Ethical Jewellery that Inspires: Interview with Debra Fallowfield

Words by Anastasia Monaghan / Images by Kate Roberge
May 15, 2019

If a traditional engagement ring isn’t your style, a unique piece by ethical jewellery designer Debra Fallowfield may be right up your street. From the design process to the forging, soldering and fusing, Debra handcrafts bespoke pieces, creating one-of-a-kind engagement rings for “those wishing to stand out rather than slot in”.

Creating your own piece with Debra is an intimate process. Not only are you promised honest and open communication from start to finish, Debra strives to be on the same page as her customers, taking into account your personality and lifestyle to create a truly exclusive piece of work.

Debra is passionate about reusing and recycling materials, as well as ensuring ethical practices along every stage of the process. She advocates for the use of Moissanite, a man-made gem that not only maintains the beauty and durability of a diamond, but also ensures new mining isn’t required to preserve the uniqueness of Debra’s work.

We caught up with the creative jewellery designer to learn more about her sources of inspiration and what lead her to a career in jewellery design.

stack black diamond engagement ringsTell us a little about your background and the path that brought you to jewellery design.

I fell accidentally into jewellery whilst living in Australia through the late 80’s to the late 90’s. I worked full time as a retoucher -back in the days before the advent of the Apple Mac . I would retouch magazines such as Vogue, Marie Claire etc all by hand with a paintbrush and a scalpel. Apple revolutionised the print industry worldwide -and by 1993 it became clear that I needed to try and retrain somehow as my job was becoming obsolete.

I decided to sign up at the local high school in Balmain for a beginners course in using a Mac, only to find the course was cancelled due to lack of interest. I was given the option of a refund or to take another course. I choose jewellery, and the rest is history.

After the first night I was pretty much hooked but it was not until I returned to New Zealand a few years later that I decided to take my “hobby ” to the next level. When I returned to NZ in the late nineties I was pregnant, without a job or a partner and living back at my parents’ place at 32. It was not ideal. But I started making jewellery in my dad’s garage on an old kitchen bench with a handful of second hand tools. Gradually I began to sell my work to local galleries and gather a reputation for unique pieces.

unique ethical handmade engagement rings

How would you describe your style and ethos when it comes to jewellery design?

I am the designer and the maker and everything I create is made by hand and generally ‘one-of-a-kind’. Even if I repeat a design, it will never be an exact replica as I don’t use CAD (computer aided design) or molds, like most companies do today .

I am absolutely fanatical about finish and craftsmanship in my work. I create many heirloom pieces which are incredibly different to the mainstream, mass-produced jewellery labels out there. My main business is custom-made or ‘bespoke’ engagement and wedding rings for those wishing to stand out, rather than slot in.

I’m also very direct and honest with my communication and my customers appreciate it. With custom work being my main source of business, the customer and I must be completely on the same page. It’s imperative that I listen well. Because I do one-on-one appointments with my clients, I will take into account their lifestyle, colouring, and hand and finger shapes when they visit. I use the best gems I can find whether natural or man-made, all from reliable and ethical sources.

My gold comes from small environmentally boutique mines on the West Coast of New Zealand.
I’m a huge advocate for some of the latest man-made gems. They have the look and durability of a diamond, yet are grown in a lab so no new mining has taken place. This aligns with my personal values: I’m all about reusing, recycling and using ethical practices.

unique ethical handmade engagement rings

What are some of the more unusual materials or techniques that you like to work with?

I’m a huge advocate for some of the latest man-made gems -especially moissanite which I use often. Moissanite has the look and durability of a diamond, yet they are grown in a lab so no new mining has taken place.

I adore Australian parti sapphires, coloured diamonds and rare coloured Spinel. If you take a look at my work, you will see I use a rainbow of gems!

What are some current jewellery trends that you are loving?

Hmmm… I don’t follow trends to be honest, I just do my own thing! Although I guess there has been a move away (thank god) from the “cookie cutter ” engagement rings that you find everywhere to more organic “imperfectly perfect” pieces.

Do you have a particularly memorable engagement or wedding ring that you loved creating?

One fave would be for Scotty and Nicky on the Sunshine Coast. Scotty’s brief was “Make something “[email protected] totally amazing!” I rose to the occasion with an incredible 4 carat black diamond ring on a pink, black, white and champagne diamond studded band. Scotty proposed by taking Nicky to a remote Island via helicopter.

What are some of your key influences and sources of inspiration?

Often it’s the colour of the gem I am working with or it’s shape. I like things that flow, soft feminine edges. But I’m also inspired by ancient art and civilisations, landscapes and my love for New Zealand and Australia.



Images Kate Roberge | Jewellery Debra Fallowfield |

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