The robbers who broke into my flat last week must've been gutted. There was no iPad 2 or iPhone 4 to add to their swag - just one box of jewellery on my bedside table. And by ‘jewellery’, I mean costume tat. Sorry burglars, I'm not sure rusty bangles that'll turn your wrists green, chunky neon rings circa 2006, and countless pairs of hoop earrings were quite what you were after… How embarrassing.
So now I find myself entirely jewel-less. Aside from the few items surgically attached to my wrist - a gold watch from Urban Outfitters and a stretchy beaded bracelet from Cos - I don’t have so much as a H Samuel stud to my name. 'Think of it as a project,' my friend Lili says. 'You can start afresh and buy pieces that you'll wear forever'. Yes, I’ll treat myself to something worth stealing, but where to begin?
My first port of call is, naturally, Astley Clarke. The luxury jeweller is home to an exquisite range of gemstones and boasts an A-list clientele ranging from Nicole Kidman to Nicole Richie. So who better to ask for advice than the Founder and Managing Director herself? ‘There are several core pieces that should make up every woman’s jewellery box,’ Bec Astley-Clarke tells me. 'These pieces won’t go out of fashion and will reflect your individual style.' So before trotting off to AC's bijou showroom, Bec gives me her gems (ha!) of wisdom...
* Pair of stud earrings – 'a pair of either gemstone or silver/gold studs are perfect for some understated elegance.'
* Stacking rings – 'to mix and match creating a myriad of looks from several styles.'
* Pendant necklace – 'the foundation to your look, something you can take on and never take off.'
* Friendship bracelet – 'the hottest jewellery piece of the moment, perfect to demonstrate your personality.'
* A pair of chandelier earrings – 'these will take you from the boardroom through to the ballroom in one fair swoop!'
* A statement cuff – 'make this the focal point of your look and you won’t need to wear anything else.'
Phewf! I might have to live on bread and baked beans for the next year (or three) if I'm going to buy all this in one spree, but armed with my wish list, I step from the hubbub of Paddington into Astley Clarke's twinkling jewellery box.
The lovely Anna Louise, personal shopper extraordinare, gives me a guided tour of the trinkets displayed in antique Parisian cabinets, explaining the meaning of each piece and the significance of every stone. Engagement rings are proving particularly popular this year (hmm, funny that) and AC have risen to demand by releasing a sapphire ring surrounded by diamonds perfect for K-Midd fanatics. The pink opal and white moonstone designs have also been a big hit for brides looking for an alternative to the standard sparkly fare. But being, ahem, groomless, I move onto the Colour collection...
'The bright enamel in fresh summer tones is perfect for all the colour-popping and colour-blocking that's so on-trend this season,' Anna Louise says, as I admire an apple green ring. It looks back at me as if to point out how perfectly it goes with my French manicure and rose pink skirt. I stack it with different combinations - it looks great with coral - and try it with the dainty charm bracelets and with that, I'm sold.
So my long lust list of gems begins with the chrysoprase ring, the moon charm bracelet for a piece of wrist candy and the aventurine pebble pendant as fabulous neck–gear, all wrapped with the finest handmade Japanese paper and Italian ribbon in a dressing-table-worthy box. I hope Ms Astley-Clarke will approve.
Now I need your help, dear readers. Are there any places or pieces you can recommend? What would be your first choice if you had to start over? And is there one accessory you feel naked without?
In the meantime, I'm enjoying the beginnings of my very first grown-up jewellery collection. Oh, and the shiny new alarm system installed in case those thieves come back. At least if they do, I can guarantee they won't be disappointed this time round.
by Jessica Vince