Laura Cartledge reveals loose change and unloved cutlery take on a new lease of life in Chichester.
Danielle Stroud’s business started with a gift from her sister.
“She called me and said she had brought me a fish knife,” recalls Danielle, “I was like ‘great’ and started practising my poker face.”
Thankfully the poker face wasn’t needed as the silver fish knife had been transformed in to a beautiful bangle.
Having ‘always tinkered’ with making jewellery, comments on the bangle got her thinking.
Through trial and error she taught herself how to turn unloved silver, from strainers to spoons and shillings, into unique jewellery.
“Some pieces look like what they are, some bits don’t,” says Danielle, who launched Belle Argent in October last year.
“Things that are solid objects are not meant to be in a different way, it becomes a talking point,” she reveals. “Guys, in particular, look at it in a ‘how have you done that’ way. While ladies like that each piece is unique.”
And the mum of three admits it’s a real ‘team effort’.
Husband Gary helps her with the tools in the ‘wooden lodge’ studio at the bottom of the garden, her daughters are her saleswomen, her son is the ‘master polisher’ and her sister is keen to ‘model’ items on nights out with friends.
However this doesn’t stop her getting teased.
“It is one of those long standing jokes. I’ll be in a restaurant with my husband and he’ll tell me to put the cutlery down, I’ll say ‘I’m just looking’,” she admits. “There is always that banter.”
In reality Danielle gets the majority from two contacts that source pieces for her and often receives special requests for commission items which she hunts for.
“With the hallmarks people do ask ‘can you make me a ring with a certain date?’” she explains. “One lady asked for 1947, the year her mum was born and she’d recently passed away.”
It took a few weeks but Danielle found a Sheffield spoon from that year.
“I left a message to tell her, then she called me in tears. Without me knowing Sheffield is where her mum had been born, it was just one of those things,” Danielle reveals.
“I love that side of it. I love the interaction with people. Jewellery is rarely a ‘just because’ thing, it’s about that connection, it’s very sentimental.”
Seeing the stunning earrings, rings, pendants and bangles Danielle makes it is easy to see why she is passionate about giving forgotten items a new lease of life.
“Everything is about the next thing these days. Take mobile phones for instance, you used to have them for years. Now it is 18 months tops and time to move on to the next one,” she says.
“You can’t keep going on to the next thing, some of these things have a good life left in them.
“Often pieces that look really sad are the ones which look wow at the end,” adds Danielle. “Napkin rings are great because you rarely get more than one and it’s a question of ‘where are the other ones?
“I got one that was engraved with ‘happy birthday dad from Emily, 1897,’ and you can’t help think of the life it has had.”
This reminds Danielle, originally from Northamptonshire, of the weeks she would spend on the south coast with her grandparents.
“I would have my nan and my granddad to myself and I was spoilt. It was brilliant,” she recalls. “There would be ice cream and the sound of the sea. Every time I was there nan would bring out this big box of cutlery and polish it.
“She would say ‘it’s good cutlery, you can’t use it, but you never know when someone special might come so you have to keep it clean’.”
Then, when Belle Argent took off, Danielle offered to buy the set.
“She told me ‘I gave it to the cat and rabbit charity’,” she exclaims. “We are talking about 12 knives, 12 spoons, the soup spoons, the teaspoons, I mean it came in a suitcase.
“The way I see it is – if you enjoy something so much let other people see and enjoy it too. My nan could have had that special cutlery out every day. Don’t have them in the drawer, get them out, use them,” she smiles, “or wear them.”
To find out more about Belle Argent, visit www.belleargent.com
Model shots by Nadia Stephens Photography
September 14, 2014 Fashion and Beauty