The wonderings, ponderings and other 'ings' of me. Lifestyle, review, news and opinion posts. Chic with a hint of sarcasm... hopefully!

Monday, 29 December 2014

Christmas Competition - Post 2 of 3 - Susie Watson Designs.

While in my head I'm a natural, in reality interior design is not something I'm all that.... weeeell good at.  Put bluntly a monkey would probably do a better job at refurbishing your lounge than I would.  However Susie Watson Designs appeared in Cambridge a few months ago and while it does include a great deal of pastel, the intricate designs and individuality of the items available intrigued me.  As did where they were made and how those that made the products were treated. 

Luckily I got to meet Susie Watson and any fears I had of  a 'bangladash-style' situation was alleviated.  Hearing how she won't compromise on quality or the treatment of her workers was refreshing to say the least.  She visits the factories in Sri Lanka and India regularly and was present at one of the recent 'lunch parties' they had - a gathering of workers under a tree outside the factory in the Indian summer heat.  Seeing also the hand painting on the kitchen wear peaked my interest in what else might be available and luckily a Pinterest competition win meant I got to see more of these goodies up close.  

A runner decorated with angels, Christmas trees and hearts was the centre piece and really gave a touch of class to my festive table.  The heavy glass candle stick holders were proper cluedo types, good for whacking someone - should you be so inclined and the taper candles burn silky smooth while the wick stays nice and long.  The sign of a good quality I think.  

The tea light holders with their glitter edging and finally the small table candle with it's cute bird motif were the perfect finishing touches.  I also received a calendar showing what's to be available throughout the year.  All in all it's really made me think about what I bring into my home, which I am sure both my husband and our bank balance will be glad of!

PS. though currently there's a sale so really I'm saving money, right?
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Monday, 22 December 2014

Christmas Competition - Post 1 of 3 - Tom Smith Crackers


You know you wait years to win a competition then three come along in one month.  I've been insanely lucky these past few weeks and so I've decided to blog on the winnings to show what generous companies are giving away.  First come, first blogged therefore today it's Tom Smith Christmas Crackers.

This year we are hosting our second ever Christmas dinner and I'd never really given much thought to the crackers, they were always the bit that made the table all messy at the end.  This year it'll be different.

Tom Smith are the Mac Daddy of cracker makers, they used to make them for Queen Vic. There's something uber cool about holding a cracker made by the original maker, like I have a direct link to Victorian times - without having to endure the child labour and syphilis that was rife at the time. 

It goes that Tom saw some fancy sweets in Paris and thought 'whatever the french can do I can do better' thus cementing our international relations!  He then added the bang (which he thought of when he heard a log crackle in a fireplace) and further embellished with poems, which became jokes and presents. 
 
But over the years these presents became somewhat naff and the humble cracker something of joke itself.  Cheap paper and the sort of presents you wouldn't give someone you dislike let alone a friend became commonplace. Tom Smith however still make crackers worth writing home about. 
On right Tom Smith, On left Tesco, quite the difference eh?
The first thing you notice is the size in comparison to the average cracker.  Like I said Mac. Daddy.  Next it's the quality of the material, more a fine cotton than paper.  The design is traditional and the gifts! Well I haven't actually looked inside yet, but I think it's safe to say there won't be any plastic fish flopping around my family's palms this year.  

No this year they'll be spoilt rotten.  These crackers have set the bar rather high for whoever hosts next year. 

Merry Christmas Everyone. xxx
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Friday, 12 December 2014

Victoria's Secret Fashion Show Report

The show that answers the question 'what happens when a really hot gazelle mates with a Disney princess' is back.  The Victoria's Secret Fashion Show is an annual event that's eagerly anticipated in this household, though I'm sure my husband and I are looking at it from rather different perspectives.

One of the things I like about this show is we always get background from the models, a little of their personality and interests.   I also love watching the fittings and seeing all the normal looking people busying themselves creating wings for those that won the gene pool lottery to wear.

Now, I've been in the London Victoria's Secret store many times but not once have I seen any of the more 'interesting' outfit choices from the show available for the average Josephine.  While the actual bras are enviably gorgeous, some of the other items were a tad bizarre.

