The Unconventional Sparkle: A Chat with Debra Fallowfield

Words by Sara Catalano
August 21, 2023

There are artists, and then there are those who infuse every brushstroke, every chisel mark, with a story – Debra Fallowfield is unequivocally the latter. From hand-retouching the glossy covers of Vogue in Sydney’s bustling streets to forging jewels in her dad’s garage, her journey into the world of bespoke jewellery is nothing short of mesmerising. Dive into our Q&A with this gem of a designer as she sheds light on the artistry, emotion, and unmistakable “quirk” that sets her pieces apart.

A Journey Etched in Gold

Debra’s foray into jewellery design began quite by accident while she was working as a retoucher for high-end fashion magazines in Australia. Armed with skills like painstaking hand-retouching using paintbrushes, scalpels, and magnifying glasses, she signed up for a computer course that was eventually cancelled. On a whim, she chose a jewellery course instead and was instantly hooked. Although jewellery remained a hobby due to financial constraints and her day job, Debra’s unique pieces garnered attention at Sydney’s Paddington Market.

Returning to New Zealand as a single mother in the late ’90s, she converted her dad’s mechanic garage into a makeshift studio, leveraging her lifelong love for art and craftsmanship. Debra began selling her creations at local art markets, quickly developing a dedicated following even before the advent of social media. Her focus on quality over passing trends led her to design durable, meaningful pieces, including custom wedding and engagement rings, which quickly gained popularity. Funded solely through her early sales, her business grew organically, proving her commitment and drawing widespread recognition for her craftsmanship.

Signature Style – Perfectly Imperfect

Debra believes in celebrating imperfections. With over 26 years in the industry, she carved a niche for herself, crafting organic, “perfectly imperfect” rings long before it became the norm. Mixing metals, embedding coloured gems, and playing with rough-smooth textures, she stands as a trailblazer.

“The Japanese term ‘Wabi-Sabi’ (where nothing is perfect) resonates deeply with me. My pieces possess a fluidity, a delicate balance between vintage-like settings with bold, contemporary aesthetics,” she shares. And if you’re wondering about her style, it’s free-spirited, exceptional, and meant to be worn – everywhere.

Bespoke Craftsmanship

With nearly 27 years of experience in crafting bespoke wedding and engagement rings, Debra emphasises a client-focused approach rooted in her Noosa studio. For her, custom creations revolve around attentive listening and understanding. Whether a couple is outdoorsy, involved in manual labour, or passionate about certain hobbies, these insights help Debra perfect not just the size but the essence of the ring. Remote consultations are thorough, peppered with questions that help pinpoint specifics like gold colour and stone preferences. Using photos as a primary reference, Debra sketches out the plan, shying away from computer designs to ensure alignment with the client’s vision.

Once a design is approved, Debra, with her network of global dealers, may embark on a search for the ideal gemstone, bringing the piece to life within three to eight weeks. In-person consultations transform her studio into an intimate space, free from industry pretensions, where clients are encouraged to explore a myriad of styles. For Debra, every appointment is akin to a joyful play date with jewellery.

A Word on Trends

Debra is a staunch advocate for quality and durability over ephemeral trends that may dominate social media platforms like TikTok and Instagram. She remains wary of the influx of tiny, delicate CAD (Computer-Aided Design) rings that may look stunning but are destined to snap with just a minor knock. “Trends can be deceptive, especially with the fragile designs circulating on platforms like TikTok. Durability is paramount,” she warns.

Her concerns extend to the choice of gemstones as well, emphasizing the long-term investment aspect of wedding jewellery. She cringes at the increasing popularity of softer, more vulnerable stones such as moonstone, opal, or morganite in engagement rings. “One knock and these gems will chip, and once that happens, it’s game over,” Debra cautions.

She also raises a red flag when it comes to surprisingly low prices. Often, what may seem like a local, artisanal creation could be designed in one place and then shipped overseas for manufacturing, raising questions about ethical practices and quality control. “If the deal appears too good to be true, scrutinize its origin. It may be designed locally but manufactured under dubious conditions abroad. Avoid such purchases like the plague,” she advises.

By emphasizing craftsmanship and long-lasting quality, Debra provides a voice of reason in an industry increasingly influenced by fleeting and potentially misleading trends.

The Future and Some Pearls of Wisdom

Debra envisions a return to artisan quality, handcrafted jewellery in the coming decade. Her advice to couples? “Start by researching styles online. Ensure you adore the jeweller’s style, and don’t hesitate to ask questions. After all, this is about your love story.”

For those passionate about sustainability, she encourages reading up on sourcing practices. Debra believes in the magic of personal stories and the cherished memories embedded within jewellery, and she’s here to guide, inspire, and craft those tales into tangible, sparkling treasures.

Unravel the world of Debra Fallowfield’s designs and let her craft a piece of your story. Explore more at Debra Fallowfield’s Website.


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