30 January 2017
Johanna Bjarsch Follin
What is the relationship between jewellery and international affairs? 2016 was a year when most of us started questioning the future of international relations and collaboration, with the Brexit Referendum among the main reasons. If a ring can symbolise promises of mutual love, respect and support in a marriage, could jewellery help strengthening all kinds of relationships, and help maintaining a good relation going forward?
If you ask Keith Gordon at Ashwell Jewellery Ltd, he is convinced that jewellery can be a token of inclusion and love between the United Kingdom and the rest of the world. This is a jeweller’s wish; his hopes and fears in the aftermath of Brexit.
There once was a jeweller who lived in a small village on the English countryside with his wife and son. The jeweller, Keith Gordon by name, had worked with jewellery all his life, and together with his wife he ran a local workshop. Gordon, a man always looking for a new challenge and new horizons was bored with the status quo, and when the son left for university, he decided to take his wife on a trip to Copenhagen, a trip that came to change their lives significantly.
As they passed jewellery store after jewellery store, Gordon and his wife realised that his newest collection had a similar design to most of the jewellery displayed in the shop windows. Gordon’s style has always been simple and clean, and during that stroll along the streets of Copenhagen it became obvious to them that the new range had a very Scandinavian feel to it. Standing on a windy shopping street, Gordon knew what his new challenge was going to be - he wanted to create a market and expand to sell his jewellery in Scandinavia. He named his collection ‘Nordic Bubbles’ as a tribute to the challenge.
Nordic Bubbles bracelet
Several years and several trips later, Gordon and his wife have visited numerous places and cities in Scandinavia. The trips are just as much about finding inspiration for the collection as it is about immersing themselves in the Scandinavian atmosphere they both have fallen in love with. The Scandinavian culture and the people made an impression on Gordon during that first visit in Copenhagen. It was love at first sight.
“I think you have moments that you know will come to have an impact on your life. When you first meet your future husband or wife there is a chemistry, you know that person will mean a lot to you. It may sound silly, but I felt the same when I visited Scandinavia the first time,” he tells the LINK.
The decision to expand to Scandinavia was not only based on their simple jewellery design, but also because of that chemistry. The couple liked the Scandinavian culture and the Scandinavian people, and Gordon emphasises that the desire to create a relationship with this place and these people drove that goal and challenge.
2016 came to change the challenge Gordon had set up for the expansion to Scandinavia. It's now not only about expanding to Scandinavia to hopefully sell a few pieces of jewellery and get to enjoy the countries in the north. No, 2016 and Brexit gave the challenge a whole new meaning and importance for Gordon, and he admits that Brexit in a bizarre way has changed his dreams for the future.
“One year ago, my desire to expand to Scandinavia was purely about developing the market and making a business. Brexit changed that, Brexit makes me want to send out a message to the world that we still want to be part of the international community,” he says.
Gordon fears that the United Kingdom is sending out the wrong message to the world as they voted to leave the EU. This fear is now the main driver for the expansion to Scandinavia; he wants to show that not everyone in the UK wants to leave the community, that there is still a large part who wants to be included and who are inclusive. His quest to create friendship through jewellery is completely genuine.
“Design is infinite and I hope the relationships created through it will be too. Whenever I design something, an engagement ring for example, I hope that the relationship it symbolises will last for a long time. The art of jewellery is that it is a product that engages, a product that cross nationalities and religion, and that is engaging. I think jewellery can play a massive part in connecting people and making them more inclusive,” Gordon tells the LINK.
Some may dismiss Gordon’s ideas, but it is advisable to pause and reconsider. Anyone who knows their ancient history can see that Gordon might be onto something.
“Consider the old power structures of ancient Egypt; on top were the Pharaohs, followed by the clergy and then jewellers. Jewellers had an important role in their society and I hope that my little spot on humanity could be that I, a simple jeweller reached out to touch others and create relationships through my art,” Gordon tells the LINK.
Jewellery might be the oldest form of flattery. Going back to the stone age, a cave man found a stone on the ground and gave to his beloved to show affection. It seems like jewellery is eternal, a small link that symbolises something big; a desire to create a relationship.
“Through jewellery we can create friendships, and I hope that my jewellery can be that link between the UK and the rest of the world. Jewellery is love and friendship objectified - I haven’t yet made a piece of jewellery that made anyone unhappy, at least not that I know of,” Gordon says.
Despite the prevailing gloom in the aftermath of the Brexit Referendum, Gordon has a positive outlook on the future.
“I think the world will change again. The younger generation, the smarter generation, is more educated and more inclusive. They have no prejudice; they don’t judge people by the colour of their skin or their sexual orientation. This inclusiveness is important, and it gives me faith to know that this generation will lead us in the future,” he tells the LINK.
Jewellery may not save lives, and a jeweller cannot and should not expect to change the world. But Gordon hopes that his jewellery can be a token for showing the world that there are parts of the UK still inclusive. He cannot save the world, but he has an important message to send out - we still care about this relationship.