An engaging couple in Burton-in-Kendal

As St Valentine's Day approaches, we meet the jewellers who made their own rings. Amanda Griffiths reports Photography by Kirsty Thompson

When Tony Clare popped the question to Fenella Macmillan he did so with a very special engagement ring - one that he had designed and made just for her.

Tony is a bespoke jeweller - he counts a certain young model called Kate Moss as a former customer - and he now runs a business with Fenella, who is also a jeweller. She returned his romantic gesture by making their wedding rings.

In this most romantic of months, Tony and Fenella’s story is a tale of long-distance love. They attended the same art college but while work took Fenella to Spain and India and Tony to Canada and the USA, they kept in touch.

When Fenella headed back to the UK she set up a business in London and Tony came back north. ‘I didn’t have a workshop so I used to come up to visit him and use his,’ she laughs. Now, more than two decades on, they have three children Hester, 9, Hamish, 7 and Hermione, 4.

They live at Burton-in-Kendal and run Macmillan-Clare Designer Goldsmiths at a contemporary studio and gallery at Greenlands Farm Village in Tewitsfield, a short hop from Junction 35 of the M6.

‘This is the first time we have actually worked together, although we have shared workshops,’ says Fenella. ‘We have always done our own designs, even now we work to our own strengths. Tony’s jewellery is more geometric, he specialises in working with mixed metals, whereas mine is more delicate and feminine.’ The couple, both with Goldsmiths Craft Council Awards, concentrate on wedding and engagement rings but they also produce a range of necklaces, earrings and bracelets with prices from �9 to �3,000.

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While most are sold through small independent shops and galleries, Tony has sold designs to Boodles and to a leading Royal jeweller.

‘We have a mix of clients, ‘ says Fenella. ‘Some will come in and look at the lines we have in the shop but others will come in with their grandmother’s engagement ring and their mother’s wedding ring and ask if we can put them together and make something new. We can do that.

‘On the other hand you have someone come in and say they’ve seen a certain ring in somewhere like Tiffany’s and another somewhere else and can we create something in between.

‘One lady recently liked one of our rings with diamonds but couldn’t afford it in gold at the moment, so we’re making her one in silver. That’s another great thing about coming to a bespoke jeweller, because we make it we can make sure we work to their budgets too.

‘A woman had a ring years ago that she loved, but lost and she has never been able to find anything similar. We did a few drawings and she’s really excited that we can do it for her - that’s what makes this business so special.’

Ring of confidence

So, with romance in their air do the couple have any tips for wedding jewellery?

‘One of the main things I always say is that hopefully you’re going to be wearing these rings for the rest of your life so don’t scrimp on it,’ says Fenella. ‘You want to love it for the rest of your life and perhaps pass it on to future generations as Prince William has just done with Lady Diana’s engagement ring.

Tony adds: ‘At the same time, it’s there to be worn. It is precious but it shouldn’t be so precious that you feel uncomfortable wearing it.’

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