Diamond lady: Mimi Baldwin Fine Jewellery
The former Tiffany & Co jeweller on how Princess Diana's friend Rosa Monckton started her out on a sparkling career
I set up Mimi Baldwin Fine Jewellery five years ago but my working career began at Tiffany & Co - answering the telephone in their flagship store in Bond Street.
Nevertheless, it was here my love for gemstones began. I was fortunate to be mentored by Rosa Monckton, Princess Diana's friend who brought the jewellery house from the US to Britain.
She taught me about the 4 Cs of diamonds: cut; colour; clarity, and carat. She also gave me my first break by putting me on the fine jewellery counter when I was just 23, which was unusual and a fantastic opportunity. Each week I'd handle hundreds of diamonds worth tens of thousands of pounds and every day I would test myself on them. Within a couple of months, I was the top salesperson on the team.
Ten years and a lot of hard work later, I became the head of Tiffany's Bond Street fine jewellery department - and I'd met my husband, Philip, who was a coloured diamond specialist.
But after so long at the label, I was ready for a change and so I moved to the luxury houses of Asprey, before heading to Dior and then spending eight wonderful years working with Kiki McDonough in her shop in Sloane Square, London.sk
Not only had my knowledge of gems and fine jewellery increased during my time with these stores, I had developed a following of loyal clients who I enjoyed working with on bespoke pieces. I had also gained a reputation for having imagination - and patience. I would pride myself on being able to manage difficult customers. I remember on one occasion, I was in the private sales area at one of the jewellers I worked for with two of my more challenging clients, who were choosing between a golden pearl necklace worth £110,000 and one that a competitor had - and there were two mice running around the floor.
I still made the sale!
In 2012, I felt it was the right time for me to concentrate on designing jewellery myself. Turning 40 was the main trigger - it was like coming of age and I knew that if I was ever going to do it, that was the right time or I might never do it at all. So with huge support and encouragement from my friends and family I founded Mimi Baldwin Fine Jewellery. I specialise in designing exquisite, timeless and elegant pieces for everyday and formalwear for women who understand their own style, are independent and confident but above all things, feminine – there are no skulls in my collections.
I start designing new pieces in my studio in Battersea, usually by sketching out my latest ideas, although sometimes I begin with the stones themselves as their shape, colour and size inspire me to come up with the best way to use them in a particular piece.
The stones are sourced from all over the world and I imagine how I'd like to feel wearing them. I never make anything I wouldn't wear myself because I am my own best ambassador. My collections vary by season - in winter, I lean towards a more formal look, using lots of quality diamonds and pearls while in the summer, I prefer lighter, more relaxed pieces. When I begin to draw, I sketch, feeling the lines and the balance of the piece and enjoy creating something new with beautiful ancient stones.
From the drawings, each new creation is then made up in 18ct gold and the very best quality stones. Philip, who now runs a diamond investment fund, often helps me source interesting gems for special commissions and my father-in-law, a master craftsman with a workshop in Bond Street, creates them. Most recently, I have designed a stunning engagement ring featuring a large yellow diamond that I sourced, a fabulous emerald ring using a client's own stone, which had previously been in a dated 1970s setting, and I helped another client transform a Victorian brooch into a beautiful pair of diamond earrings.
I love working with new clients, getting to know who they are, how their lives operate and then trying to discover how accessible they want and need their jewellery to be. Jewellery becomes part of the wearer. It has a function and needs to fit in with their particular lifestyle - there is little point in having an exquisite diamond necklace if you have no opportunities to wear it. I think this is one of the reasons why I was able to top the weekly sales figures at Tiffany's; I wanted to understand my customers and get to know them because I'm passionate about finding the right piece for each person and their life. It's always my starting point when I'm working with a new client and this is why they trust me and stay with me.
One of the most popular of my collections is the With All My Heart earrings. Hearts are the most perfect shape for the ear and these pieces come in a range of different gemstones, set in 18ct white, yellow or rose gold and are surrounded by diamonds.
Flamenco, one of my newest ranges, is inspired by and created with multicoloured sapphires, designed to evoke a feeling of warmth and the thrill of an open fire in the night air, with dancing and music and joy all around.
Most dear to my heart, however, will always be my signature Friday Flowers – a light, fresh flower-themed collection of different coloured gold earrings, bracelets and necklaces, some elevated with petals adorned with tiny diamonds.
And why is it so special? The inspiration came from the flowers Philip brings home for me every Friday evening.
MIMI BALDWIN established Mimi Baldwin Jewellery in 2012, after a 20-year career in fine jewellery, including an apprenticeship at Tiffany & Co. She now creates timeless pieces with a classic elegance that lasts a lifetime. mimibaldwin.com