I guess that's what happens when you give your designers a lobotomy, 12 grams of coke and then shove them in a room full of pom poms, coloured plastic, scantily clad supermodels and say 'go create and don't come out until you've proved yourself do-lally!' 

With Ellie Goulding watching Ed Sheeran (she's reportedly who 'Don't' is about) and one of the One Directioners sat watching his bandmate's ex Taylor Swift there were plenty of Made in Chelsea style awkward possibilities.  Were this a contrived reality show I'm sure the directors would have taken advantage of the situation.  Luckily previous model Anne Vyalitsyna has been noticeably missing these past couple of years since her ex-boyfriend Adam Levine, hooked up with current model Behati Prinslow.  Thereby continuing the illusion that all the models think each other are just smashing...


The Fairy Tale scene was definitely my favourite, however the black and white section also killed it.  The whole atmosphere, music, lights, vibe and the background camera sneak peaks makes this look like the most fun you can have at a fashion show ever!   

As if to prove the point here's Ed Sheeran looking to be having the kind of day suicide bombers expect to have after they've martyred themselves.

Happy Christmas to Angels and Muggles alike!

All Images taken by me from my telly whilst watching the show on 4Music
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Monday, 8 December 2014

It's Totally Fair - Mill Road and Judy's Vintage Fairs


Two fairs in two days and the weather gods behaved perfectly!  














Mill Road in Cambridge has long been where to go for unusual nik naks and all the world and his wife came out to play for the annual Winter Fair.  If you're into antiques and crafts, which incidentally aren't just for lavender smelling ladies you'd love it here.  Better yet if you like countless stands with hot chocolate, mulled wines and ciders (personally I prefer a warmed cider to wine these days but I wouldn't disparage you for feeling otherwise) you'd definitely love it here. 

Wandering around with a warmed sausage roll that rivals my own - big headed I know but you really should try one before you judge me - and watching a band play a funky version of 'Just Dance' while dodging people with freebie mince pies and coffee, it's only the 8th but I may have overdosed a tad,  was a perfect way to spend a day.
Crafts available at one of the stands

I got to have a chat with the Romsey Town Rollerbillies, Cambridge's Roller derby team who were featured here in my blog a couple of months ago and see how the girl that broke her ankle is doing.  She's fine, wasn't dancing around or anything but that's to be expected.  And we all got to taste some warming Dr J's Gin, a bottle of which came home with us. 

Judy's Vintage Fair
Next is the at least tri-annual clothes fair that has in the past failed to impress. Sometimes the clothes there are as vintage as Kendall Jenner's fashion career and there are always a few jumpers available which make me wish the jumper had never been invented.  However, this time the Sue Ryder Vintage shop had some genuine 1960's jewellery available for a frickin steal and other stalls included countless genuinely vintage dresses and accessories.  













It's always a good place find a really unique Christmas present and somewhere to practise your haggling skills too (esp. if you spend as much as some friends of mine).  It also just happens to be a great place to discover local jewellery designers and then to have a spot of tea when you're all tapped out. Quaint huh? 


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Friday, 5 December 2014

Time to Say Goodbye to Made In Chelsea

I've written several blogs on MIC, you can find them here, here and the first ever one here but this is likely to be my last.  Much like a heroin addict reaching rock bottom last weeks episode made me decide to go cold turkey and stop watching for good.

I thought the first series was utter tripe and swore it wouldn't get picked up (how wrong was I?) but then something, or rather someone happened, Mark Francis Vandelli.  I know were we ever to meet he would probably ask me to calet his car or fetch him a glass of champagne but his comic timing and witticisms gave the show a dimension it hadn't had before, likability.  He made the show watchable but even he can't save it now and here's why:
Taken from http://www.sofeminine.co.uk/

The Arguments never end!
Every time you think these kids can get along for two minutes either they f*ck it all up or the directors  insist the storyline needs another row and someone does something shit to someone else they are meant to care about.  While it has always been scripted and therefore not surprising, its like watching the same episode 137 times and I'm finally bored.

