The Jewellery Loop’s Erica Abbiss-Biro on fighting high street fakes.

By Erica Abiss-Biro

Almost a lifetime ago, I went to work for a high street supplier as a jewellery designer. I was beyond excited as the company was at the top of its game.


Prior to that point I had been freelancing for a string of high-end designers, where the collections were hand made and the focus was on remaining unique. I couldn’t have been moving into a more different environment, but the stability appealed to me and I enjoy a challenge, so off I went.

Now I’m not naive, but I was not prepared for the level of blatant plagiarism that I encountered there. My first mistake was to try and interpret a brief using my own ideas. I was hauled into the office and asked what I was using as my inspiration. I retrieved my sketch book and couldn’t have encountered a frostier reaction.

Emerging teary eyed, my colleagues rallied round to offer support. Their advice was to stop being creative and to start copying. I lasted four weeks.

Now and again I still stumble across stories that remind me of those times. At a recent jewellery show a designer told me she’d noticed that a well-known diamond jewellery company had copied the entire collection of a younger designer she was mentoring.

There seems to be a general attitude that not an awful lot can be done about such plagiarism, despite organisations such as ACID campaigning for protection of intellectual property. Talented designer-makers can be devastated to find a replica of their work on the high street. Not only does it devalue their product but often it has taken months, if not years, to reach the point where it is ready for them to take to market.

Tatty Devine is the latest victim of such a high street hijack, its iconic designs copied by a shop mostly frequented by school children.

I genuinely feel that if our jewellery designers are not nurtured, protected and supported then they may well end up working for the high street themselves and our industry would be a lot less interesting as a result. Although I bet they wouldn’t last much longer than I did.

This edition of Store Envy was taken from the April 2012 issue of Professional Jeweller magazine. To vie a digital version of this issue online click here. If you are a member of the jewellery trade and would like to write a column for Professional Jeweller email the editor at outlining your idea.