Jeweller extraordinaire Debra Fallowfield is known for her bold, unique take on fine jewellery. Based in Dunedin, her clients come from all over New Zealand and beyond, visiting her beautiful Port Chalmers boutique just to meet her and have her create an heirloom piece of jewellery for them or their loved ones.
Debra specialises in bespoke one-of-a-kind works in precious metals and a rainbow of gemstones, and everything she makes is crafted by hand from start to finish.
A few weeks ago, Debra chatted to Verve, sharing insights on her life, her work, and trends in jewellery design.
How would you describe yourself and your work?
I would describe my work as unashamedly bold, unconventional and miles away from the masses. I guess my work is a bit like myself, I’m a Gemini, and a risk-taker, so I enjoy contradiction, and my work reflects this. It is expertly well-crafted and incredibly solid, with a mix of fine and contemporary, rough and smooth.
What materials do you like to use?
I love using high-carat golds, coloured sapphires (other than blue), and big juicy gems! I adore colour! I also love using grey diamonds, and rose gold.
From where do you draw your inspiration and how do you go about designing your pieces?
My inspiration comes from everywhere. I tend to see things in minute detail, such as droplets on a blade of grass, a shadow on a building, erosion, natural and man-made landscapes. A lot of my inspiration comes from Otago—it’s so beautiful, wild, and rugged here, so it’s a great place to be an artist.
To be honest I rarely have time to sketch out pieces. I go with my gut more often than not. Usually I’ll start with the gemstone and build the design around that, seeing what metals and/or other gems look good with it. It’s more about a feel for me.
What would you describe as the most significant development in your work over the years?
Having my husband quit the building industry and come work with me two years ago. We bounce ideas off each other and are quite yin and yang. Another significant development is the amount of work I derive directly from my website worldwide, which is great.
What kind of person wears your jewellery?
I get asked this a lot—my cheeky answer would be anyone who bloody well wants to! It really is a huge demographic. Often it’s couples wanting something more original than the run of the mill mass-produced items from mainstream jewellery stores. And other times it’s the mature couple who go for a stunning re-model, or the woman in her 60s who has worked her whole life and spent very little on herself, who now says, “To hell with it, I want something beautiful!”It’s always people who appreciate my originality and vision.
I don’t pigeonhole people or put them into boxes. Maybe that’s why my work is so popular.
What would you say is your point of difference?
I’m very honest and my customers appreciate it. With custom work being my main business, the customer and I must be completely on the same page. It’s imperative that I listen well. Too many jewellers forget that and go off on their own tangent. Because I do one-on-one appointments with my clients they get to deal with the designer and the maker. Plus, I am very intuitive as to what suits the individual. I take into account their lifestyle, colouring, and hand and finger shapes when they visit. It’s all about finding the right fit. I would never put my customer in a style that both them and I were not 100% totally comfortable with!
I use the best gems I can find whether natural or man-made. I’m a huge advocate for some of the latest man-made gems. They have the look and durability of a diamond, yet are grown in a lab so no new mining has taken place. This aligns with my personal values: I’m all about reusing, recycling, and using ethical practices. I think that this is why my re-modelling is so incredibly in demand, as I get people sending me their old jewellery to re-model from all ends of the Earth.