What can we say? We’re girly girls. We love anything that sparkles, especially if it reminds us of our children...
“Jewellery is an adornment. A personal statement of what you love and treasure. Your children are your greatest achievement in life, so why wouldn’t you want a memento to treasure this precious wonder.” That’s Sydney jeweller Claire Aristides of Aristides Fine Jewels and Bambino Diamonds talking about why her monogram collection is so popular with mothers. “I personally have a few different versions of E and C – letters in different sizes, engraved on a disc in white and yellow gold. And I treasure each one.” The two-letter diamond monogram yellow gold necklace is one of our favourites (letters of your choice are fixed onto a 9 carat white or yellow gold chain so you always have your children close to your heart). Aristides has hit the sweet spot – our children are our greatest achievement and there’s something special about a wearing a piece of fine jewellery that reminds you of this daily. There’s also something special about supporting a woman who is incredibly talented and devoted to designing exquisite jewellery. Now, the only problem is that you are likely to covet more than one piece from Aristides Fine Jewels (hello birthday, Christmas, anniversary…). While we were browsing the Monogram collection, we came across the new ‘Evil Eye’ collection – think stunning blue sapphires and sparkling black and white diamonds. We then caught sight of the ‘Black Diamond’ collection. Sigh. The wish list is getting a tad long. See, that’s what Aristides does. She designs jewels that you covet instantly. She sparks an emotional response in women. “Jewellery is very personal and is a tangible representation of an emotion or moment for someone. I am very proud of creating a movement, a passion, a style that embodies a sentiment, and this has transpired into two brands and a business that I love dearly,” she says. The second brand she’s talking about is Bambino Diamonds, which she launched after a trip to Italy to visit her husband’s relatives. It’s a sentimental collection of jewels for children and filled with the kind of pieces that your little ones will treasure forever. We caught up with the creative mother of two to talk about the growth of her business, her miracle daughter Cleo (you can’t imagine how strong this woman is) and how her own mother’s style inspires her designs. Photography: Jacquie Manning | Go to www.aristidesfinejewels.com and www.bambinodiamonds.com
Claire wears Zimmermann. Cleo wears Marie Chantal dress
How would you describe yourself in three words?
Warm, loyal and a bit quirky.
You're eight months into being a mother of two… how would you describe your household?
Surprisingly more organised that when we just had one. I think with having a second you have already have had that “complete and utter shock of what has just happened to my life meltdown” that a small baby brings. You already know that your ‘freedom’ is curbed, sleeping in on the weekend is a faded memory, and you are not the priority anymore.
What has motherhood taught you so far?
Motherhood has taught me to be more efficient – I didn’t realise how precious time was before my children. Pre-kids I took for granted the luxury of time. I am also much more aware of my mortality… one of the first thoughts I had in the delivery room when Enzo was born was… oh my, one day I won’t be with you. I had a deep sense of time and of my time here… cheer up Claire! Motherhood has also taught me that memories, moments, the love you have with your husband and children, time with family and friends that is what really counts. I’m often scrolling back through my photo roll and looking at pictures of my babies, remembering and cherishing those beautiful times spent together. I’m definitely more grateful and appreciative of what I have than when I was single and didn’t have children.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
It’s all OK. Stop sweating the small stuff. Be kinder and more forgiving of yourself. I look back at photos of myself in my 20’s and think geez Claire you were so self-critical. And listen to your inner voice, as she is normally right.
How did your career change when you became a mother? When did you launch Aristides Fine Jewels?
I launched AFJ when I was seven months pregnant with Enzo. Crazy timing, but hey I had a vision and it led me. I initially launched AFJ with a collection of cocktail rings, but that then became a much wider collection of jewels. In many ways, motherhood has made me more focused and ambitious. I want my children to be proud of my achievements and I want them to see that I strive for goals. I could not do the working mother juggle – if my husband wasn’t so supportive and helped me so much.
How has your mother’s seventies style inspired your jewellery?
Mum and dad travelled with my dad’s job during the 70’s and we lived the expat life in Asia. My memories are of a kaftan-wearing, bejewelled mum standing around the pool sipping Campari with ham and pineapple nibbles. Neither mum or dad had left Australia before this, and here they were at ballet concerts with Prince Charles with my sister performing. Mum embraced the glamorous 70’s expat lifestyle – I think we visited 10 countries in four years. Which today isn’t such a big deal but back then it was very jet-set. I have memories of mum coming home wearing a diamond elephant on a long pendant chain. As well as a tigers eye beaded necklace that she would wrap around as bracelets. She had a red jewellery case which she would carry on the plane with her jewels. As much as it’s a cliché, personally, expressing yourself through jewellery has definitely come from mum. She taught me the concept of having a key piece and the sentiment of jewellery.
What inspires your designs for Aristides Fine Jewels?
