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Fine jewelry online from Britain with a touch of butterfly inspiration

September 22, 2014

Pieces from the Astley Clarke Biography collection of grown-up friendship bracelets.

British jewelry brand Astley Clarke is making a splash stateside, launching at Saks Fifth Avenue, Neiman Marcus and Nordstrom.

Socialite/models Cara and Poppy Delevingne were spotted wearing Astley Clarkeís grown-up friendship bracelets at the Coachella music festival; actress Cameron Diaz has been wearing the retro-inspired Astley locket.

The concept of the line is that it is fine jewelry designed by women, for women to buy themselves. Itís merchandised cleverly, with an emphasis on collecting and stacking multiple pieces.

The business was started in 2006 by Bec Astley Clarke, whose background in fashion, tech and marketing includes stints at a luxury gun company, a luxury yacht company, iVillage.com and, most recently, working as head of strategy at Tesco.com.

Originally conceived as a multibrand e-tailer featuring the work of multiple designers, Astley Clarke set out to prove the viability of selling fine jewelry online, just as British website Net-A-Porter pioneered selling luxury fashion online. Then, in 2009, the business opened its own design studio in London and hired a creative director, Lorna Watson, with experience at DeBeers, Faberge and Dior.

Since then, Astley Clarke has found success designing and distributing its own branded collections. Last year, founder Clarke was recognized as a member of the Order of the British Empire for her service to the jewelry industry.

The brand has drawn inspiration from her heritage, namely the life of her father, Dr. Charles Clarke, an avid mountaineer and the doctor on the British expedition that climbed Mt. Everest in 1975, and her grandfather Dr. Cyril Astley Clarke, famous for his genetic research using butterflies, who helped develop the cure for Rh disease during the 1950s and í60s.

His collection of butterfly specimens, housed at Londonís Natural History Museum, is referenced through wing motifs used in different jewelry styles and on the print of the handmade, screen-printed gift wrap. Climbing knots are another motif, explored in 18-karat gold and sterling silver bracelets and rings.

The brandís offerings include several collections at varying price points. The Biography collection consists of friendship bracelets ($150 to $350), which are designed to collect and stack and include agate, quartz and vermeil gemstones or charms with meanings such as love, protection or peace. Each season brings new color ways and sentiments.

The Muse collection features vintage-feeling gold lockets with diamond details in the $2,000 to $3,000 range. Enamel stacking rings and bracelets in fun hues such as Cajun shrimp and heather bloom make up the Color collection and have an appeal similar to Hermesí popular enamel bracelets. The Fao collection includes rose-cut gemstones in molten diamond pave on cocktail rings, pendants and earrings with prices up to $12,000.

"We see fine jewelry as something to wear every day," Clarke said at the recent Couture jewelry trade show in Las Vegas. "You might have a bunch of bracelets from Biography, and then one really nice piece, the same way you do with clothes when you have Topshop blouses and Louboutin shoes."

 

 



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