A while ago I found this photograph of myself when I was about 3. Grubby shorts, no shoes, but bangles! Clearly I’ve had a thing for jewellery since smallhood, and as the bracelets were a mix of bright coloured plastic and glass bought in the Indian bazaar in Nairobi, I obviously also had magpie tendencies from a very early age.
Nothing has really changed over the years except the material from which my jewels were made. The glass and plastic stage lasted a long time because it was all I could afford with my pocket money, but as a young teenager I went to England for the first time, just about when Mary Quant was the only name worth knowing, and all the neon coloured, chunky acrylic jewellery was the rage. I quite quickly grew through that stage – I have no relics to prove I was even there except a photo or two – and then the really ‘in’ thing was braided leather, beads, copper and brass. All very hippie and chill. The more pieces I could get on my arms the better, and I didn’t favour any finger over another for a ring, although I never wore a ring of any sort on my wedding finger until I was married…
Then I must have got smarter about Christmas and birthday present requests because soon I was wearing silver – and a whole lot of it! It wasn’t expensive, it was plentiful, and silver bracelets are great things for swapping; two plain for one twisted as I recall. At the same time it was very fashionable to wear copper and brass bracelets which were sold in the markets. The general consensus was that the copper came from phone lines and the brass from public water taps but I really couldn’t say… These too were affordable and after a bit of wear and a few days at the coast with the sea and sand, they shone up beautifully. I still have all mine – they don’t make them like that any more, of course – and I wear them when I travel. Arms dressed with something no one is interested in stealing!
Then I got all grown up about jewellery. I got engaged, and got an 18ct gold ring set with two small diamonds and a bright green Tsavorite, mined in Kenya so the obvious choice for a Kenya girl, I thought. With that went an 18ct gold wedding ring made by my sister Polly; my Mum gave me one or two pieces of her gold jewellery and a new level of magpieitis began. But it was more a wanting than a having… silver jewellery was still affordable because most of it was imported from the far east into Canada where we were living, but as a young mum with a growing family spending money on gold jewellery wasn’t an option. Still, I had all the things I’d accumulated over the years and had plenty to wear and was perfectly happy with the status quo. And then we moved to England and it all changed – again.
Straight after A Levels Polly had trained as a goldsmith, but left the bench when she got married in 1978. 30 years later when her life had changed again she decided to go back to the bench and asked me if I’d work with her. Exciting idea! and so Polly Gasston Goldsmith was born. From the outset the only metal Polly wanted to use was 22ct gold because, she felt, as she was coming back into the trade after so long she’d never catch up with her former colleagues, so she had to find a niche and fill it, which is exactly what she did. It’s her favorite metal, and even though it costs a lot of money and not many people really ‘get’ it, she was undaunted (and very happy to be back) and slowly slowly, one sale at a time, we’re still in business – and thriving – 12 years later. And as for the magpie in me…. it could easily have died and gone to jewellery heaven, but every new piece we make gives it a new lease on life. There’s no such thing as too much gold, not when you’re a true magpie.