavers everywoman in retail awards this year, I’ve been doing five interviews a week.

The lions’ share of my jewellery business is bespoke. We never make two pieces of the jewellery the same – even our small range of ready-to-wear engagement rings are all one-offs. Clients come to us with an idea or a story and we turn it into beautiful jewellery.

We recently met a couple who had just been on holiday to Australia. One of their best memories was of chasing a peacock around a zoo to try and steal a feather from its tail. The ring we designed for them incorporated a peacock’s feather pattern. We do hear a lot of lovely stories but we occasionally have tricky ones too. Designing a ring for someone who wanted to commemorate their two children who died in a car accident was particularly hard, especially having children myself. And we were once asked to make a sterling silver toilet roll – full-size - to be worn as a pendant!

We always try and give people the option to choose ethical gold and stones for their pieces. From day one, I’ve always asked a lot of questions about the provenance of materials I work with. There’s a lot of dirty gold out there, not to mention blood diamonds. For years the answer was always, ‘You’re in the wrong industry if you’re into that hippy crap, love.’ But I kept on asking and now we’re the first independent business to receive the Responsible Jewellery Certification.  

It’s not all diamonds and platinum. I also run a dress jewellery side-line called Purple-label.com. Everything in the range costs between £15 and £20 - the site is going really crazy at the moment with Christmas coming up. We’ve got a little project going with the Peter Jones Academy nearby: I’m giving them a stack of jewellery to see who can sell the most at the highest margin as part of their qualification.

I always have my own design projects on the side too. At the moment, I’m designing a pendant for the model and presenter Lisa Snowdon. It’s fashioned from Fairtrade gold and inspired by the ‘om’ symbol. In fact, here she is to collect it…

Find out more about Harriet Kelsell Jewellery Design


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