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Surrey jewellery designer, Jon Dibben - every design tells a story

PUBLISHED: 15:20 07 October 2013 | UPDATED: 15:20 07 October 2013

Meadow Collar in Fairtrade 18ct white gold

Meadow Collar in Fairtrade 18ct white gold

Archant

Like his jewellery, Jon Dibben's shop has a quirky elegance. Tucked away in a converted rural brick kilns just south of Guildford, the shop also has a comfortable tranquillity about it; a relaxed haven, attracting jewellery-lovers from all over the south east, and beyond. A hidden gem, they might call it.

So why do they come? Is it because Jon is an award-winning designer? Or because of his growing reputation as an ‘ethical’ fine jewellery maker? For a man who values simplicity, it transpires that the story behind Jon Dibben is more complex than you might imagine.

It’s a well-known secret that Jon’s career began as a teenager, living on a beach in Greece. Surrounded by nature in its rawest form, and with time on his hands to begin making basic jewellery, he developed a philosophy of devoted, careful attention to detail that still drives his company. Now, his history has come full circle, with his interest in Fairtrade and Fairmined gold and platinum. The initiative helps small-scale miners around the world, some of whom live and work in humbler conditions than he ever did. It also has a positive environmental impact, with the commitment of the Fairtrade programme to eradicate the use of mercury in the extraction of gold.

‘Transparency,’ says Jon. ‘That’s what it’s all about, really. We can trace the sources of our metals, as well as our stones, sometimes right back to the mines. We’ve met some of the miners themselves. It means we know that our raw materials haven’t come from areas of conflict, and that the mining process has followed Fairtrade and environmental guidelines. For customers making a really personal, special purchase, that knowledge is reassuring.’

‘The ethical side of what we do, for me, just completes the story. From the beginning of the creative process, I can say where the inspiration came from, where we got the right stone and metal; I can remember the ups and downs of the design and crafting of each piece, until the final polish, before it goes through the doorway from our workshop into the shop, or gets gift-wrapped for a customer. You only get that intimate knowledge by going direct to the craftsman. In the same way, we want to have that more direct, clear route to the sources.’

‘Our customers say they see my designs as future heirlooms. They appreciate the quality of our craftsmanship, and also the fact that we can remodel old family jewellery into something new. Sometimes inherited gold pieces can become new wedding rings, with an increased sentimental value- and recycling metal or stones is the ultimate environmental solution. We’ve also had customers come into our workshop to help make their own wedding rings, which really adds to the meaning of their whole experience. And it’s enjoyable for us too.’

So, the question of why customers return time and again to Jon Dibben’s shop and workshop is answered. Just as those customers find answers, from approachable experts. For them, a complex and sometimes unnerving quest for that special treasure is simplified by knowledge of the story.

• Jon Dibben Shop & Workshop, 40a Smithbrook Kilns, Cranleigh GU6 8JJ. For more information, call 01483 278170, e-mail info@jondibben.co.uk or visit jondibben.co.uk

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A BRIEF HISTORY OF JON DIBBEN

Jon Dibben has been in his current workshop at Smithbrook Kilns for over 22 years.

In 2012, he was named Best Bespoke Ethical Jeweller by the international lifestyle magazine, Sublime; and he was awarded the Blue Butterfly Trust mark by online magazine and consumer guide to positive living, Positive Luxury. Jon has also been recognised by Professional Jeweller magazine as an industry ‘Hot 100’ trendsetter, and his shop has been peer voted for two years running as a top 50 Inspiring Independent by Retail Jeweller magazine. His work has been selected for the last two years to be exhibited at the prestigious Goldsmiths’ Fair in London.

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