With the launch of Domin’s eagerly anticipated Sienna collection this month, Professional Jeweller meets senior designer Siobhan Maher to find out more about the design process behind the striking new jewellery pieces…
Domino’s latest range, Sienna, features a wide selection of eye-catching pieces, from extravagant design-led clusters, to classic solitaire designs. The semi-set diamond rings allow for retailers to select central stones of their choosing, adding an element of flexibility to the diamond ring offering.
Notably, this latest collection from Domino displays an element of edge, with the introduction of eye-catching new concepts such as cushion and cabochon-cut diamonds. Designed by its award-winning team, the collection has adhered to its value pledge, and once again has created unique and contemporary jewellery with a back-story, crucial for delivering sales results.
Senior designer on the latest range, Siobhan Maher, has been at the company for six years. “I actually retrained to be in jewellery, leaving a job in recruitment to take the HND Jewellery & Silversmithing course at the Birmingham School of Jewellery,” Maher explains.
“After an internship at Links of London I joined the New Product Development team at Domino. Now, as senior designer for the Domino side of the department, I look after the team that creates our brochurised and core product ranges.”
Maher’s first collection at Domino was the Diamond Ring Mounts brochure, its key engagement ring range. “Reinventing so classic a product to produce something both commercial and brand new is a real challenge, but it is what Domino is known for, so it was a very satisfying project to complete! My first degree was English Literature, which I actually often draw upon when creating and telling the stories behind our designs.”
When embarking on the collection, Maher and the design team draw inspiration from all over, whether it be in the form of visual stimuli or from a story. “We wanted our new Sienna rings to have strong narratives behind them, as we hear more and more that customers love to hear about the design process and that an interesting or romantic tale really helps with a sale.
“We might start by looking at photographs we’ve taken on our travels, or take our sketchpads out to museums, galleries, gardens and so on. Alternatively, we might fall under the spell of a beautiful poem or piece of literature and weave these stories into designs. We believe it’s important that our inspirations are first-hand and personal to us, as the best and most original designs come from stories we’re really passionate about,” Maher explains.
In terms of Sienna specifically, one of the inspirations behind the range is the flora of England. “It really represents a cross-section of the themes that have been exciting us over the last year,” says Maher. “There are some truly romantic floral designs inspired by summertime trips to English country gardens. Some designs have been inspired by our travels, others by art and architecture, and others still by intriguing or moving quotations.” Once the influencing concepts are in place, Maher and the team set about converting the ideas into reality.
“The first stage is very free-hand sketching – we’ll take our visual or thematic inspiration and begin drawing shapes, patterns and forms. These ideas will begin to form into designs for rings, which again will be developed by hand. We produce pages of designs before choosing those to develop further. Depending on the piece, final drawings are either by hand or using a 2D design package such as Illustrator,”
Whilst this stage of the design process is undoubtedly creatively satisfying, the team must also consider the technical aspects of translating the design into a finished piece. “Throughout the process, we keep the functional considerations in mind as much as the aesthetic. Everyone in the department is bench trained, and we work very closely with our setters and mounters to ensure the designs are practical as well as beautiful. We also price all of the new items in this department, so as we design we will often tweak metal or diamond weights to ensure appropriate price points,” says Maher.
From here, the end of the design process is in sight, with the help of both computer and mechanical technology. “Once we’re completely happy with a design it will go into CAD for 3D modelling, and again we’ll adjust and perfect the ring as it comes to life. When the samples are ready we let them out into the world for feedback from our sales team and retailers – this range was taken to Baselworld for preview, for example. The feedback we receive informs the final development stages and influences which pieces make it into the brochure.”
Given the weight of importance new technology has within the company, has Maher noticed any significant changes in her time at Domino? “The business has made so many investments in this area,” she says. “From new Rapid Prototyping technology to our Wedding Ring Cell; every change brings design possibilities – for example, new RPing technology has allowed us to be more adventurous in our ring mount designs. Most recently, we’ve been working on a new wedding ring collection, so we’ve been exploiting the potential of our new machines to explore some new ideas.”
Working on the Sienna collection has been both refreshing and challenging for Maher. “It is such a stylistically distinctive collection, quite different from our other ring ranges, with its focus on diamond detail. Even the simplest of designs are so beautiful, but it’s particularly fun designing those ‘wow’ pieces that our customers won’t have seen anything like before!”
The collection features a range of inspirational pieces across clusters; round, princess and shaped solitaires; creative lifestyle rings; wedding rings and some newly introduced ‘enhancers’. All rings are available in platinum and 18 carat white, yellow and rose gold, and diamond content ranges from a delicate 0.25 carat up to a generous three-carat centre stone.
Enhancers, first seen in America, are designed to sit alongside a customer’s pre-existing ring. Domino’s enhancers come in various guises and include a ‘tiara’ inspired design, as well as a halo shape designed to sit over the top of a solitaire ring to create a cluster effect, allowing customers to ‘upgrade’ existing rings without the need to replace them. Whilst the pieces can be supplied as a semi-set, they are also available as completely set rings, and the company provides an in-house setting service for retailers who wish to either send in their own stones or have required stones sourced.
On considering the consumer, Maher ponders the target audience for this conceptually edgier collection. “As with almost all of our collections we have a broad spectrum of customers, so we try to have something for everyone in the range,” she says.
“We’ve got a great collection of the classics – from halo and cluster designs to solitaires, in versions for all tastes. Then for those customers who want something more unique there’s the design and trend led pieces – again covering solitaires, clusters, lifestyle and wedding rings. Being a semi-mount range, the price points and final look of the pieces are completely flexible depending on the stones and sizes our retailers choose to set them with.”
Given she worked so closely on the collection, is it possible for Maher to pick a favourite? “I absolutely love the Sunburst cluster ring. Our designer Rachel adores Art Deco, and she wanted to put her own modern twist on the style. The resulting ring looks incredible set with a diamond or coloured stone and will even take a cabochon, so it taps into the current vogue for colour. In solitaires, the Peacock ring is another exuberant design, with a hidden halo which really sets off a centre stone.
“I’m also thrilled with the new range of enhancers we’re launching. The Tiara design looks beautiful as a wedding ring and completely spectacular in a pair, one on either side of an engagement ring. Customers who have seen our Halo enhancer have been really taken by the concept – transforming a plain solitaire into a halo – so I’m excited for the reaction on launch.”