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Highlighting Rough Diamond Jewelers: Interview with Laura Treloar of Specimental Design

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We are thrilled to interview Laura Treloar of Specimental Design. Her amazing life story, her dedication to responsible sourcing, and her spectacular jewelry designs are simply inspiring. Many of her beautiful pieces are included throughout the article below. We look forward to continuing to work with this amazing designer!

When did you first realize you wanted to become a jeweler?

Before I was a jeweler/designer, I was a high school teacher.  I first began working in jewellery when I was asked to teach the jewellery class at the high school I was an art teacher at.  My background was in sculpture, and I was keen to learn the skill of jewellery making, which I look at as small-scale sculpture.  So, I went to the local library, read up on the art form, and basically tried to stay one step ahead of the students, teaching them what I had just learned the day before their classes.  I learned along with the kids, and found I was really drawn to working with metal in such a small scale.

I realized I needed to devote myself full-time to jewellery work about 2.5 years ago.  I am a widowed single mom to three elementary school aged kids, and have been on my own with them for over six years.  Trying to balance teaching, studio work, administration stuff for the business, as well as parenting three little kids alone was truly wearing me down.  I was working 60-70 hour weeks, and felt I would crack… Something had to go, unfortunately, and teaching was the only sensible option.  I miss it very much, as I was very passionate about my work in the classroom and connecting with the kids I taught.  But, I am grateful that my jewelry work allows me to support my kids without having to worry about finances.  I am a lucky person to be doing what I am doing.

Uncut Diamond Ring

What inspires your beautiful designs?

I take much of my inspiration from the stones I am working with.  I am constantly working to create textures on my pieces that I feel echo or respond to the textures I am seeing in the stones.   Each of my pieces is bespoke, so my clients also greatly influence my designs.  The type of metal used, the textures on the piece, sourcing the perfect stone… My clients are involved in the design process every step of the way.  So, my pieces are quite collaborative, with lots of inspiration coming from  both the people from around the world with whom I work, and from the stone itself.

What motivated you to use only sustainably-sourced supplies?

As well as being influenced by my own concerns about having my business leave the smallest footprint possible, I find my clients really drive my desire to work with ethically and sustainably sourced materials. Clients today want to know exactly where their stones and metals are coming from, so they can research and consider the impact their jewellery piece will have both socially and environmentally.  New clients often comment that they have chosen to work with me as a jeweller because of their concerns over materials sourcing.

Rough Diamond Trio Ring

What challenges have you encountered in using only sustainably-sourced supplies?

I have been fortunate to have a metal dealer here in Vancouver who works almost exclusively in sourcing recycled metals.  He has made it very painless for me to ensure my clients are getting the post-consumer metals that they demand for their pieces.

Sourcing ethically procured stones can be more challenging.  This is why I love working with The Raw Stone- I know each piece I buy from the company is sourced as ethically as possible, considering both the social and the environmental impact of taking that stone from its place of origin.

Rough Diamond Ring

What are some of the benefits that have resulted from responsible sourcing?

Other than my own peace of mind, there has been a massive benefit from sourcing materials responsibly, as far as my clients’ demands go.  People are no longer simply just ensuring their diamonds are not blood diamonds – my clients often want to know specifically which countries the stones are sourced from, and will research to find which countries have the best human rights records before making a purchase.  I have had clients ask me which specific mines my stones come from, just so they can ensure said mine has a clean record of managing the environment and their workers.  Today’s client generally wants the reassurance that they are adding to social/environmental problems as little as possible.

Why do you use rough diamonds in your jewelry designs?

Although they are beautiful objects, a cut diamond holds little interest to me.  When you look at them, they are definitely lovely and glittery, but they don’t have much ‘soul’, for lack of a better word.  A raw diamond is an amazing piece of rough and natural beauty.  When you look at an uncut diamond, you are looking at a little raw biological wonder- this thing you are holding is over a billion years old, and has not had its form touched by human hands.  Their surfaces are absolutely gorgeous, with textures that range from water-smooth to mountain-ridged… You can even sometimes find a trigon (a small, perfectly triangular indent) in the surfaces of raw diamonds.  The first time I saw a trigon, I felt it looked like some kind of futuristic language etched into the diamond.

Each raw diamond is an absolutely unique, primordial object.

Earrings

What are your favorite shapes, colors, and types of rough diamonds?

I am very interested in working with macles, although I have only had a few opportunities to do so.  I find their triangular form and naturally faceted faces really beautiful.  I have a collection of raw diamonds in different colours, ranging from warm pinks to cognacs, greens, and eggyolk yellow.  I would say raw coloured diamonds are the most interesting to me. 

What is your favorite rough diamond design that you've created? (please include a link or photo)

One of the custom designs I am proudest of is a three ring stacking set that was commissioned as a 25th anniversary gift.  I built it of recycled 18k yellow gold, a huge black opal from Lightning Ridge, Australia, and a set of little diamonds, both raw and cut.  This set was very complex to design and build, as all three rings had to stack together perfectly, and there were so many elements to the composition.  Plus, the challenge of designing and building such an important piece of jewellery to perfection was really exhilarating. 

Custom Stacking Ring

What advice would you give to someone considering a career in sustainable/responsible jewelry design?

I would say the best place to start would be to contact a jeweler whose designs and business ethic you admire, and ask them where they source their materials.  The challenge in this is that jewellers are famously secretive about guarding their material sources.  However, if you don’t ask, you’ll never know.  Be prepared to spend a lot of time researching, asking questions of jewelers and suppliers , and be prepared to perhaps pay more for your materials in order to ensure their provenance.  

Earrings

What advice would you give to someone who is looking to create a rough diamond engagement ring? Where should they begin?

My advice to a client shopping for a rough diamond engagement ring would be to thoroughly research the shop policies of the jewelers you are considering working with.  As rough diamond rings grown in popularity, it has become fairly easy to look at any number of jewelers for a comparable ring.  When I first began offering my raw diamond rings on Etsy back in 2010, there was a tiny handful of artists there who were working with these stones.  The market has since exploded, and it seems that every jeweler is now offering very similar-looking raw diamond rings.  This is not as prevalent with the high-end, really costly bespoke diamond rings.  But, with the mid- to low-range stones, your options as a consumer are pretty much bottomless.

So, I would advise people to practise their due diligence around what happens after you get that rough diamond ring home.  Rough diamonds can be very difficult to work with properly as a jeweller, and many local jewellery shops will not take them on for repair or resizing work.

Ask prospective engagement ring jewelers about their shop policies.  Do they offer complimentary upkeep on the ring?  Can they resize it if you get your size wrong, or if your size changes in future?  What happens if you lose a stone from the ring a few years down the road- will they assist you in sourcing and replacing your stone?  If your band is damaged after their warranty period has expired, how will they help you, and will you have to pay them?  What post-purchase services can they offer you?  Your ring will be with you for life, but will your jeweler be there for the lifespan of your ring?

Thanks to Laura Treloar and Specimental Design for taking the time to tell us your story, provide us with such inspirational advice and especially for the opportunity to share your beautiful designs that include rough diamonds sourced from The Raw Stone!

If you are interested in discussing rough diamond jewelry designs, please contact us at: info@therawstone.com and feel free to browse our rough diamond collection here.

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