Meet the Maker: RJ Spicer

R.J Spicer is a Cheltenham-based jeweller and goldsmiths who pride themselves on producing beautiful, original jewellery. Run by Ryan Spicer, their in-house master Goldsmith, they welcome personal commissions such as engagement and wedding rings from their store and workshop.

Ryan has been designing and crafting contemporary jewellery for more than 22 years, uniting his experience and knowledge with a real flair for understanding his clients’ needs and visions. We caught up with husband and wife duo Ryan and Lisa to discuss their processes and their recent move to online retail with the Rockin marketplace.

How did you get into the world of fine jewellery and goldsmithing?

RYAN – I started when I was 13 answering phones in a jewellery shop. I was doing lots of jobs at the time, working in different places including a building site and at an engineering company. I have always been quite practical, so when I was sat answering the phones I started picking up the jewellery to polish and fix it; whatever was needed. The owner offered me an apprenticeship when I was 16 and had finished school, which is where I started learning the trade.

How long have you been in the industry and how have you found it’s changed over the years?

RYAN – In 27 years it’s changed hugely. It was all about hand-making when I started and there’s a lot more computer-led designs now, with the introduction of the CAD processes changing the industry hugely. The issue I have with computer design is that you can’t repair items and that’s what I love most about goldsmithing; repairing and creating entirely new pieces from older, previously loved jewellery. This is something we love doing at RJ Spicer that not all goldsmiths/ jewellers offer.

How has your partnership changed from when you first started?

LISA – When we first opened in Cheltenham, the workshop wasn’t here. Ryan’s workshop was in Bishops Cleeve which he opened when he was about 20. I had this jewellery shop, so was sourcing collections and selling from here, and the designing and making Ryan did from his workshop. We had two separate locations for a few years and then when we had our first child I couldn’t be here all the time, so we moved the workshop over here. It all became one and it’s worked brilliantly!

Are you focusing on the more traditional side of jewellery making?

RYAN – I still have access to CAD and all the modern processes, but I much prefer the traditional way of designing and creating jewellery. For example, a gentleman got in touch this morning with a yellow wedding ring, but he doesn’t want to wear yellow anymore. He’s worn the ring for 20 odd years so it has a lot of sentimental value. I’ll melt it down to make an inside sleeve to a platinum band, so he’s still got his yellow ring inside, but platinum on the outside.

How do you go about the process of creating a bespoke piece?

When people come and speak with me, they would bring everything that they’ve got questions about; ie. jewellery they want to repurpose, or scrap gold. We look through it all together and that conversation will trigger design ideas. There are practical reasons that influence the design too, like issues with the existing piece. We incorporate conversation about their habits when using and wearing jewellery, as well as talk about personal touches like birthstones or any personal preference they’d like to be incorporated. Collaborating with the customer means that we build a picture up together, then it’s down to me to make something that they’ll love!

What do you look for when curating your collections?

LISA – I’d say my favourite collections in the shop are from when I have visited amazing trade fairs. The best one is in Germany, that I absolutely love, and I suppose when I first opened years ago I’d just pick up collections that I love and eventually we just built on that. In the beginning, like most businesses, what held us back was being able to afford some of the collections, and thankfully they’ve just grown bigger and accumulated over time.

We are also heavily guided by quality. There are occasions that you come across a really eye-catching pretty piece and actually, when you look at it as a whole, it’s not as good as you thought. It’s the look, design and quality factors that are our priority. I don’t think we’ve ever really thought of ourselves as being a ‘fashion’ jeweller. It’s not like we buy or make for ‘trends’ per se; we just love really gorgeous pieces!

Has that system always worked for you? Lisa as the curator and Ryan as the maker?

LISA – He’s always been the goldsmith, but I do get involved with the polishing on Fridays! Other than that, I have nothing to do with the making of the jewellery. Over time, from working together for so long, I’ve learned his capabilities and functional processes, making me more than capable of knowing what ideas and designs can work with our standards of quality. We want clients to be able to enjoy wearing their jewellery every day and not have to worry about it breaking or wearing, and we’ve very much learned how to achieve this together.

Do you have a current favourite piece of the collection?

LISA – My favourite collections are always going to be Manu and Bridget Adolph. They are very different in style but they just do it for me. I love them and they’re a standard by which I rate other jewellery. When I see their new collections, the quality is absolutely phenomenal, like pieces of art.

What are Ryan’s favourite materials to work with?

LISA – As far as actual materials. Ryan does love working with gold. He does say it’s just like working with plasticine because it’s such a soft metal. Platinum and palladium are so much harder in a literal sense. Specifically, yellow gold is Ryan’s favourite; it’s just a joy to work with.

You can now shop R.J Spicer’s unique collection of curated jewellery pieces on Rockin here.