Sexual Amnesia.
Hypocrisy is rife in 'Chelsea'.  They may as well just come out and say "What X (insert name, usually Spencer) did by sleeping with Y was so out of order however in about 2 or 3 episodes I will do the exact same thing and insist it's different". And they'll get away with it as they all still want to be in the show so will forgive X just in time for the end of the series/Christmas Special.  We're building a repugnant generation by giving this sort of behaviour rewards of money and notoriety.

© Twitter / Binky Felstead

Binky's Lost it.
She used to be the nice, kind, normal one but since the whole Alex debacle she's turned into a dramatic harpy playing up to the camera for argument time. It's depressing to see her fall from grace.

Victoria.
The only bad thing about Marc Francis.  This woman has not a good word to say about anyone and has even fallen out with the only friend she had, other than MF.  Seeing her face most weeks and hearing the bile that comes out of her mouth is all too much.

Proudlock isn't as cool as I thought.
I thought he was different, more fool me eh? After the Lucy on/off/on again thing I've decided that while he's still the most sexually decent guy there - with the exception of MF -  he's a chicken.  Too scared to be in a shomance, but playing along to get time on screen.

Rosie.


Twitter. Spencer Matthews

Spencer is back.
I was talking with some friends a while back about who we would sleep with on the show and I claimed never with Spence.  "Oh you would.  You'd hate yourself afterwards but you would" I was advised.  I still hold I'd rather have all my hair pulled out with a pair of blunt spoons than go to bed with him, his persona is the poster boy for repulsion.  Three weeks with him gone have been lovely but all the adverts for next week claim he's back, and with a new idiot that has agreed to go out with him (had to go outside the SW3 area to find her though eh?).  I just can't look at that smug face anymore.

So I'm going cold turkey and its off the planner!  For the moment I feel good, strong even.  I just hope it holds on Monday at 9pm...
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Monday, 1 December 2014

Give me Liberty or give me Death! - Liberty of London post

 
Working part time has more than a few perks.  Traveling to our capital city when everyone else is encased in their offices and visiting Liberty of London during this time is one of them. While this famous store is well known for prints and designer gear, if you're at all into architecture it's well worth a walk around the building without the hustle and bustle of the Saturday crowds.  Taking in the ornate carvings of the door frames and beams next to the latest offerings of McQueen and McCartney is a cool juxtaposition of tradition and trend.

I love the staircases that takes you from designer handbags to the Christmas store as it's dripping with history.  The creak of wood that's been trampled by countless shoppers since 1875 conjures up positively Narnian images and the scent of oak and entitlement oozes out of every corner.  The whole building has otherworldly aspects, you can almost see the hands of ghost customers reaching out to touch the scarves in the hall.
I found Liberty's display walls to have a quality which beckons you towards objects you wouldn't normally go for.  You could find yourself 'remembering' how much you need that ribbon or tapestry cushion that's in front of you. Or after a wander through the intoxicating home-ware section all of a sudden you may be thinking "yes actually I do want a tea tray with a portrait of a monkey dressed up like a Lord on it" although a look at the price tag may sober you up somewhat.
or maybe not.
The haberdashery floor can make even the most creatively challenged among us - i.e. me - consider re-buttoning and thereby reinventing their coats.  British Designers and Vintage wear seems to be Liberty's lifeline and the fact that they have their own separate rooms show how proud it is of our British Heritage.

Purple has long been my favourite colour and I've worn it for years.  True, I over did it the first year I went ski-ing by wearing nothing but the colour all week and resembled a slow moving Ribenna berry for the entire holiday.  However from now on, as it's Liberty's colour it will no longer be reminiscent of my fashion faux-pas.  It will be a call to arms, to spend more time in Liberty.

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Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Facebook: Like for Like - why it's a bad idea.



When I was a kid I used to prepare for 'the Christmas card situation' with military precision. Large bumper pack of 50 cards bought by 0900 hrs 1st Dec.  Sorted into good, very good, OK and bad designs by 2nd Dec. Written and delivered by 3rd Dec.  Everyone would get one, classmates, teachers, dinner ladies.  Not because I was a kind giving girl looking to spread some Christmas joy but because I wanted to ensure I'd get that many back.  You see to the 9 year old me self worth was measured in cardboard and glitter, the more cards I got the more important I thought I was.

