An Interview With Lily Blanche Founder Gillian Crawford
When did you fall in love with jewellery?
I’ve always been a jewellery girl as has my sister – we both love great design and fabulous craftsmanship – but we both married men who have no idea about jewellery. We always joke that we started Lily Blanche together because it was the only way we were going to receive beautiful pieces for birthdays and Christmas! In reality we are designers and creatives with very similar tastes, drive and ideas.
How do childhood memories influence your work now?
I grew up in a small town in Scotland and I was surrounded by incredibly creative people. My mother made all of our clothes and I learned to use a sewing machine at a very young age. My father made wooden toys for our Christmases – dolls houses and wendy houses and furniture for the dolls. My grandmother, Lily Blanche Sheridan, lived on the Hebridean Island of Skye and holidays were spent with her. She was an incredibly creative person and a fantastic cook. She even made her daughters’ and daughters-in-law’s wedding dresses when rationing was still imposed after the Second World War and gorgeous gowns were difficult to come by.
She introduced me to a wide range of craft activities, from knitting and crocheting to embroidery and even tatting. I was the first girl to take woodwork and metalwork at school and all my weekends were spent making toys and crafts.
My grandmother’s house was a tiny whitewashed croft on a loch. I remember being around the age of seven and playing on the waters’ edge and finding freshwater pearls. Scottish pearls are now conserved but it was a real eureka moment finding such precious stones in their natural setting at such a young age.
My grandmother had lived in India in the last days of the Raj and remembered the rise of Gandhi. My grandfather, whom I never knew, had been stationed in China in the 1920s and brought wonderful treasures back. My grandmother’s house was full of beautiful things – from big brass Buddhas to old photographs and lovely trinkets. In many ways, my grandmother was a sort of everywoman – so many people have someone like her in their family, coping during the War, learning to make do and mend, being inventive. She is the inspiration behind the brand and I often refer back to these childhood memories when designing new collections.
How did you start out?
I had wanted to do something creative after leaving school but there was pressure to pursue an academic course and so I studied prehistoric archaeology at Edinburgh University, keeping up my creative side fulfilled in my spare time. I was able to specialise in metallurgical techniques in the Central and Mediterranean regions during the Iron Age. This was when many beautiful items were made and I took a special interest in antique jewellery. It wasn’t long before the academic side of my nature and the creative side came together and I was trying out traditional techniques and materials.
I cannot begin to describe the thrill of finding a piece of jewellery on an archaeological excavation, of being the first to look at something for hundreds, sometimes thousands, of years. There is something incredibly tactile and sensory about learning about the past from the artefacts and structures left behind by our ancestors. Everything has evolved but what has always struck me is how incredibly contemporary and beautiful much ancient jewellery seems.
The business was started with my sister, who is also a designer and who had already established her own Edinburgh design company. We developed and grew the business together, staying true to our family roots. However, 18 months ago, I bought my sister out and moved the business to my beautiful arts and crafts studio in Stirling. My sister’s design business had grown very rapidly and in a direction which meant she had less and less time for Lily Blanche so we came to a mutual decision which has allowed the business to flourish. She remains a great support and sounding board.
What are your values and how do they relate to your jewellery?
Family values are very important to me along with the sense of being true to yourself and your creative roots. I was given a very good piece of advice when I first started out and I pass it on to my daughters. It is this: Do what you love. Don’t worry about trying to make money. Concentrate on quality, design and great customer service and you will be successful. Get to know your customers – they are lovely people. Our business has grown exponentially because of this philosophy.
This may sound slightly cheesy but every customer is very important to us and they are parting with money which is hard earned. I always try to put myself in their shoes. What would I like in terms of service and communication? We go the extra mile for people. I try to answer emails and messages as soon as I get them even if it is late at night. If there is a special requirement we will try to meet it or find somebody else who can. Their lasting impression of the brand – whether they buy from us or not –is very important to us. It is the main thing we can do which big companies cannot and it is what distinguishes us in a busy market place.
Memory Keeper Lockets
What inspires your work and where is your jewellery made?
