Pearls are always appropriate

These pearl drops are made with gold and diamonds

These pearl drops are made with gold and diamonds - Credit: sub

It’s not always diamonds that are a girl’s best friend, as Phoebe Cleghorn finds out

These diamond drops with pearls are perfect for a special occasion

These diamond drops with pearls are perfect for a special occasion - Credit: sub

Having been producing hand-made jewellery since 1987, Harriet Whinney Pearls specialises in traditionally-styled freshwater pearls finished with an artisanal touch. In a market saturated by mass-production, such a personalised service is refreshing and the brand has now opened a workshop at Windmill Hill outside of Ashill.

But why Somerset?

“Founder Harriet Whinney comes from an old Somerset family. She began stringing pearls and making pearl earrings at her kitchen table when her children were small – it’s an ideal place for small entrepreneurial creative businesses to flourish. Rents are favourable, landlords are helpful and the public know the right places to look for interesting, creative workshops like ours,” brand director Kate Power explains to us.

In the workshop clients can view the jewellery by appointment, adding to the exclusivity of the experience. Much of the stock is inspired by the Somerset landscape, with the workshop being surrounded by apple tree orchards, farms and wonderful scenery.

Drawing on Harriet’s expertise, you can expect truly striking designs with an exceptional finish.

Kate says: “The majority of the pieces are made to order, so we have lots of scope to work with different pearls and metals – we can work with the natural colour of the pearls so the fittings enhance their lustre. Mostly we have tried and tested designs, but sometimes people like to have something they know no-one else will have, or that has been made up using vintage jewellery they have inherited.”

Most Read

And thanks to the timeless finish that characterises each piece, they look elegant on a woman of any age.

While everything you will find in the workshop is very much made in Somerset, the pearls they use are expertly outsourced, which is what they think makes them unique.

Kate explains: “The range of pearls we use can be bewildering! We have rice pearls, Keshi pearls (Japanese for poppy), tiny pearls, or massive, more dressy pearls – and how they can be used is endless! They can be put into twists, chokers, drop-earrings, combined with diamonds for special occasions – or kept very classic and simple.”

What’s also striking is the affordability of much of the collection. While statement pieces are more of an investment, staple jewellery items comprised of high quality pearls and 9ct gold or sterling silver are extremely reasonably priced. For bespoke accessories outside of the generic high street, this is exceptional.

The popularity of the brand thus far has very much been down to the personal aspect, though, with the consultation service providing a truly special touch.

“We help people match the right pearls to the purpose – pearls that make a cocktail dress come to life or pearls that ‘dress’ a formal business suit are very different to the pearls you might buy as a 21st birthday present, or the ones you wear to have lunch with friends” says Kate.

In approaching their jewellery this way, the ladies at Harriet Whinney are able to advise clients on what is right for them, taking into account body shape, skin tone, style and personality.

They also offer a restringing and repairing service, as well as meeting basic requests such as earring holders.

If you want to test the water before booking a consultation, you can find Harriet Whinney at various events.

From 21 to 24 April you can find them at the Home & Garden Fair at Sudeley Castle, near Cheltenham.

did you know

1. They go to the freshwater lakes of Zhuji in the Zhejiang province of China to personally source all their cultured freshwater pearls

2. They are an unusual combination, designing and creating their own jewellery and selling direct to customers. They do not sell wholesale so they get to know customers, hear their feedback and provide a very personal service.

3. They show at special events from RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show to Sherborne Castle Country Fair. This is largely how they built up their following, and they now have people who have been loyally returning to them since they started 30 years ago!

4. A lot of their customers love wearing their pearls all of the time, and have confessed that their Harriet Whinney pearls get worn on hunts, out walking the dog and mucking out horseboxes. Because of this, the ladies make the fastenings extra robust.