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Harriet Kelsall at the Make Your Mark Awards

Harriet Kelsall, bespoke jewellery designer and business trailblazer, presented the awards at Make Your Mark on Tuesday 31 October 2017.  She delivered an excellent, eloquent account of the importance and benefits of hallmarking.  She described her excitement in using the hallmark and her knowledge of it, the significance, and the stories of these “perfect and important little marks”.  Read a transcript below: 

Harriet Kelsall is one of the most respected bespoke designers and business trailblazers working in the UK jewellery industry today. She is the 2016 HSBC Forward Ladies Retail Business Woman of the year, was Everywoman’s “Retail Woman of the Year” in 2011, one of the IoD Director Magazine’s six “Women who have most changed the business world” in 2014 and is a Freeman of the Worshipful Company of Goldsmiths and of the City of London.  She is the vice-chairman of the National Association of Jewellers and a non executive director for both the Responsible Jewellery Council and the British Hallmarking Council.


She founded her business – Harriet Kelsall Bespoke Jewellery - in 1998 and since then it has grown to be one of the most highly regarded UK jewellery companies with many national and international awards to its name, most recently the 2016 national Bridal Jeweller of the year award.  As an innovator, she has revolutionised design within the jewellery industry, triggering an explosion in bespoke jewellery with her “Real design for the High Street” concept store in central Cambridge. 


Harriet is passionate about helping creative business flourish and is writing a book about how to start a one. She mentors other creative start-ups and as a successful dyslexic, she is in an inspiration to others whose talents lie in creativity.


As a champion for ethics, the environment and CSR, she joined an industry where few cared about such matters. Since then she has tirelessly campaigned for improvement – in 2011 she helped launch Fairtrade Gold worldwide and her business became the first in the world to be both Fairtrade licensed and certified by the Responsible Jewellery Council. She has been a regular keynote speaker on ethics and CSR at national events such as the BITC leadership summit and the Fair Luxury Conference and judges the national CSR Awards.


Harriet speaks up about equality for women within the workplace and on boards and also about maternity issues for entrepreneurs.


I am lucky enough to be asked to judge all sorts of awards and it is always an interesting and inspiring process but I was particularly excited when I was asked to be one of the judges for these awards.

One of my earliest experiences of hallmarking as a child in the 70s was my dad being asked to make a lots of huge silver bar pendants with display hallmarks including the special silver jubilee hallmark on them. Do you remember those? They were all the rage and really quite naff looking back! But what wasn’t naff about them was the intricacy and accuracy of the hallmark! One thing I did like about them was watching my dad carefully mark each one with a spirit pen to show the assay office where to put the large display hallmarks. Then he would bring them here to the Assay office and then they would come back to us in the post a few days later with these amazing intricate marks applied as though by magic and with perfect accuracy.

The hallmarks were the main feature of the design. As a young child I was amazed and inspired by the these marks and fascinated when my dad explained the process to me of testing each piece and how the hallmark told the story of the piece, the maker, the date, the purity of the metal, the assay office in charge of hallmarking the piece, the special significance of the jubilee mark. Then of course I would help him clean up the backs behind the punch marks then I’d help him polish them on the polishing wheel and the magic of the precious metal came alive, shining and glittering in the light.

These display hallmarks can clearly be a sales tool to any jeweller. The story of each mark can be so thorough – especially here at London where they still strike the date mark by default which to me is extremely important. But in my own experience every ordinary hallmark (not for display) is a significant sales tool. As a specialist bespoke jeweller, we explain to our customers that each piece has its own guarantee for the metal marked on it, often (in our case) including the Fairtrade mark too. Our business is all about telling stories and of course we tell the story of the assay office and the hallmark tells part of the story of the creation of their piece.

I love pointing out the leopard’s head to my customers and once they understand a hallmark, they tell me they look at them everywhere and get quite interested in the story these perfect and important little marks can tell.

I think it is great for designers and craftspeople to enter awards. As a student or somebody new to the industry, they can give you a useful deadline and help you focus on completing a project to a clear brief. This is very important. I am always amazed when I judge all different competitions, how many people don’t really seem to read the question or to follow the brief.

As a jewellery designer, following the brief is key. A customer isn’t going to be happy if they ask you for one thing and then you submit work that is quite another. So whether an application has followed this is part of what is judged in the Make your Mark competition

Competitions push you to go in new and interesting directions and set you new challenges. Sometimes I hear from students who begin to enter an award without much interest in the brief but who then actually become unexpectedly excited and inspired by the subject matter and this can sometimes lead them towards collections or career directions that they had not previously envisaged. Competitions push you out of your comfort zone and encourage you to strive for something new.

And of course even just by taking part, competitions can get you noticed. And if you are lucky enough to win, the press can be wonderful and help to kick start your career and is great for your CV. So I do always encourage young people to enter awards – it is a great thing to do.

