Diamonds are a girl’s best friend, so they say, and jewellery designer Gem Freeman is no exception to the rule

In the ten-plus years she has been creating her own pieces, Gemhas always strived to be unique. Her passion for the bespoke is reflected in the jewellery she creates for her collections, and this is something she is now hoping to extend with her new diamond designs.

Which is why she is using unpolished, uncut stones for her Bit of Rough collection, ensuring each and every piece retains the individuality for which she has a reputation.

“I was just fascinated that diamonds don’t look like what they look like when they come out of the ground,” she explains. “They need to be cut and polished. It’s quite a modern thing that people are starting to use them in jewellery asthey were used in the tool industry, because they’re indestructible.”

Gem first began the collection around eight years ago, working from the garage of her Hampshire home. But she now also gets creative in the workshop space of the Gem of England shop in Burley, which she has run with upholsterer and furniture painter Katy Hamilton for the last year.

“I’ve got the view and the light,” she says, “but I do get disturbed and easily distracted, so it’s hard when I’m wanting to do a new collection. But the way I work is very much improvisation, so it suits me!”

Each piece is developed by Gem as she works, according to the individuality of the stone.

“They’re all different,” she says. “Specifically I like working with the cubes, but you can choose the stone. With the re-visit of this collection, they’re all going to be one-off. Each piece I make will be photographed and put on the website and in the shop to view. If someone wants me to recreate a ring I can, but it won’t be exactly the same.

“I’ve got statement pieces or very little pieces as well. There will be a lot of mixed metals, because I think that really enhances the diamonds. The colours range from brown, green, silver but my favourite is white.”

The diamonds have not been cut and polished, which means they are internally flawed, so all have an opaque appearance. But Gem says their uniqueness is all part of the attraction, both for her as a designer, and for the consumer looking for something individual.

“It’s just really interesting because it’ssomething niche, different to offer the area,” she says. “People are always striving to find something a bit out of the ordinary. They are diamonds, they will have that provenance, but they will not have gone through the process of being cut and polished.

“They sparkle in the sun –I love them.” The provenance of the stones is particularly important to Gem, who has taken time to ensure the diamonds she uses are all conflict-free.

“My big thing wassourcing them,” she explains. “I’ve found, through Instagram, a company based in Antwerp and I’ve also had a couple from Canada. There are also some people in Mumbai and in London as well.

“I’m really enjoying the journey of learning about Instagram, because whenever I get the rough diamonds on I get the most interaction.”

At this point, our conversation breaks off as Gem exclaims a New Forest pony is wandering past the shop – something which is quite a common occurrence, apparently.

“We live in Burley now,” she says (the family was previously based in Walkford), “we are very much Burley people. “I love the sea, but I love the forest and New Forest ponies.

“It’s a dream.”

Gem of England, Garden Road, Burley

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