My understanding of history and prehistory is really important. I love visiting museums such as the V&A in London and the Met in New York. I always head straight for the jewellery section. I have a very keen sense of heritage and continuity, which imbues my work.
Here, at the Lily Blanche studio, there is rarely a single inspiration for a piece of jewellery. Ideas come together. But running through all of the Lily Blanche collections are the themes of sentiment and meaning, of celebrating life and expressing love. We love designing and creating pieces with hidden secrets.
Jewellery connects us with the past in such an individual and intimate way. Inheriting jewellery, even if it is not particularly to your taste or if it has gone out of fashion, is such a humbling thing. A piece can be worn every day by women of different generations. It can take on the patina of the life of the wearer. It will be smoothed and worn to fit them. When it comes down the generations to you, it is already pre-loaded with sentiment and meaning.
There is a reason that we mark important life events with jewellery and this is because of its endurance and durability. We want the occasions and people who matter to us to be represented, not by something ephemeral, but by something precious and permanent. This is the essence of our philosophy.
Our jewellery is made in our studio in Stirling and we also collaborate with small teams of artisans both in the UK and abroad for specialist techniques. These are all people we know personally and the collaborations have often developed from personal friendships.
Where do you source your materials and stones?
We use tried and tested suppliers for our raw materials, mostly UK based, who are, like us, members of accredited trade bodies. The Edinburgh Assay Office hallmarks our larger pieces using a hallmark they have designed especially for us. We also love collaborating with other artisan studios. For example, the glass we use in our Midnight and Dusk Pearl Heart Collections is made in Venice and shot through with silver and gold. It comes from a family of traditional glassblowers in Venice whom we visit whenever we can. If we see something beautiful and technically skilled and can incorporate it into our work, we will. It’s important to us that these skilled craftspeople survive.
What is your most treasured piece of jewellery?
It is a ring that my daughter now wears. It’s not particularly beautiful or especially well made. It’s not from a desirable or famous brand. It’s not particularly on trend but for my daughter and me it is our most precious piece because it belonged to my other grandmother –Agnes - who died before my daughter was born. Not many photographs of her exist. She wasn’t wealthy and the ring would not have cost much. The story of how she came by the ring has been forgotten but for my daughter, who studies history, the ring is a link with the past – her past, a very personal and precious symbol of life, love and continuity. In a funny way, it is why we do what we do at Lily Blanche.
Who are your clients?
All our customers are important to us and we have built up some lovely relationships with them over the years. We often hear the most wonderful stories – grooms who have presented their brides with one of our lockets full of pictures on their wedding day or older people who have been inspired to find a treasured charm bracelet.
We were absolutely delighted when Judy Murray chose to wear the Lily Blanche Memory Keeper Locket to a number of Andy’s main matches, including Wimbledon. Judy has bought a number of Lily Blanche pieces from our stockists and online, including the Lily Blanche Birkin Locket, she has tweeted to say Lily Blanche pieces are her favourite pieces. We met her recently and she told us she gets lots of compliments about the Memory Keeper Locket.
We feel our jewellery is special and we want people to feel special when they wear it. Much of our jewellery opens up and has a special secret inside, such as our Magical Charm Pendants. They are designed to surprise and delight and they do!
What have been the high points of your career?
We were delighted to be nominated in the highly prestigious Scottish Fashion Awards a couple of years ago and rubbed shoulders with Christopher Kane and Jonathan Saunders. Bringing on board some of our prominent stockists has also been great and being asked to pitch to Liberty London during their Open Call this year was such fun. We were delighted to get through. We’ve had a lot of support from Scottish Enterprise, the government agency, and knowing that they are backing us as a company with big potential has been incredible. But every day running your own business is pretty good, actually. It’s very fulfilling – even when the days are long and we are burning the midnight oil.
What drives you and what do you want to achieve with your work in the future? Do you feel like you have already ‘arrived’?
We want to keep fulfilling our customers’ expectations, designing great collections and growing the brands. I have lots of little milestones and goals for the company and it is great when we achieve these. I don’t think we’ll ever “arrive” – I hope not. We are enjoying the journey too much!
