To celebrate the launch of Pärla’s new bespoke jewellery service, we visited the studio of designer, gemologist, and genius Bear Brooksbank. Bear, an endearing nickname she’s built her brand around, will be working with us and our customers to realize custom orders, restorations, and remodeling projects. To illustrate the tailored experience we aim to provide, I brought along my great-grandmother’s damaged earrings to document Bear’s remodeling process. The earrings were purchased in India circa 1960, and cascade with gold filament cages and dangling baubles. Over time the delicate fixtures have broken and poor repairs were made. Bear closely examines the metal with her jeweller’s loupe, a specialized magnifying glass, and begins to develop ideas for the restoration and remodel.
Bear’s personal line of jewellery pairs classic and wearable shapes with a high level of engineering and precise mechanics. Her simple gold hoops are a stand-out creation due to their clever fitting that slots into the back, eliminating the gap, creating a seamless hoop. For her namesake, Bear incorporates a fur texture that is both organic and modern. When it comes to Bear’s prices, an investment in engineering will bring you comfort, durability, and flawless design. She credits the mechanics of her work to “an amazing goldsmith, who is an inventor of things” and who enjoys the challenge of finding perfect catches and fittings. Although her “Hatton Garden Godparents” remain a secret, she does reveal that they are a family business of forty years.
It is apparent that Bear treasures the past, and continues to collect antique and vintage pieces that draw parallel to the design elements in her work. When asked about ‘antique as inspiration’, she reflects on the amount of bespoke target rings she has created, and her style of “classic with a bit of a twist”. That signature Bear Brooksbank ‘twist’ reveals itself throughout her work, whether it is incorporating gigantic psychedelic stones (Pariba Tourmaline, she informs us), using unusual shapes, or keeping a clean monochromatic vibe.
Bear has been a gemologist for nine years, meaning she has vast knowledge and reference when it comes to identifying stones, and can determine the grading, color, clarity, and cut of a diamond. In the few morning hours we spent with Bear, she managed to answer all of our interjected questions about classic terminology, metals, and gems. Did you know that a ‘Gypsy’ ring is specific to a “thick gold band that gently tapers, classically with three or five flush set stones”? We didn’t, Bear did.
When I asked Bear and Erin, Pärla founder and owner, what they were most looking forward to with this partnership, both agreed that the merging of retail experience and jeweller expertise is an invaluable combination. At Pärla, we are committed to providing high quality jewellery to our clientele, and now we can extend that service to bespoke orders. Bear views our collaboration as an “interesting experiment to see how fashion jewellery crosses over with fine jewellery” and that “there is a market for both, it is just the occasion”. Engagement rings take a precedence in our conversation, and we look forward to seeing what Bear and our #PärlaGirls create together. To arrange a consultation please click here to get in touch.
BB: I think that because of the circular cage section, we will be limited in terms of how off road we can go. I think we should keep the cage, but what might work is extending them. At the moment there is a lot going on in that single element, so we could strip that back and use the pieces to extend the length. Because I think as soon as you do that, you can make the top stud detachable so that you have two pairs of earrings.
EO’C: So clever! You could even wear them asymmetrically!
BB: This top shield stud would be beautiful on its own.
IU: What do you think of the filament cage?
BB: We will need to do some restoration, but I also don’t think it matters if they are perfectly finished, its about reshaping and balancing the elements.
IU: With these ideas in mind, what will your process be?
BB: I will test the metal and have an initial consultation with my goldsmith. From there I can determine the best way to proceed. I will provide quotes and options for restoration, and then I sketch the design or lay it out in wax - sometimes it is best to see all the physical elements.
As Bear examined the earrings, she carefully considered their origin, and came up with a concept to prolong their life rather than give them a new one. My maternal great-grandmother found these while circumnavigating the world in the 1960’s; it was important to respect her purchase and turn the scrap metal of their remains into a lasting family heirloom. My favourite moment with Bear was when she decided to abandon perfection for authenticity, it was this underlying decision that maintained the earring's original beauty. In many ways Bear specializes in innovation, but what makes her a brilliant designer is her appreciation for what has already been made.
Interview and Photos by Isabel Ulatowski