Some might wonder how an NGO volunteer and mum-of-two could land the dream job as a gemstone jewellery designer and business owner. We call it serendipity. For the last two years, Natalie Elverd of Elverd Designs has been capturing hearts with her statement gemstone jewellery, which carries suggestions of glamour and opulence without the hefty price tag.
An avid traveller, Natalie spent three years working in Cambodia at an NGO in education and business development for reformed street children and youth and a year in Dubai before making Singapore the home and base of her business. Although her love for gemstones almost borders on obsession, it had never occurred to her to create her own designs, until her own precious collection went missing during her travels. Natalie’s idea to design her own jewellery with locally mined gemstones grew from there.
Taken aback by the immediate interest in her initial designs and the overwhelming support of her family, Natalie decided to officially launch Elverd Designs in 2012 at a local Singapore shopping fair. Since, Elverd Designs has built a loyal following and established an online store, bridging the gap between lavishly priced (read: unattainable) gemstone and costume jewellery that doesn’t survive daily wear.
I’ve come a long way since the launch of Elverd Designs. Just take my first adventure into the jewellery-making process two years ago as your gauge…
While in Bangkok to celebrate a friend’s birthday, I took a 3-hour break in my schedule to source both a supplier and a skilled jeweller. With just a street name to go on, I set out for this sole purpose.
As I was working my way down the jewellers on the street, a guy appeared before me and showed me a pocketful of gems; encouraging me to follow him if I wanted to see more. Although my guard was raised by this strange request, I followed him as he led me through a shabby neighbourhood, into an ancient looking high-rise building, up an old elevator and into a room filled with safes that emptied out piles of raw and faceted gemstones. It was like finding my very own treasure chest. Believe it or not, that was how I obtained my first supply of gemstones. I was hooked!
THE DESIGN PHILOSOPHY
Elverd Designs look is vintage-inspired yet fused with a contemporary touch. It’s feminine and girly but could also tend toward edgy, bold and sophisticated. I design what I love, and only what I would want to wear myself. The focus of my designs is always on the stones first, which are carefully selected and exquisitely hand-picked by myself and then handcut especially for my collection. Red garnet, pink tourmaline, blue topaz, green amethyst, black onyx, pink and blue chalcedony, yellow citrine, pink and smoky quartz are some of the beautiful gemstones I’m designing with right now. All my designs are set with stones identical to those you find at high-end jewellery stores and sourced from the same mines.
As my business grows and designs develop, I will include more gemstone colour choices in my collections.
I am inspired by many things… the people I meet, the places I visit, the different jewellery designers whose work I love and admire, as well as designs I see online or in fashion magazines. To date one of my influences has been Art Deco architecture, which you can see referenced in many of my bold square and bagette cut gemstone rings. I’m also favouring timeless elegance in my designs, particularly poignant in my Celebrations Ring Collection. I guess my design inspiration also comes from a feeling or a mood as well, and I love to feel free to express myself when designing and wearing jewellery. I think my customers feel that too.
FAVORITE GEMSTONE CUT
It’s hard to say, but probably the checkerboard cushion and baguette cut – I love how it catches the light and brings out the beauty and clarity of each stone. Having said that, they are all my babies and I can’t really favour just one!
THE CREATIVE PROCESS
I usually start off with a sketch, followed by an elaborate search for the perfect gemstones. They are then individually hand cut to my exact design specifications. Width, length and depth are critical for a flawless fit. Meetings with my jewellers to discuss production is crucial. I love the whole process, it’s my passion and watching a design come to life is so exciting. I never let cost get in the way of the creative process, because it’s all about a making it fun and enjoyable for the wearer. When someone loves what you design enough to buy and wear it, it makes me feel so happy.
A DAY IN THE LIFE
Each workday is never the same and I love that. One of the many advantages of working for myself . Typically, I arrange my schedule around replying to customer requests and mailing orders, liaising with my suppliers and jewellers, preparing for events, planning frequent sourcing trips to Bangkok and being a mum to my two girls. Any spare time I have is dedicated to coming up with new jewellery designs and pursuing my studies in gemmology.
ADVICE TO FELLOW ENTREPRENEURS
Don’t over-capitalise too early in your start up business. Too many business owners sink too much, too soon into their business because they’re impatient for fast results. It’s okay to take a step back before going forward. It’s hard, all the more so when you have family and other commitments to worry about.
Also, do what you love and what you are really passionate about, and the rest will follow. A cliché I know, but this is what I strongly feel has been the reason for my success to date. I think my customers really feel the genuine love I have for what I do.
WHERE TO NEXT
Lots of exciting things to look forward to! We have recently launched an already popular range of gorgeous gemstone cuff rings. Another ring collection will be following soon.
I’m now working on a men’s cuff link range, due to be released before Christmas 2014. I’m also working on a necklace and bracelet range to complement my existing ring and earring collections. I can’t wait for those!
The use of yellow and rose gold in my designs will be fun.
We’re very excited to announce a Singapore stockist, and we will be collaborating with local fashion boutique Paperbag Princess in Cluny Court later this year. And of course, we will continue to be involved with events in Singapore and hope spread our wings with events next year in Hong Kong and Jakarta.
I am looking forward to seeing which designs become favourites with my customers. There is actually a lot to look forward to!
Find out more about Elverd Designs on Travelshopa.