At Lily Blanche, we really value loyalty. Many of our customers return to shop with us again and again. In fact, the last time I looked every fourth piece of jewellery was purchased by someone who had already shopped with us.
Our customers are lovely people and often leave us a review or a comment on our Facebook page. (Read all our reviews here https://uk.trustpilot.com/review/lilyblanche.com) We really value this feedback and the relationship we have with them. In the early days of Lily Blanche, they really kept us going.
If we have a long day or if a new design is proving tricky, a kind comment on our Facebook or Instagram page really spurs us on. Now, nearly every new development in the business has come about because of a suggestion from a customer.
We’ve been trying to think of a way to reward the loyalty of Lily Blanche customers and so we are launching a competition just for them.
Just share a photo or video of you and your Lily Blanche jewellery to Facebook, Instagram or Twitter for a chance to win a £100 worth of Lily Blanche jewellery of your choice and to be featured on our page. Please remember to tag us or we won’t be able to find you. Just follow us or like our page on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter @lilyblanchejewellery and include #mylilyblanche and/or #lilyblanchejewellery.
If enough people join, we plan to run this competition several times a year. It’s a good one to get in early on as we are planning to find a way to give those that join early multiple opportunities to win. If you have already sent us a photo and it has been posted, you should already be included. Please feel free to message or email us hello @lilyblanche.com to check that you are in. We will post more details in due course, so ensure you are signed up to our VIP list to be alerted to the draw. https://www.lilyblanche.com/newsletter
We’re really looking forward to connecting with you, seeing your photos and having some fun.
Gillian & the Lily Blanche team.
Terms & conditions apply.
All the best ideas at Lily Blanche come from our customers. We have a lovely group of followers on Facebook who provide really great feedback for the business so when our customer, Heather Urbanczyk, asked about matching earrings and bracelets for our bestselling Memory Keeper Locket, our design team got their sketch books out.
The Memory Keeper Locket is a really unusual piece of jewellery in that it takes six photos. It is based on a vintage design, inspired by the jewel box of my grandmother Lily Blanche Sheridan. Because it is so special, we had been stumped in the past when we had thought about adding to the collection. We didn’t want anything gimmicky or anything that would diminish this unique locket.
The bracelet and earrings had to be lovely to wear with or without the Memory Keeper Locket, they had to be elegant and they had to pass the Lily Blanche quality test. As our customers know, we use a very high quantity and quality of precious metal in our jewellery. This gives it an “heirloom” quality and means that pieces will last.
We had a very successful brainstorming session in which we took as the starting point for the collection, the motif at the ends of the Memory Keeper. It is decorative and pretty and looked great when we reduced the scale of it to make it into a link for the bracelet and a button for the earrings.
From there, it was simply a case of building a repeat design. We made a prototype and we were really delighted with the way it turned out. We made the backs of the bracelet links smooth so that that bracelet can be personalised with engraving and added an extension chain so that the bracelet will fit wrists up to 9.5 inches. We also send the bracelets to the Edinburgh Assay Office for testing and hallmarking so that our customers have a guarantee of quality. If you like stud earrings, these are great. They are really eye-catching but incredibly easy to wear. We love pieces which work for every day but are good enough for special occasions and these fit the bill perfectly.
After testing the bracelet, we added an integral extension chain which takes the bracelet length from 8 inches to 9.5 inches and so will fit most wrists. Then we put them into production and the first batch of Memory Keeper bracelets and earrings is now available online in sterling silver, gold, rose gold and white gold vermeil at www.lilyblanche.com. We will look at adapting the earring to make a drop style next. We hope you like them.
There Is Still Time To Order A Filled Locket From Lily Blanche
We will be sizing and filling lockets right up until Christmas week. Please feel free to order your locket and send over the photos at your leisure.
Returns have been extended to January 14 2019
Our last order dates for Christmas are:
UK Free Standard Delivery - order by noon Tuesday December 18
UK Express Delivery – order by 3pm Friday December 21
Europe – order by Thursday December 13
USA, Australia and New Zealand – order by Sunday December 9
Rule number one - don't panic. We've got this. You are our customer and we won't let you down. That, in a nutshell, is our philosophy. There is still plenty of time to shop online for Christmas at Lily Blanche
Every Lily Blanche customer is important to us and we will do everything in our power to ensure that you are not just satisfied but delighted with our service. Last Christmas every single Lily Blanche Christmas order was delivered on time. This year, the volume of orders has doubled but we are organised to repeat the feat.
