by Camilla Ridley
Looking for a special gift or a way to re-invigorate a precious heirloom? Jeweller Tarra Rosenbaum is making a name re-imagining existing pieces with her unique Aurora concept
Jewellery Designer Tarra Rosenbaum in her new Ridley London luxury printed silk Isla blouse in this season's teal Juno Feather print
I’ve always believed we’re all completely unique. So it seems obvious that our clothing should be tailored to fit our different physiques as well as our individual personalities and lives. At Ridley, we’re also passionate about craftsmanship and I believe the things that stand the test of time combine creative ingenuity and beautiful detail with incredible care and skill. And the more we wear and use these objects the more they move beyond fashion and become part of our individual identity’s stories. So I get really excited when I find things and people that share these ideas and qualities. Our friend Tarra Rosenbaum has been creating her incredible jewellery for some time. You may have even seen her beautiful pieces on our website or in our store. Her Aurora concept is something truly original and personal. I recently had a conversation with Tarra to understand more about this unique venture and the growing phenomenon of personalised jewellery.
Please can you tell our readers a little bit about the Aurora concept Tarra and what makes it so special?
When my Austrian New Yorker grandmother died, I inherited one of her rings. It contained an incredible old mine-cut diamond that was absolutely flawless, a timelessly valuable stone. However, it was set in a very heavy, somewhat bizarre 1970’s gold setting. Although very much of it’s time, it didn’t capture the qualities I cherished most in my grandmother and I knew it wasn’t the sort of piece I’d ever really wear. So it was either going to sit in a bank vault or be auctioned, a dreadful outcome for an heirloom that was the last link to someone I really loved. So I designed a new setting for the stones that more closely embodied our shared sense of style. Suddenly I had something I loved wearing that brought me much closer to my grandmother. The Aurora concept was born.....a personalised creative service that takes the most precious elements of an original piece and re-imagines them into a new customised design with more meaning and the very essence of personal style.
(Right) Tarra Rosenbaum's extraordinary Aurora Ring she made from her Grandmother's original diamond ring. (Left) Another Aurora ring in the collection featuring a octagonal-cut central diamond
Please can you explain the process of creating an Aurora ring?
Every Aurora ring is truly personal to each individual so there is really no fixed design or linear process. And the only way to judge a finished piece is what it ultimately means to each unique wearer. So I'm always looking to establish a deep, personal connection and narrative at the heart of each unique piece. Sometimes we even weave meaningful messages and mottos in. That’s what makes creating an Aurora piece so special. It’s almost like commissioning a wearable portrait with precious stones and metals. And like a painter, the most important part of the process is really getting to know each client. Every custom piece of Aurora jewellery begins with a conversation, an exploration together and we collaborate throughout the process. We decide what shape would work for them and their stones, what colours and finishes speak to them, what values and emotions they're looking for the piece to express and how to best bring their unique story to life. Detailed measurements are taken of each stone as well as fitting measurements such as ring size and we set off on a unique creative journey together.
Jewellery designer Tarra Rosenbaum relaxes in her favourite Ridley London floral Margot maxi dress. And designing a new bespoke piece in her London studio
If it is an intricate design I will send a CAD drawing to each client as well as creating a hand-painted visualization to allow each customer to experience each piece before it is cast.
Another wonderful tool I have is the Aurora simulator which you can explore making your own ring here. http://www.aurora.tarrarosenbaum.com/make-it-yours/ Communication takes place regularly throughout each project via email and video and when needed we can meet one-on-one throughout the process. At final delivery of the piece we meet in person to check all fittings and sizing.
What role does craftsmanship play and how does this add value?
A number of specialist craftsmen are employed on the creation of each piece. For example I work with probably the very best Master Pavé setter working today who happens to be based in London. He is an absolute perfectionist and his knowledge and precision makes an incredible difference to every piece. Not only does he ensure that every stone is held with absolute security but he knows exactly how to set each stone to bring out its natural character and achieve just the right level of sparkle. I have also refined several specialist techniques only rarely used within contemporary jewellery. For example the ancient method of vitreous enamel which brings in all those jewel-like colours that one can choose to compliment their centre stone. The enameler I work with, again is an incredible artisan with extraordinary experience who's worked on everything from the creation of gifts for royalty and with some of the most famous jewellery houses to the restoration of priceless artifacts such as Faberge eggs. This incredible experience and skill combined with the finest materials really makes all the difference in the creation of timelessly stylish jewellery . Not only does it ensure each piece is visually captivating but it enables me as a designer to challenge design convention to bring each unique story to life.