Today I got another 'like for like' request on Facebook for my blog.  Campaigns have been popping up for the past month or so where if you have a blog you can like someones page and they in turn will like yours. And I get the temptation, you both get your stats up enjoying that happy little glow you get when you see your followers reach three (or even four) figures.  A win-win right? Except it's not.
You see, it's a bit like me with all my Christmas cards.  I didn't have 145 friends, I barely knew half of the names scrawled at the bottom of cards bearing robins and trees, the caretaker didn't really care that I have a jolly holly day. Like for like campaigns don't mean our blogs are successful. 

Don't you want the people that 'like' your blog to find it interesting, go back to it regularly and basically ya'know like your blog rather than just be a number? Isn't your work worth more than a quick and dirty popularity fix? So while I understand those that are, I'm not getting involved with the like for like campaigns.  I'll just stick to writing about things that interest me and make me laugh or think while taking photographs that I find artistic.  And I'll be looking for blogs that do the same. 

Hopefully I'll see yours there.
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Monday, 24 November 2014

Trend Interpreter: Solid Clutches on the High Street


The high end fashion magazines would have us believe we are slap bang in the middle of fab clutch season.  Which isn't much of a stretch, we all know that once the Christmas lights are switched on the firework sparkly clutches come out in all their glory.  However the bucks you pay for these bags are more than a tad expensive - Bottega Veneta £1,610, Louis Vuitton £2,940 we'll have 2 of each eh, let me just get rid of this pesky kidney!  I walked the high street looking for their high end, middle ground and seriously affordable alternatives:

For the high end high street, Reiss and LK Bennett's selection ticks all the boxes.  John Lewis also have a fair few worth perusing.
John Lewis £99
LK Bennett £225
Reiss £110



 

For the mid range we're still in John Lewis (who says I'm influenced by seasonal adverts!) with these 'oversized old cigarette case' offerings but Coast have a little art deco inspired number for you to ponder as well.


John Lewis £59
Coast £85





Let's be honest, if you're just looking for something to throw your lipstick and phone in for one season spending a wedge of cash is annoying so Warehouse have a range for less than £30.  True they do feel cheaper than the others and have less of a reassuring 'click' when it closing, but on first glance do look just as chic.
Warehouse £26
However, if the idea of possibly having the same bag as the rest of the UK fills you with dread there are boutique stores to investigate.  Boudoir Femme here in Cambridge have this vintage 1950's clutch that will add more than a little glamour to any outfit.
Boudoir Femme £125
Let me know if I missed anything...
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Friday, 21 November 2014

Boudoir Femme Christmas Event

Cost: £25

Last night saw my style soul mate and I attend an evening at one of the most prestigious boutiques in Cambridge.  One of the many independent stores in our fine city Boudoir Femme, had their annual Christmas event and it's become an evening we wouldn't miss. Kir royals and macaroons from Fiona Patissiere were on hand as we entered, and every corner of the store had goodies for your Christmas wish list.  

While some of the garments are pretty expensive the quality of the pieces, coupled with the fact they don't seem to be available elsewhere in town, makes Boudoir Femme one of my favourite "if money were no object" stores.   I would like their website search function to be updated as it's not all that intuitive for online customers.  That said a browse around the shop itself never fails to build up my pintererst boards. Here are just a few of the things I'm hoping my husband has seen.  

Cost: between £20 - £49
I discovered Hultquist a few years ago at Boudoir Femme and have never looked back, as my jewellery box would contend!  These designs are right up my street in price, appearance and individuality.

Cost: £145
Ankle boots to live and die in, I just hope they fit my feet as I'm hoping to get them in any colour they are available.

Cost: £99
Faux Fur
This over sized stole was one of my favourite pieces in the shop, adding a touch of glamour without harming any animals.  Beware, if you get one you will spend your time constantly stroking yourself!

Cost: £169
Cute Evening Bags
If you're looking for that perfect evening bag then Boudior Femme is definitely a place you should check out.  Small and functional these bags won't set you back as much as a mulberry but are just as chic.