We know that you are really busy, you have a million things to attend to and it is impossible to keep track of everything you buy online but we are really, really experienced in sending parcels so here is what happens when you buy from us.
Your order is made with care
Your order is made with care. It is checked and given a final polish before it leaves the studio. Your chosen piece of jewellery goes into a gift box with some extra tissue paper inside to protect it in transit. The box is tied with ribbon and a branded polish cloth goes in with it.
Your gift box goes into a sturdy cardboard outer lined with two sheets of bespoke tissue paper. We add a little spray of Tom Ford’s Eau De Soleil Blanc scent between the sheets to give a lovely Christmassy perfume when you open the box. Next, we place one of our luxurious lookbooks on top of the tissue. Your invoice and some little treats go into an envelope with your name on it. If you choose our gift service to send direct to the recipient, we will leave out the invoice and pop in a gift card with your personalised message.
The whole box is then checked and sealed. Your label is printed and Royal Mail tracking labels are put on it. Finally, your box is photographed for our records, your tracking number is recorded and you are emailed with it. The orders are hand-delivered every afternoon directly to our local Royal Mail depot where we know the delivery guys and they take the same care and trouble with your order that we do. Royal Mail will deliver 130 million parcels this Christmas.
For our free shipping service, we ask that you allow five working days. If you have ordered a filled locket please allow two extra days from receipt of the photos. Royal Mail is massively busy at present and the tracking website is not always working but this is a hugely reliable service. If you have not received an order within ten working days of receiving the Lily Blanche shipping email, do please contact us.
If you do not receive the shipping email, please check your junk mail file.
I hope this information helps you understand our service. You can have complete confidence in it. We take it very seriously.
Have a wonderful Christmas and I hope there is a Lily Blanche box waiting for you under the tree.
Gillian and the Lily Blanche team x
Judy Murray, the tennis coach and Strictly Come Dancing star has been a great supporter and encourager of Lily Blanche over the years, so when we heard that she had lost her treasured Lily Blanche Memory Keeper Locket, we were determined to get a replacement to her. This unique locket opens up to reveal six secret photographs and is our bestseller. It comes in silver, gold, rose gold and white gold vermeil. Judy had bought the Memory Keeper in sterling silver some years ago - she was one of our first customers - and had worn it to all her sons' Andy and Jamie’s big tennis matches. We were thrilled when she tweeted to let us know how much she loved it. "It's my absolute fave piece of jewellery," she wrote.
So when a friend told us she was seeing Judy at a conference and offered to bring her a replacement locket we were delighted. A few days later we got an email from Judy telling us how pleased she was to be reunited with her Memory Keeper Locket.
What Judy didn’t initially realise was that, using our new photo insertion service, we had filled her locket with Andy and Jamie’s finest moments and, of course, Anton du Beke and Strictly Come Dancing were in there too.
When Judy opened the locket and discovered the photos she was thrilled. “OMG I love it,” she emailed. “That is amazing”. Then it was our turn to be surprised and delighted. “Would you like to come up and have afternoon tea at Cromlix House Hotel?” she asked. Cromlix is the hotel Andy bought near the family's home town of Dunblane and it is just a 20 minute drive from the Lily Blanche studio.
We had a wonderful afternoon, sipping Pimms,eating the most delicious Wimbledon themed tea and meeting some of Andy and Jamie’s biggest fans. (The tennis ball lollipop cake below is called a Murray Mound) We were delighted when Judy showed everyone the pictures inside her locket.
Judy likes the brand so much she also bought the Lily Blanche Birkin Handbag Locket which she is wearing on the cover of her autobiography.
Judy told us that she always sits alone at Wimbledon so that she isn’t distracted and doesn’t hear other people passing judgement on her boys. The one silver lining to Andy’s injury has been the fact that he has been able to spend so much time with his family, wife Kim, daughter Sophia and baby Edie. We even came away with a copy of Andy's granny's (Shirley Erskine's) famous shortbread.