But what are we looking for as judges?

  • Follow the brief
  • 2D or 3D is fine we look at both types equally
  • Hallmark integral part of the design (not just a piece that happens to have a hallmark). How are you enhancing your piece with the hallmark and how are you highlighting hallmarking with your design?
  • In an ideal world we look for something that uses the hallmark in an innovative way
  • designs that follow the rules of hallmarking. It is important to have a quick read of the hallmarking rules which aren’t that need to know them at the start of your career anyway.
  • Occasionally we see recurring themes – multiple entries from different locations touching on similar themes showing us and the industry the current cultural vibe and direction.

So on the judging day we looked through all of the awards with great interest and gave each quite a lot of time to make sure we all understood each entry fully.


For the silverware entries, both judges were unanimous in their decision that they could not award one clear winner as none of the entries completely met the brief of reach the standard for a Goldsmiths' Company competition. The judges are always looking for artistically convincing designs which can actually be made and which also would obey the hallmarking regulations, and the hallmark needs to be integral, not just prominent - but the main feature. While there were several entries that could be described as promising and some of the finished pieces were of good quality, the judges wanted the brief fulfilled, and they needed additional development in order to fully meet with the competition criteria. So instead it was decided not to have a clear winner felt that they did not meet an adequate standard to be ready for the award, so we want to use this opportunity to highlight the criteria of the award and why this decision was made in order to encourage a better quality of entries next year. Make your Mark hopes to raise the bar within the silversmithing trade within the UK so we are encouraging the designer makers of the future to please fully cover the brief, follow the rules of hallmarking and produce proposals and designs that would impress clients, not just judges.   SO please silversmiths – enter next year!


All silversmithing entries were also then reviewed by Dr Robert Organ, Deputy Warden, who did decide to commend one of the entries with a special Deputy Warden’s prize. 


We were happy with the standard of entries in the jewellery category. There were quite a few particularly interesting entries and so we had our work cut out deciding between the contenders on the short-list. Recurring themes were interesting this year and we did notice some interesting coincidental synergy between several of the entries.

This year we noticed a theme of personalisation, privacy, messaging , unlocking, integrity and approval - which is definitely echoing something cultural that we are going through as a society at the moment. Wonderful to see. Catching a cultural theme is something we all hope to be able to do as designers.

Many of the entries really did use the hallmark as an intrinsic part of the design in various interesting ways. There was innovation and evidence of good quality junior design thinking in this category.

Whilst we felt there was a clear winner, there was a very good runner up too. So we decided to award both a first prize and a runner up prize in the jewellery category.

So onto the moment you’ve been waiting for....the winners are about to be revealed!


First of all we will award the special Deputy Warden’s Prize in the silversmithing category :

Prizes: £125 of Cooksongold vouchers, a tour of the London Assay Office and free hallmarking registration including Sponsor's punch.

The concept of the “Take Your Pick” cocktail stick set had an interesting concept of the brief. Although it did not reach the level required in delivering an artistically convincing design in terms of the drawing, and the hallmarking rules would need to be carefully examined, the judges felt that the design could result in a high quality piece of silverware that could obey the hallmarking rules with the marks being intrinsic to the design….so it was felt that it deserved recognition for the theory.   SO the Deputy Warden’s prize goes to… Jessica Neil 


Jewellery Category Runner Up:

Prizes: Online course at Joanna Hardy’s Jewellery School, a tour of the London Assay Office and free hallmarking registration including Sponsor's punch.

The judges all really liked this concept called “At this Very Moment in Time”. The judges felt it was innovative and attractive. This is one I could quite fancy wearing myself. We felt that the design makes a comment on hallmarking capturing a moment in time and also gives a nod to the longevity and history of these marks.

SO the Runner up ‘highly commended’ prize goes to - Catherine McGinty


Jewellery Category Winner:

Prizes: Workshop experience and tour of Garrard, business consultation session with FACETS PR, a tour of the London Assay Office and free hallmarking registration including Sponsor's punch

The judges were unanimous in awarding the winning place to a very interesting design that was presented in three dimensions called ‘Unlock the Hallmark’. The use of the hallmark as the components of a barrel lock was innovative, and the finished piece unlocks elegantly to reveal a secret note inside. We felt that the concept captures something of the moment and a feeling in culture of layers and hidden depths of meaning, truth and authenticity. We did think about replacing the note with one saying “you won!” and sending it back to you, but then remembered that we are grown ups. Well done to the winner who is... - Charelle Smith

Well done to all of the winners and we hope that all that entered have enjoyed this learning experience. We hope to see even more entries next year.

Read more about our Make Your Mark event, and the winners of our Make Your Mark Awards here.