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Venetia Major: beautiful gemstones, bespoke design

HerCanberra Team

Canberra jeweller Venetia Major has come a long way from selling her first project (simple beaded earrings) for 50 cents at age 10.

Having been a creator from a young age, Venetia didn’t realise she could even embark on a career as a manufacturing jeweller until she saw it in a career guide in high school.

“As soon as I saw ‘Jeweller’ listed in that brochure—that was it,” she says. “I got a work experience placement at a local Canberra jewellery manufacturer, then a sales assistant job at a jewellery retailer, then finally a jewellery apprenticeship with another firm and the rest is history.”

Working from a spacious Canberra studio that she shares with writer husband Jack, her apprentice Kelsey and a cheeky Staffy named Caesar, Venetia’s days are filled with rubies, diamonds, sapphires and precious metals.

Venetia Major

Most of her pieces are commissions, which she explains are straight from the imagination of her customers.

“To design a new piece, the starting point is deciding on the gemstones to be included,” she explains. “If the customer is repurposing older or damaged jewellery she will have her stones already but if it is an entirely new piece then there are no limits to the stunning range of gemstones that can be sourced”.

“Once that is decided then the design can start to come alive around the stones.”

Venetia sketches up the design by hand and refines it in partnership with the client until they’re completely happy. Then the manufacturing process begins where all the metal components of the design, like the settings and the band, are made by hand and joined together. The piece is then approved by the client before it is sent to the setter to have the stones secured in place.

Necklace by Venetia Major.

Though being surrounded by glittering jewels all day sounds like a dream for many, Venetia says that the true pleasure of her work is seeing her client’s reactions to the completed article.

“When the customer sees the finished piece, they sometimes tear up with joy,” she says, “It comes from the relief they feel when they know that the family heirloom we have just created together is perfect and the family member they are honouring through this process would be proud of what they’ve done”.

Venetia’s inspiration comes from beautiful gemstones combined with “perfect design”. “If you’re making a stone-set piece then the stone is obviously the focus, and the design grows organically around that stone,” she explains. “It’s not hard to design a beautiful piece when you have a beautiful stone to start with. If the piece does not contain any gems then clean, simple lines and curves can be exquisite.”

Art Deco style ring by Venetia Major.

For many people, the decision to commission a piece of jewellery might seem out of reach, but Venetia says that many people choose to repurpose old jewellery rather than purchase new stones and that some options shouldn’t be overlooked based on perceptions alone.

“I love to work with platinum; she is the queen of metals,” says Venetia. “It doesn’t oxidise or tarnish, and it is so strong and dense that it lasts forever.  It’s definitely more affordable than people think.”

In 2017 Venetia branched out and started teaching silversmithing skills and techniques.

“I was surprised how much I enjoyed teaching. It’s just so much fun seeing the delight on their faces when their piece is finished and it looks fantastic. They are so pleased with themselves and you can see their confidence grow.” Venetia liked teaching so much she installed extra benches in her workshop to cater for the growing aspect of her business. Venetia has just opened enrolments for her Silversmithing Courses in 2018, which you can find more about here.

Venetia’s most recent creation made from repurposed jewellery has been one of her favourites—a Peacock Feather Brooch that took over a year to complete.

“It was an immense project,” says Venetia. “It has 49 gemstones in it and weighs over 20 grams. It contains a mix of diamonds, sapphires, rubies, emeralds, opals, garnets and others.

“The gems were all taken from the customer’s older jewellery pieces and the opal had to be re-cut as it was quite badly damaged. I stopped counting how many hours it took to make when I hit 60.”

The advantage of commissioning a bespoke jeweller means she can create anything from engagement rings to anniversary presents and re-imaginings of special pieces. You can find more about her work as well as examples of previous pieces here.

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