To see the Memory Keeper Lockets click here
Read over 220 five star reviews here. Trustpilot rating 98% excellent
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There is no nicer or more personal piece of jewellery than a locket filled with special memories. It’s the perfect way to keep loved ones close and it can give great pleasure and comfort to know they are always with you.
At Lily Blanche we have a variety of lockets which take photographs - ranging from our highly romantic Vintage Heart Lockets to the bestselling Memory Keeper Lockets in silver, gold or rose gold. These open to take six photographs.
We have recently launched our photo insertion service for Lily Blanche lockets and this is proving extremely popular. We shrink, enhance and print the photos on high quality photographic paper before inserting them into your locket to create a highly personalised gift or memento.
Many kinds of photographs will work but there are a few simple guidelines to follow when choosing photos for the locket. The higher the resolution, the better. A good quality picture will shrink down without losing too much definition. If you have photos from a professional photoshoot, these will work extremely well.
Bear in mind the shape of the locket. Choose an unfussy photo with a clear central image with some space around it. A head shot works well. Two people will also make for a good image but please ensure their heads are reasonably close together. People standing far apart or with heads at different heights won’t work. Groups of people work less well.
Having said that, we haven’t yet come across a photo we haven’t been able to work with. Modern cameras are brilliant and take incredibly sharp detailed photos. However, old photos can have a real charm and we love working with vintage photos. Babies, children, brides and pets all look great in a multi-photo locket.
Theming the Memory Keeper Locket can be highly effective – all black and white images, for example or photos from a wedding as a gift for a bride or mother of the bride can look great. If you have any questions about choosing photos for your family locket, do please get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org
When it comes to romantic and meaningful jewellery, you simply cannot beat a locket. It’s one of the few pieces of jewellery which can be truly personalized and it has a fascinating history. While lockets date back to the 16th century, they reached their peak of popularity in the Victorian era.
Queen Victoria was the Meghan Markle of her day – a trend setter whose patronage of a particular item of clothing or jewellery would send it into the stratosphere. She was also a great romantic. Madly in love with her Prince Albert, the pair would go to great lengths to exchange personalized love tokens.
When Albert gave Victoria a bracelet with eight lockets attached – each containing a lock of hair from one of their eight children – it caught the popular imagination. The Gold chain bracelet had nine enamelled hearts in diffent colours - turquoise for Prince Albert; pink for Princess Victoria; red for Princess Alice; dark blue for Prince Alfred;trnaslucent white for Princess Helena;dark green for Princess Louise; mid-blue for Prince Arthur; opaque white for Prince Leopold and dark green for Princess Beatrice. Each heart had the name of the child and date of birth engraved inside.
The bracelet was given to Queen Victoria by Prince Albert on November 24 1840 three days after the birth of their first child Princess Victoria. There is an inscription to this effect on the clasp. You can see the bracelet in Kensington Palace where Lily Blanche jewellery is also sold.
Queen Victoria was a great fan of charm bracelets and lockets and this bracelet combines both. She loved sentimental and meaningful jewellery and popularised the trend for lockets.
Lockets allowed the wearer to keep loved ones close at a time when people often endured enforced separation for work reasons and travel was a time consuming business. It was also a way to incorporate in jewellery the new fashion for photography.
At Lily Blanche we wanted to create a truly romantic locket – one which drew on the the history of this wonderful piece. We found inspiration in a number of vintage pieces. We incorporated marcasite and filigree work and decided to shape it as a heart and so the Lily Blanche Vintage Heart Locket came into being.
This is our most romantic locket. We originally made it with a garnet stone but have recently introduced it in blue topaz. We have also made it with citrine and emerald for special commissions for Lily Blanche customers. The different stones give it an entirely different feel.
The locket has a deep cavity and we can fill it with two photographs, or you can add a tiny keepsake or message. The locket comes with a Robert Burns quote from the poem Ae Fond Kiss – “To see her was to love her, love but her and love forever”.