Creating a classic, every Tarra Rosenbaum piece is hand-crafted here in London workshops using the finest materials and a number of highly specialised techniques.
How important is the quality of the raw stones and how do you assess these?
My aim for every piece is to create new family heirlooms which will be enjoyed for generations to come. So quality is vital. For example only 18k yellow, white or rose gold is used in the construction of each Aurora piece. And any new stones are always sourced ethically and meet a strict quality criteria. When I select stones on my travels I always meet the individuals who have cut each stone. It is not only important to have the best quality but to also be a positive impact globally with my sourcing.
The incredible bespoke Aurora collection featuring clients heirloom peridot stones complimented by radiant turquoise-blue vitreous enamel
Apart from the design and setting, what else do you do to bring out the inherent qualities in each stone?
Many people overlook the essential natural power of stones and focus purely on how they look. I truy believe gems possess magical properties. The glossary section of my website lists the stones I use and their healing, protection and manifestation qualities that will be imbued to the client. Stones also absorb and carry energy which can have an incredibly pronounced effect on the wearer. It's vital that the natural energy of a stone is perfectly aligned with its wearer so stones are always assessed and are re-balanced and re-energised for each piece. Different colours also have intrinsic healing powers, and can empower people in ways that is almost unspoken by people. I think we can all agree the different colours we wear bring out different confident feelings with red or calming affects with blue. But above all else, every day when I put on my Grandmother's Aurora ring it brings a smile to my face and a light to my heart.
I can see colour plays an important part in the creative process. How do you know if a stone colour suits a particular individual and how do you help customers choose the right colour stones for them?
We all have dominant colours that one can see in the interior design of our home to one’s wardrobe. I find this is reflected in one’s colour choice in the Aurora ring. I, for instance am considered a blue person and of course, I wear the Aegean Blue ring. The three black rings shown below are clients who only wear black. I know it is hard to imagine in a world of so much colour between two creatives like you and I, Camilla. But I also have seen people wear rings for specific seasons and choose a Devilish Red enamel with a garnet for autumn and in the summer months choose angelic white with a turquoise stone; so it depends if the ring is to be worn everyday or as an accessory as to how one would choose their colour.
Have you seen a growth in popularity for personalised and bespoke jewellery and is this part of a wider trend?
Yes, more and more there is a yearning… People are turning away from a “latest, hot new style attitude” to one more personalised and authentic. And like a lot of luxury industries, this trend is also spreading across jewellery. It could be a reaction to the increasing pace of technological and social change. Given this, it seems ironic that technology is also the force that’s bringing businesses closer to identifying and delivering more personally tailored products and services. But in a fast changing world I think people take assurance from things which have always stood the test of time like craftsmanship and authenticity.
Two of Tarra Rosenbaum's bespoke projects including her ring for Gail.
Tell us about your favourite piece you've made for an individual customer?
It’s almost impossible to narrow it down to favourites, especially since each piece has been a unique journey. I do look back though and still enjoy Gail’s ring. It’s inspiration begins with a story that sparks the imagination: Cupid’s arrow, two gorgeous people come together and their children surround them. A union of pure love. Using her family heirloom diamonds and gold rings that I re-purposed to bring this ring to life. Before the diamonds were used I energetically cleaned and re-energised them.
Please tell us a little bit about your relationship with fashion? What clothes do you like wearing Tarra?
Personally I go between a girly dress to jeans and a blazer or sweater. But lately I have been craving skirts, like the beautiful printed silk maxi skirts you create instead of the restriction of jeans. So it is really a moving target; look out Ridley I have my eye on you. I don’t know if I told you but my mom was a New York fashion designer so I grew up around bespoke clothing and dresses were made to order. If I am to look at my closet it includes many bespoke pieces from my travels around the world and some precious ones that have been added here in London. My tuxedo jacket I had made in HK, along with a bunch of buttoned shirts have been staples. I think I will always prefer a collared button shirt such as my beautiful Ridley London floral silk Isla shirt or a crisp white and some with cuffs for wearing my cufflinks.
A collection of Aurora rings by Tarra Rosenbaum featuring a range of shapes and complimentary vitreous enamel detailing
Whats your favourite item of clothing right now and how does it make you feel?
This year I have two favourite items. My Ridley London Margot silk maxi dress is top of the list and has gone on every trip, meeting and special event. The compliments have been non-stop which always makes one feel extra good.
Tarra will be making a special appearance at our Ridley & Co store in Barnes on 19 November to showcase her latest collection and discuss personal commissions. She will be in store from 11am until closing and there will be a special drinks evening from 5-8pm where you can meet Tarra and learn more about her bespoke offer. For more information visit her website