East London is filled with so many incredibly talented and creative small businesses, you don't have to look far to find something completely unique and inspiring. Jeweller Bear Brooksbank is a particular favourite of ours, with sumptuous bold designs that ooze elegance and individuality. Beautiful to wear or just simply stare at in awe, each of Bear's pieces are a work of art in their own right.
Bear is a British fine jewellery designer, born and bred in North Yorkshire. Since early childhood Bear has always been spellbound by the idea that precious materials come from the earth. Having trained as an actress and spent time working in a contemporary art gallery, Bear came back to her first love. She cut her craft working for highly respected jewellery dealer, Humphrey Butler in Mayfair. At the same time she trained to be a gemologist and designer at the Gemological Institute of America (GIA), graduating in 2009. Bear has now been in the jewellery business for over fifteen years. We caught up with her to chat all things jewellery, East London, and a touch of plants (obvs!)
1. Hi Bear! Thanks for joining us! We are long time fans! Tell us a bit about your work and how you got into jewellery design?
Hello! such an honour to be asked, thank you! It's been quite the year and the brand turned 10 this year which has felt like an important milestone. My work is heavily influenced by antique and vintage jewellery and has got progressively more chunky and yellow gold focused. My jewellery career started working for the much loved Mayfair jewellery dealer Humphrey Butler who has incredibly beautiful things and remains a good friend all these years on. I have always been a real magpie and the idea that stones are a natural resource from the earth I find utterly mind blowing. Very humbling to handle something that has such history and will outlive us all. I like the idea of being privileged custodians rather than owners when it comes to jewellery.
2. We love the way use shape and colour so thoughtfully throughout your designs. Where do you find the inspiration for them?
Thank you! All over really. I am not someone who can say I take inspo from the sea or the woods. More just shape and texture in day to day life. The edge of a pavement or the contrast of water on stone. Sorry sounds very pretentious. I never forget a piece of jewellery. Jewellery needs to feel as good as it looks, so that it gives as much pleasure being worn as it does sitting on the table looking at you.
3. Do you have a favourite design you've ever done? Or maybe a dream one you'd like to make some day?
There are a couple of pieces in this category. Each for different reasons. Be that amazing chemistry with a client when working on a bespoke piece or having total freedom with one of our ready to wear pieces. I have included two (Aquamarine, rock crystal and diamond cuff) and our newest engagement ring series ring not yet launched (old-cut emerald-cut diamond solitaire with tapered baguette-cut diamond shoulders) There are many dream pieces still in the pipeline and after a decade I feel like I am able to realise more and more of these which is a very joyful position to be in.
4. What's your perfect East London day?
My perfect East london day would be a walk from home which is in Dalston to Haggerston Park, this is my daughters favourite local park and the wooded areas are great to explore and in her case go on an imaginary wolf hunt. Then a cruise down Columbia road (past Grace and Thorn), coffee at Hermanos and on to Curious Yellow Kafe which is on Pitfield Street in Hoxton and below the flat we used to live. The owner is called Shokoh, the food is delicious but the vibes are even better - like a hug, and I will never forget how she fed us with food dropped to the door everyday when we had COVID back in the pre-vaccination scary days. Then home for a play in the garden, maybe an ice cream at Creams on Kingsland Road. With the luxury of a babysitter it's out for dinner at Jolene, Campania & Jones or Okko followed by a slow walk home.
5. It wouldn't be a Grace & Thorn interview without asking, what's your favourite plant and flower?
I am slowly becoming better educated having always been enthusiastic but ignorant. We inherited a giant camellia in our garden when we moved in. The garden has been such a source of joy since living in a flat for the last twelve years and the camellia display was truly mind blowing. My dad who lives in Yorkshire was immensely envious - his have never achieved that size! Flower wise has to be a lily. The smell never gets old and fills the studio with delicious scent.
Bear established her eponymous brand in East London in 2012. Bear Brooksbank specialises in bespoke and commission based projects whilst also holding a collection of fine jewellery pieces available to buy.
You can follow Bear Brooksbank on Instagram @bearbrooksbank
Aquamarine cuff - Rish Durka
Portrait and extreme close up of fingers - Daniela Maiorano
Hand shot with four rings on marble - Simon Martner