There is no nicer way to say I love you than with the Vintage Heart Locket filled with photographs. It’s the perfect anniversary or birthday gift.
Available at www.lilyblanche.com
As many of you know Social Bite is our charity of the year. Those of you who have left a review of Lily Blanche on Trustpilot may know that we donate to Social Bite as a thank you for every review we receive. But we also support the charity in other ways too and donate throughout the year.
This is the feeling I wanted to recreate with the Memory Keeper Locket. Family is everything to me and I wanted to create a locket with heirloom quality which was a precious symbol of life, love and continuity.
"We Want Our Lockets To Surprise And Delight"
We know that what makes your locket really precious is not the materials it is made from but the photographs inside it. Jewellery which is treasured are the pieces that mark important events on life's journey - a special birthday, a new baby, a wedding, commemorating the passing of a loved one.
At the heart of the Memory Keeper Locket is the idea of keeping loved ones close and of treasuring precious memories. In a fast-paced culture, we don't always take time to cherish these moments. I also wanted the Memory Keeper Locket to be something that is passed on through the generations. Quality and craftsmanship are important to us. We were delighted when the Memory Keeper Locket was selected for the shops at Kensington Palace and the Tower of London ahead of the Royal Wedding. Click here to see the collection
"Jewellery Connects Us With The Past In An Intimate Way"
Lily Blanche Memory Keeper Lockets are made in small batches and take just over three months to complete. The lockets are made of sterling silver and the gold versions feature 18 carat gold in a traditional technique known as vermeil. You can read more about this on our website.
Each Memory Keeper Locket uses seven times as much precious metal as it takes to make a Tiffany Atlas pendant. After the Memory Keeper Lockets are given a final polish, they are sent to the Edinburgh Assay Office for testing and hallmarking, which guarantees the quality and authenticity of the piece. This locket is often bought to mark a special occasion – a birthday, anniversary, wedding or the arrival of a new member of the family. It also makes a lovely gift from a bride to a mother of the bride telling the story of the wedding in pictures.
https://www.lilyblanche.com/newsletter for 10% off
We were delighted when Judy Murray, the tennis coach and Strictly star, bought the Memory Keeper Locket and wore it to Wimbledon to watch her sons Andy & Jamie become champions. We were even more thrilled when Judy tweeted that the Memory Keeper Locket was her favourite piece of jewellery and wore it on the finale of Ant & Dec's Saturday Night Takeaway. It was just as thrilling to see the actress Hermione Norris wear the Memory Keeper Locket in the series Cold Feet. Click here to shop the collection
However, every customer is special to us. Our Memory Keeper Lockets are our bestsellers and we often get to hear amazing stories. Some are heart-breaking; others are joyful but all are really personal and precious.
Our jewellery is not for everyone. We are not interested in mass-producing these lockets. They are special and we want people to feel special when they wear a Lily Blanche piece. The lockets are priced according to precious metal. Sterling silver is £250. Gold is £300 and rose gold or white gold is £325
You can see what our customers are saying about the Memory Keeper below and you can read over 235 five star reviews here on Trustpilot and on our Facebook page where we would love to connect with you. Please take a moment to discover the collection by clicking the link below.
Gillian Crawford, Founder and Creative Director at Lily Blanche
“Fabulous lady, fabulous jewels” Judy Murray tennis coach and Strictly Come Dancing star.
“I absolutely love it as do my family and friends. I’ve been singing your praises to anyone who will listen” Diane C.
“Love, love, love mine. It’s probably the best necklace I have,” Carole S.
“Excellent customer service, absolutely amazing delivery of a very special piece of jewellery and fantastic after care. Would definitely purchase again from Lily Blanche,” Emma L.
“I have the silver one for my birthday and absolutely love, love, love it,” Stephanie L.
“Amazing service and beautifully wrapped and packed. A joyful gift,” Lesley McP.
“I have bought for my 2 daughters and myself. Love them,” Pauline S.
Our Photo insertion service is now up and running. You can order pictures at the same time as you order your locket or choose the "fill my locket" option to order them seperately. STOP PRESS. You know have the option to add engraving to the back of the Memory Keeper Locket.