AFJ celebrates moments and milestones. We create jewels that celebrate an achievement, special moments. In many ways, we create jewellery that is part of someone’s life story. It is such an honour to be part of creating something that means so much to someone. My jewellery is often purchased for a 21st, a 40th, a marriage proposal, a graduation… incredibly personal and often emotional milestones. Fine jewellery design itself, centres around creating staple pieces, classic jewels to cherish, pieces that have real meaning. And that is what I love so much about the fine jewellery design process. It’s very thoughtful and considered. I still get such a buzz working with precious and semi-precious stones. I love working with diamonds and black diamonds in particular as they are such alluring but powerful stones, and I contrast them with delicate settings. My jewellery has meaning and sentiment, made with precious metals and stones, and holds intrinsic value. The whole concept of the diamond is so fascinating to me – especially ‘flawed’ diamonds as nothing can always be perfect.
What do you love most about running your own business and what are some of the more challenging parts of what you do?
I love that I am the captain of my own ship. But then being the captain can be a bit daunting at times. I have no boss, so I do sometimes wish that I had guidance in my own professional development, someone to guide me when I am not sure. I am also guilty of not separating home and work life very well, and getting the work-life balance right has been tricky. I have improved a lot with the ‘balance’. Having a second child means being even more focused and efficient with the ‘vision and goals’.
How has social media helped you to grow your brand?
Social media has meant we have customers from London to LA. The reach and access to so many different people is very powerful. Social media allows you to have a much wider audience. Countries and regions have no boundaries anymore, and jewellery is an international language. It also gives you a direct channel to communicate with your customers. You hear their thoughts and reactions straight away… which is great from a design and a business perspective.
Talk us through the story of Bambino Diamonds – what inspired this collection?
We took Enzo to Italy to meet my husband’s Italian relatives. He must have been 15-months-old, and they presented us with a single diamond and said to me you will know what to do with this… this got me thinking … and became what is now Bambino Diamonds. Diamonds are incredibly precious and so are our children so the synergy is powerful. I loved the idea of creating a brand that celebrated the significant milestone for so many people. A brand that embodies precious creations. I am so very lucky to do what I do.
What are some vivid memories of your childhood?
I have three older sisters, which meant four doting mums at times. I would be carried around all day and fussed over. My husband laughs that I am the only single child he knows, that also has three sisters. Having sisters was also inspiring for me, I remember looking through their wardrobes, pinching their Vogue magazines and taking in whatever they were doing. I definitely looked up to my big sisters. Also, you learn a lot from older sisters and their life experiences. My early days living overseas definitely gave me the taste for travel at a young age – I knew the world wasn’t flat! There was a lot to see and do. That taste for adventure and exploring is now part of who I am and I am so very thankful we did live overseas when I was young.
“ Jewellery is very personal and is a tangible representation of an emotion or moment for someone. I am very proud of creating a movement, a passion, a style that embodies a sentiment, and this has transpired into two brands and a business that I love dearly ”
Talk us through your journey to motherhood – can you share any highs and lows?
I was a bit nonchalant and assumed that having kids would be easy. I also wasn’t in a rush at all. But like many people I had a struggle firstly to conceive Enzo. Just as we were about to start IVF, I fell pregnant with him naturally. But it was Cleo who is my miracle baby. We had five rounds of IVF and the last round was likely to be our last round. I had one viable egg and that became Cleo. IVF was one of the most difficult things I have ever done. The emotions are so raw – admitting possible defeat, blaming myself for leaving it too late, resenting anyone who wasn’t positive about our chances etc… it was tough. My weeks were spent with a dedicated regiment of acupuncture, hypnosis with a professional (then morning and night I did my own self-hypnosis), abdominal massages plus all the blood tests/injections etc. Once I fell pregnant, I had an amazing pregnancy, and no issues at all but as she was so precious I wanted to have regular scans as I was so worried about stories of stillborn and issues with the placenta etc. At week 30 I asked my obstetrician for a scan – it was the Friday of our babymoon weekend and I didn’t think there would be any issues, I was just being diligent and cautious. But the routine scan turned into a nightmare. They spotted a mixing of blue and red blood in her heart and the senior pathologist was soon telling me that my baby most likely had Tetralogy of Fallot – a congenital heart defect. There and then they took amniotic fluid and said they had to run tests for any chronological abnormalities. The whole world came tumbling down and I can’t really remember getting to the hotel where I was to meet my husband and Enzo. I didn’t sleep that night I spent the night googling Tetralogy of Fallot (TOF). The next nine weeks were about keeping positive, still researching every aspect of TOF, praying and lots of hypnosis. Cleo came along via c-section and it all looked promising but at day seven just before we were to be discharged her SATS (measurement of blood oxygen levels) started to drastically drop and we were taken in an ambulance to Westmead Children’s Hospital Grace Centre NICU. This was one of my darkest days ever in my life. Seeing the NETS team incubate and take her away to NICU, was incredibly difficult. I’ve never experienced such despair before. I was muttering all sorts of deals to anyone ‘above’ that might hear us and help her. At day 11 of her life, Cleo underwent life-saving surgery to insert a BT Shunt. We spent three weeks in the hospital and during this time I shut down everything else in my life and I dedicated myself to Cleo and being by her bedside. At six months of age, Cleo had the full open heart surgery to repair her defects. An unbearable seven hours. We have been incredibly lucky that she’s recovered so well. Of course, I wish she didn’t have the heart issues, but I am so grateful that it has been something that can be ‘repaired’, and she is now a healthy and happy baby. This experience made me realise you will trade yourself for your child’s own wellbeing.
