There is an amazing new craze in jewellery in Barbados. It is called divorce jewellery.
Goldsmith Janine Banfield said the demand was coming from people whose marriage has fallen apart and “they have this lovely ring but they don’t want it to remind them of old times and we do a lot of resetting”.
Disillusioned brides are turning to Heather Harrington Jones and this skilled craftswoman to have her employ her skills to have the engagement ring or the wedding band refashioned, all part of the process of helping them erase that memory, but also to preserve the piece of jewellery to be passed on to children.
Janine and her boss Heather jokingly refer to the remounting as “remount, restyle, rejoice”.
But the approach to resetting the jewellery is no laughing matter for Janine who has been crafting jewellry for the west coast establishment for the past 11 years.
She returned to Barbados after completing studies at George Brown College in Toronto, having aborted business studies at Ryerson University to develop her creative side, and immediately found employment with west coast jewellers Heather Harrington Jones, working in sales, and helping with jewellery repairs.
Janine told EASY: “When I first started I helped with repairs and after a year I helped Heather with the buying. It was good for me to go along with the buying because I was able to suggest to her what would work best with the store.
“Being with her on those buying trips, I was able to determine that this treatment of the metal is not going to work because the humidity in Barbados is going to ruin it, or this ring cannot be sized.”
Attending those jewellery shows has also been an inspiration for Janine who gets excited every time she sees the vast array of merchandise on display, from very simple pieces to very exclusive high end designs.
As one of a handful of female goldsmiths in Barbados, Janine confesses at this point that she is not operating in the typical goldsmith’s studio normally equipped with gas tank, oxygen, torches to heat metal and the other necessary paraphernalia.
She does not consider it safe to have that kind of equipment at home.
“I have two twin girls aged two and a five-year-old son and they are into everything mummy is into.
“Right now when I have my beads out, I also have some big beads with holes and my girls sit down next to me and they are stringing and my son strings presents for his friends.”
It is indeed an atmosphere in which everybody is at work; the children for fun, Janine for her livelihood. Of one thing she is sure. She is not exposing her children to the dangerous part of the job.
“I don’t want it to be a case where they see me doing this kind of thing (using the dangerous equipment) and then they try to get into it. I don’t have a full studio set up at home, because I am not comfortable with keeping certain things at home with them,” she said.
Janine concentrates on producing exquisite pieces for Heather Harrington Jones, stringing semi-precious stones, mixing them with 18-karat gold, working with silver and oxidized silver.
Today she is wearing her work around her neck – a sterling silver necklace that has been oxidized to give it a darkened look, with a pendant designed with 18-karat gold, pearls, diamonds and garnets.
“I like to mix things up. I don’t like things that necessarily look too matchy or traditional.”
What inspires her designs?
Inspiration for her is happenstance. As she explained: “Every year is different. There was one year that I accidentally made a piece because I had a pearl left from one strand and a something left from something else and I made a piece and thought ‘that is really nice’.
“That piece inspired me to make a line and I went on with that one for about two years and then there have been other years that I have had no idea what I want to make.”
She has also drawn inspiration from stones she came across on buying trips, like this year when she will be working with a lot of yellow and black metal, creating much contrast.
“This year I am doing a lot of mixed metals. You don’t usually see diamonds and silver together so I am trying to do stuff that is going to be trendy and somewhat affordable.”
One small detail catches Janine’s eye and sparks an idea. She immediately reaches for her sketch pad and could easily be found spending a few nights just sketching, mindful that the design she creates now may not be the design she likes when she takes a look at the finished product on display in the store.
For her, the design process is always evolving.
But there are frustrations, the biggest of which Janine explained is the difficulty in having the material with which she wants to work, readily available.
“You have to plan so far in advance when you want to work on something. Any beads, any stones, any metals, you have to plan so far in advance to get it here. That being said, you have to be very efficient in what you buy.”
And she must have those supplies, readily at hand for the bride who comes in to the store to have a set of earrings or bracelets made as gifts for her bridal party. She has also noticed what she describes as a “niche market” among Heather Harrington Jones clients wanting more unique designs in engagement rings and wedding bands.
In some instances, the company will work with overseas designers, providing the sketches for the designer to make the requested rings.
“I think it is important to know your strengths and your weaknesses,” Janine said.
She admits the demands on a goldsmith’s time can be harsh and she is fortunate to have a “huge” family system in husband Kerry, in-laws and parents.
Her biggest satisfaction comes from appreciative customers.
“I design for people that like luxury but are sick of brand name luxury. They want something that nobody else has.”