Augustine Jewels is a British luxury jewellery brand founded by Alexandra Morris Robson who is also the creative designer and managing director. We've had the opportunity to interview Alexandra to find out more about her creative designs and her business.
Q: How did you get into design?
A: As a child I was always making things: designing and sewing clothes, making perfumes from flowers and designing jewellery. My father was an architect. After school I went to fashion school at Esmod Ecole de la Mode in Paris and won a competition for jewellery design. I then went to Cambridge University for my undergraduate degree (in Archaeology and History) and soon fell in love with my husband and started a family but there was no time or money to start my own design business and so I joined Accenture and worked for 14 years in retail and consumer goods marketing whilst raising a family. It was only after that experience of learning about business and marketing that I had the courage to start my own design business properly.
Q: What lead you to work with Jewellery?
A: I love jewels and after leaving Accenture I went back to study with the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) in London. I needed to understand more about how stones were graded. We only use natural and ethical stones and so it was important that I knew what I was talking about.
Q: What is the process in creating a jewellery collection?
A: I always start a new collection abroad. The colours, smells and quirks of that country become the influence and the name for the new collection. I start to draw by hand and the designs and the ideas come to me. I then show the ideas to my team and we start to form the collection.
A visit to Mexico and inspiration from the local colours and smells
All ideas are put to technical drawings. The first drawing for the Heirloom Necklace
Who do you envision wearing your designs? Do you think about this when you work on them?
Yes I do. So the most recent cufflink collection was inspired by the Swiss Alps and I designed the collection with a classic but adventurous man in mind. A man who likes to ski and mountaineer but who also goes to work and black tie events and needs cufflinks for different occasions.
What are some new pieces you are working on? What are your plans for the coming future?
We are working on a pre-engagement and engagement collection. It's very romantic and exciting. We hope to launch it in the Autumn.
What’s the most precious piece of jewellery you own?
Definitely my own engagement ring. It has a beautiful diamond set with 2 blue sapphire baguettes and 4 rare yellow diamonds in a modern design inspired by Art Deco. My husband and I designed it together.
What jewellery item should every woman pass down to generations to come?
I think a woman should pass on jewellery that's meaningful to her and that's full of emotion. It could be an engagement ring or wedding ring, but equally it could be something that was passed down to her by a grandmother or an aunt - earrings, a necklace, a brooch... it doesn't really matter on the type of piece as long as the emotional history is passed down too.
You’re a designer and an entrepreneur. What are the rewards and challenges of being both?
I love both the design and the business side of being a jewellery designer. It is the variety that's so interesting. The challenge in jewellery design is quality of manufacture. We use the finest craftsmen but I still check every piece for quality and if it is not perfect, then we don't sell it.
What motivated you to start your own business/brand?
I have always wanted to do this since a young age. It is the idea of creating heirlooms and objects of beauty that can be passed on from generation to generation.
You’re inspired by the places you visit. If you had to recommend one place to visit, where would it be?
I love anywhere that is beautiful and natural - the latest collections have been inspired by the Swiss Alps, the Mexican beaches with unspoilt coastline in its natural state, the rolling flower meadows of the Cotswolds in England. I like looking at ancient cultures and so my wish list of countries to visit includes Peru, Vietnam and China. I like to see what jewellery was worn in history. It fascinates me to see how people expressed themselves in ancient cultures.
If I had to recommend one place, I would say the Cotswolds in England because it is so beautiful, classic, liveable, elegant, natural but also original - all adjectives I would associate with our brand. We are a quintessential English brand but we are influenced by and sell to a global world.
How do you balance running a business, travelling and your personal life?
It's really very wonderful because there's no juggling anymore. My family travel with me and I can take time out to draw and design. Augustine Studios is next door to my home and so I can step back and forth. Our corporate headquarters is also nearby. So really everything has melded together. In a previous life I had my work personna and my home person... many women do this swapping and juggling and it becomes very tiring swapping back and forth! I am so lucky to have found my passion.
Heirloom Necklace after Creative Director's Design
Shop at Augustine Jewels here.