How did you handle sleep deprivation?
At around three months when Cleo was stable from her first operation, I enlisted the help of what I call our sleep guru called Jen Hamilton from WOT Baby and she’s changed our world. Jen gave me the confidence and skills to understand Cleo’s tired signs and develop a ‘flexible routine’ that if we stuck to and stayed consistent – sleep has become our friend. Cleo ‘tells’ me now – I’m tired mummy, it’s time for me to go to bed.
What was the most magical part of the newborn stage for you?
That early newborn stage was fraught with such worry, I was highly anxious after the first operation, waiting for the second one. I think I could tell if a person within a two-meter radius was about to cough or sneeze near her… so we camped in at home a lot. Some of the highlights for me is that Cleo tracks me – she knows exactly where I am in the room and follows me. It’s so beautiful. I’m her world, and she’s mine. Because I knew we would be spending so much time at home, I wanted to make Cleo’s room magical. Magda from The Bebe Style Co styled her room so beautifully, so it’s a really peaceful and fun space for Cleo. I’m really enjoying this stage now, as she’s interacting so much. She absolutely adores her big brother. The love between them is so magical – that’s been such an unexpected gift – the love between them. I am very proud of how well Enzo has coped with her arrival and the attention she received especially during all the health problems. It makes me so happy they have each other (back to my mortality thoughts!)
What’s your approach to health and wellbeing?
I was health conscious during the pregnancy (besides cravings like wonton soup every single day). I didn’t worry too much for the first few months after she was born. I think all the stress and worry kept me trim, but now I am very focused on keeping the baby weight off for good. I have recently started the 5/2 eating regime and am seeing results. It’s nice to have discipline and change your mindset to food. I’m also very diligent about sunscreen and hats – I wear sunscreen every day on face, hands and neck. I am training the kids to also look after their skin. The sun is very harsh here.
Describe a typical day in your life…
No day is the same as they say, but because I have a consistent sleep routine with Cleo and with her health issues we have been quite housebound and had a ‘routine’. She wakes at 630am, so play and breakfast, then back to bed, then I do work – emails, bespoke requests which we get a lot of, designing and talking to customers. Lunch – I often will be feeding Cleo in the highchair while having a meeting with team members on the phone – Cleo is definitely part of the team too. Back to bed for a nap. Then we go for a walk in the pram to get Enzo from school and then it’s all systems go for dinner, bath, and to bed by 630pm – so mum and dad can have their night together (we are often so exhausted though… we don’t talk much!). Cleo sleeps 12 hours through the night (I never say those words out loud though…!) so we are very lucky. Getting Enzo out of our bed is our next challenge!
Claire wears Lisa Marie Fernandez. Children dressed in Jacadi
How do you juggle everything?
I think one of my weaknesses is time management so that’s a constant challenge for me. It’s all old school stuff – write lists, set goals, plan, delegate, be fairly realistic with those goals. It’s taken me some time to get the right team together. I have a great team now so am really seeing things flourish for both brands.
What makes you feel stressed/overwhelmed?
Motherhood and working! I really try and make a real effort to not worry so much. My husband is my confidante and he has a wonderful ability to depersonalise issues, so I often seek his advice when I am stressed about something. Since Cleo I have accepted that I can’t do it all – but do one or two important tasks or goals a week – do them properly and thoughtfully and after a while, you end up achieving quite a lot, quietly and efficiently.
Where do you love to travel to and why?
I couldn’t live without travel. For us, as a family, it’s a big part of who we are. Yes, it’s much more stressful with kids, you need to adjust your expectations when you do travel and accept you can’t do it all. Maybe you don’t get to the museum (actually that is the shops for me!) that day but that’s ok. Each year we make a trip to Europe. Mike and I were in London for years and we absolutely love London. It’s our second home, we still have a place there so we can stay for extended periods. The Greek Islands to us are the most magical place on earth. It’s where we all truly unwind and re-charge. We try to visit a different island each year.