Let's go shopping! Shall I just meet you there?
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Saturday, 15 November 2014

Kiss and Grip: MAC & Max Factor Cosmetics Review

So I'm not a mega beauty blogger but recently I've been inspired to write about a couple of products that have come my way.  Of course by 'come my way' I mean I went in a shop, reached in my pocket produced my card and in exchange they gave me some killer colours to stick on my face and nails.  Some are a tad expensive others are softer in your salary. Neither of these makes are new or unheard of I just hadn't used them much before, though this is something that I will rectify in the future.

MAC Heroine £15.50
Honestly I used to think of Mac as overpriced but my initiation into their world has changed my mind. Mac's heroine lipstick used to be a limited edition colour but was so popular it made it to the permanent line.  Not for the faint hearted the purple of all purples is more than a tad in your face - I've had people stop talking mid sentence when they see it - but the intensity of the colour is what this lipstick is all about.  Better yet it just doesn't bleed but gradually fades after a few hours to a really cute pink.  The fade is one of the things I love, the colour pigment lightens but in a flawless way, not patchy and doesn't wear off in the middle the way some lipsticks do.
MAC Pro Longwear lipcream £18
MAC's Pro longwear is just that, a lip cream that lasts and lasts and this one is the best red ever.  I've never been able to wear a true red before, mainly because of the little vains of bleeding colour that seem to occur with most.  But with MAC now I can as the bleeding doesn't happen, being a cream rather than a lipstick means its softer and less sticky than other products can be as well.

I hope this isn't coming across all 'adverty' they haven't paid me honest - though that said if MAC want to send me any cosmetics I am sure I could find a way to test them. 

You know those varnishes you buy, shelling out between £5 and £25 (hmm Tom Ford?) that look great for a while and then next time you go to the bottle it's all gloopy and manky? Well these aren't those, Max Factor mini varnishes are the antidote to wastful nail paint.  Perfect pinks, ridiculously cool rouges and party purples all go on smooth as a babies bottoms and gleam the way gels do.   
Obviously they don't last as long but a decent top coat should get you a good few days before you need to top up or swap them for another colour.  As the bottles are so small there's a good chance they will run out before they ruin your look with stringy sticky brush application.  And being so dinky they are literally what your stockings are crying out for this Christmas.
£2.00 - £4.50 (depending on where you go!)
One of my sister's favourite jokes makes a fair amount of fun at us for our interest/obsession with cosmetics but seem a fitting end to this post, if you have a sense of humour about yourself that is.

Why do girls wear makeup and perfume?
Because they're ugly and they smell.

'til next time!
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Thursday, 13 November 2014

Your New Favourite Jeweller - Nude Jewellery

Ultra Pink Radek Contemporary Ring
Sometimes something happens when you're a blogger that looks like it's going to cause you a massive issue.  Like the pictures in your camera all crash or the template keeps shifting the text.... or you delete a draft on your app and it deletes your actual post, which is what has just happened to me.

That said maybe its a blessing in disguise as now I get to upload my interview with Nikki Galloway again.  Nikki is the owner of Nude Jewellery which is based in Mayfair and has been going for 12 years.  Nikki's items caught my eye a few months ago and I loved her take on conflict gems, her prices (some totally affordable and some that will be going on my Christmas wish list) and her unique designs.  Introducing to you Nude Jewellery.

1. Tell me about your designers?
Most of the designers are British, but we also have 3 polish designers at the moment and are due three collections from Greek designers any day now. We have over the years had designers in from all over the world. The main thing is that the designers are independent, their work is not mass produced, with many of the pieces being unique and individually handmade and that they are passionate about design.

2. Where did the name Nude originate and what is the concept behind it?
The name was thought up by two close friends of mine over a glass or two of wine.  We had discussed a few options but I still hadn't decided on anything. When I received the text from them I did think about it for a day or two but it seemed to fit. A nude painting is a piece of art therefore the nude reference is not smutty or rude, it's a refers to art and it also has a cheeky reference to the colourful history of the neighbourhood of Shepherd Market and the "working flats" which can make for an entertaining area to work. Although they are very, very discreet - this is Mayfair after all!

