Jewellery

JANE FLEUR STRANG RE-TELLS STORIES OF VINTAGE JEWELLERY FOR A NEW AUDIENCE

By Tallulah Lu
By Tallulah Lu

“I’ve always been something of a collector,” Jane Fleur Strang Steel admits with gleeful pride. Her collection started with an assemblage of jelly bracelets circa 1985, a childhood collection that grew with the addition of silver bangles her grandparents brought back from their holidays overseas – all of which she still keeps and treasures.

As a child, Jane loved a fancy dress—she still does—and was always drawn to the idea of jewellery as a defining element in costuming and character. “The first piece of jewellery to have a serious emotional impact on me was my mother’s Victorian braided gold bracelet set with ruby cabochons,” she shares. A gift from one of her great aunts, she remembers her mother putting it on as a final touch to whatever she was wearing for a special night out.

A couple of years ago, her mother gave her the said piece. “I’m always astonished by how much of my past it holds whenever I wear it. Talismans like that from childhood never leave you, and those pieces are irreplicable in your psyche,” she surmises.

Jane is the founder and director of Fleur Fairfax, a jewellery brand based in Nailsworth, Gloucestershire, UK. It is a young brand, with only a collection to its name, but it is one that has everybody talking.

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A Second Chapter

Despite Jane’s passion for jewellery, Fleur Fairfax is already a second chapter in her career. She has worked at a TV production before completing the Gem-A Gemmology Foundation Course in 2020 and eventually creating her brand.

Together with a collection of antique jewellery that she has been buying at auctions, the course gave her excellent grounding knowledge of gemstone identification, valuation, and handling. She plans to attend a lapidary course next for a better understanding of the intricacies of cutting techniques.

“I launched Fleur Fairfax in 2022 with a small and specially curated selection of Georgian and Victorian antiques, and the inaugural Regency Revival collection of fine original jewellery.” She has very recently expanded her first collection, which includes an opening book ring, a revival fob, and a Victorian-inspired bangle, and launched it in time for Christmas.

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Two-Part Process

Jane’s creative process comprises two distinct parts, starting with the sourcing of an original antique that comes with a story, followed by the modern re-telling of that story. “I sometimes liken my process to the ‘Best Adapted Screenplay’ category at the Oscars,” she shares, “my talent lies in taking fantastic source material, and reinventing it for a modern audience.”

She begins by selecting an antique piece that catches her fancy, and then she tries to distil its essential meaning. She then draws sketches of its imagined contemporary variations with an eye on incorporating modern materials and methods, and how and why it would be worn by her clients.

At this point, she imagines how she wants her clients to feel wearing the piece, all the while listening to a lot of music, usually Carly Simon or Roy Orbison, which she finds “helpfully transportive”. The completed sketches are finally sent to her CAD designer who realises the technical specs of the process.

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Modern British Craft

Elegance, integrity, quality, and history are the essential brand values of Fleur Fairfax. “I want my clients to connect in equal measure to our heritage aesthetic while at the same time appreciating the calibre of modern British craft,” Jane declares. All Fleur Fairfax contemporary pieces are cast in 100% recycled 18ct gold and are handmade in the UK, which is becoming less common with so much jewellery manufacturing moving abroad.

“Our antique jewellery is, of course, an excellent sustainable choice. There are so many incredible gems already in existence that just need a little repurposing for a modern audience. And not only are old stones more sustainable, I think they are far more beautiful because of their rich history,” she points out. “Old cut diamonds, in particular, with all their smoky imperfections have far more personality than precision-cut round brilliants.”

Fleur Fairfax gemstones come from a long-standing manufacturing house with excellent traceability and ethical sourcing credentials. “I would say this is currently the biggest challenge for all jewellers, especially small independent brands like mine. I’ve attended several industry panel talks in Hatton Garden recently on best practice in responsible jewellery. It’s heartening to see how much of a focus there is on sustainability and good practice across the board.” Jane admits there is still a lot to be done but she is optimistic given the collective of jewellers across the UK who want to work together to find solutions and share knowledge.

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The Beauty of The Small

“The future of Fleur Fairfax is a continued steady building on the foundation of my core values, with a focus on quality over quantity. The brand will always emphasise the beauty of small, fine, symbolic, handmade collections that have a story to tell.”

Fleur Fairfax’s first – and current collection – is the Regency Revival consisting of fine original jewellery inspired by the Georgian Period. The Book Ring is very much the anchor of the first collection and sets a strong tone for the design and aesthetic of the brand.

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“I use the term ‘transcendent style’ a lot when describing Fleur Fairfax—we’re very much a bridge to the past that is simultaneously brilliantly modern,” Janes says.

The next piece is the Gemstone Fob, which again is a Georgian inspired revival of the classic fob – once a gentleman’s accessory and now reborn as a striking women’s pendant necklace.

“I’ve incorporated stronger, bolder design to bring the fob forward into a contemporary piece, but it still retains much of the original shape and character as it’s 18th century ancestors. While our first Regency Revival collection is focussed on reimagining Georgian gems, the second collection coming next year will look at the philosophy of Victorian style.”

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