3. Describe the type of person that wears Nude jewellery?
Stylish, quirky, independent, detailed, confident.
Contemporary Silver Bracelet by designer Lucy Q
4. Your stance on conflict diamonds is really inspiring, what percentages of your customers request this information is it a growing concern and how closely do you monitor this?
It's a question we are asked more and more, we always source our diamonds and gemstones from reputable sources, this means that sometimes the prices of our diamonds are maybe not as competitive as some of the online jewellers but that's one thing I'm not prepared to compromise on.

5. There are many jewellers emerging in recent years, how does Nude stand out from the crowd?
If you want normal run of the mill jewellery then you have come to the wrong place, we are renowned and love unusual jewellery, but not unusual for the sake of it there has to be an edge to the design, a certain flair and sophistication to the piece along with excellent quality. At Nude we are continually refreshing the collections that we stock as many of our customers are returning and are always looking for something individual, therefore we have to keep our collections fresh and innovative. Our USP is that in central London we are a small independent boutique with a wealth of British talent that is genuinely usual and unique something that's actually quite hard to find (so I'm told).

Splat Cuff contemporary silver
6. You have such a wide range of designs, materials and price range with your items, how do you achieve such a range and who is your target audience?
As I mentioned before, I love unusual and innovative jewellery, I'm not such a fan of blah! (Can I say that?) so sometimes when a designer approaches us if I love their collection (when I say love, I mean slightly annoyed that i didn't think of it) I simply cant refuse, even if we don't really have space I will do everything to fit it into the store. The passion and love for a collection always comes across with a customer.

Being in central London in the privileged area of Mayfair means our customers are extremely varied. We have many business men and woman who visit us when travelling from overseas maybe once or twice a year, them there are the tourists. Alongside these customers we have some very wealthy and sometimes famous customers. Our jewellery is priced from £50 to several thousand. With the majority of our customers being men buying for their partners, I find that if they love a design or style then that is the main thing, if its priced realistically and they can afford it then they will buy it.  Our jewellery is priced fairly for the material, craftsmanship and design, and most appreciate that.

7. Where do you gather your inspiration for the next collection?
I need to have blinkers I think as its hard not to be influenced by other designers especially when part of your job is to find the best jewellery collections out there. This is probably why it takes us so long to launch new collections, and makes it tricky. I do have a new collection that is being launched in the new year. At the moment we are in the prototype stage which can be fun and a little like play school at times. I love sixties style, Mary Quant, Bibba and I have recently found clothes designer Ossie Clark from the same era this style does influence me somewhat, the sixties style is just so super cool, I love Jane Fonda in the classic film Barbarella. I also love edgy and alternative with a little grunge thrown in for good measure!

8. Do you actively encourage and look out for new talent?
Always, New talent is what keeps the industry fresh, it's necessary.  Every year at Nude Jewellery we run our "Graduates in the Spotlight" competition which is open to any jewellery designer/maker who has graduated within the past 12 months, the competition has grown in status over the years and each year we receive more and more applications. From the applications we work through them and narrow the selection down to our three favourite designers, we then launch it on Facebook for anyone to vote for their favourite. The winner then gets a chance to exhibit with us for three months, a space in our store window and  featured on our website and within our social media.

9. Which celebrity would you most like to dress?
I think I would have to go old school and chose somebody like Madonna, an icon and somebody that has longevity within their industry. It would have to be somebody that I truly admired, that was strong and individual with there own sense of self.

10. Where do you see the jewellery trade heading in the next 5 years?
That's a great question, it has changed so much in the past ten years some aspects are barely recognisable. The internet and social media has made such an impact as it has with everything. The one good thing that works in the jewellery industry's favour is that there is a limit to what people will buy online and jewellery is such a specialised and personal thing that most people will see the item online, but many will call in to see it in person before they buy it, especially when it comes to the more high end pieces.

Ethereal acrylic cuff by Joanna Bury
Peaked your interest?

Nude Jewellery
36 Shepherd Market
Mayfair
London
W1J 7QR
020 7629 8999
www.nudejewellery.co.uk

Listed in Retail Jewellers Inspiring Independents Top 50 - 2014
Shortlisted for "Boutique of the Year" by The UK Jewellery Awards 2013
Listed in Retail Jewellers Inspiring Independents Top 50 - 2012
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