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Melbourne jewellery label Kannava Jewels is dedicated to creating bespoke pieces

Image via @photos.by.ellie.king/Instagram

WORDS BY KATE STREADER

“I don’t like remaking the same thing over and over, it really sucks the joy out of making for me. I get a lot of pleasure creating one-off and specific pieces for people.”

The sentimental value of a heirloom piece of jewellery is unmatched. A hand-me-down ring, necklace or pair of earrings that have seen some of someone’s most special moments is far more valuable than karats.

It’s this way of seeing jewellery that inspired Brunswick-based jeweller and founder of Kannava Jewels, Ruby Kannava, to start making her own jewellery.


For more fashion news, shoots, articles and features, head to our Fashion section. 


Predominately self-taught, Ruby has slowly learnt how to craft bespoke pieces by hand through trial and error, and is now trusted with transforming other people’s heirloom jewels into new pieces that will continue to live on through generations, as well as creating new designs from scratch.

Tell us about you. What’s your fashion/jewellery background?

 

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Hi! My name is Ruby Kannava and I have a jewellery label called Kannava Jewels which I design and make from my studio in Brunswick. I have a background in Fine Art, which I studied at VCA. I always thought I would be a visual artist and have always loved making – both my parents are artists too! I’ve always known I wanted to try and make a living out of creating, one way or another.

I would say my love for jewellery came from my Cypriot side of my family. My yiayia and aunty would show me a piece from their collection of vintage and gifted jewels every time I visited. It’s very ingrained in our culture to give the gift of gold at any significant event – crosses, charms, pendants, earrings, brooches.

I just loved the preciousness of these items and how meaningful they were. Every piece came with a story about a birthday, a christening, an event and, of course, the person behind the piece. My love for making and jewellery led me to complete a few short courses at Melbourne Polytechnic, but mostly I am a self-taught jeweller.

How did the label get started? Talk us through the process and the challenges.

 

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I was feeling a little lost after living overseas where I was working casual jobs and when I returned home to Melbourne, I realised I didn’t want to work in a job that I didn’t care about anymore. I had worked in a beautiful boutique in New York and used to sit there looking at all the jewellery wistfully each day, wishing I could afford it. I’d meet the jewellers and think to myself, ‘I could see myself doing this!’.

When I started my label, it was a totally different project from what it is now. Back then, it was a product of my exploration of learning new processes, trying to figure out who I was and what I wanted to make. I often felt frustrated because I didn’t know how to make what I wanted.

 

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It did take time to grow my brand – when people are buying expensive pieces, they need to trust that you can deliver and are capable of making what they want. But when you’re starting a business from scratch with no PR, no funding and using expensive materials, it can be a tough build to get to that point.

I slowly evolved from silver to gold as people trusted me with better and more expensive materials and as my technical skills advanced, so did my brand. Now I feel so lucky that people trust me with their own heirloom stones, as well as to source precious stones, and make engagement/special occasion pieces.

What were you trying to achieve from the project at the time? How has this evolved and what are you trying to communicate through the brand now?

 

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I started out imagining I would make collections and release them every six months or so, but I have realised this isn’t for me. I don’t like remaking the same thing over and over, it really sucks the joy out of making for me. I get a lot of pleasure creating one-off and specific pieces for people. It keeps it exciting and it gives me more creative freedom in the whole process.

I really love the collaborative aspect of working with clients too, as it encourages me to think about creating things in new ways. It’s also just a really special thing to be able to make future heirlooms, and one I never take for granted. This is why I love working with more precious materials, like gold, because I get to make things that are meaningful to a client – it’s very rewarding knowing it will be treasured and passed down.

The thing I love most about the way my business works is the fluidity of it all. I don’t have the restrictions or pressure of creating collections, so it’s constantly evolving and changing in a natural way as I make things I love, and then move on.

How would you describe Kannava Jewels to someone who’s never seen it before? 

 

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This is a hard one! I get so much joy in experimenting with so many different styles as I do so many custom pieces, so there are so many ways to describe my work. Kannava Jewels is beautiful, gold, sparkly, and nostalgic. The jewels you were obsessed with growing up and your mum’s favourite rings.

Kannava Jewels is what I imagine when I think of finding a box of secret treasure. It’s handmade, sometimes fun and often femme, but also very masc (I love the juxtaposition of both. I always wear a big heavy signet next to a ring with a love heart stone), and always, always super stone focused – I love working with big stones!

I would definitely say I ‘specialise’ in rings. By far, rings are my favourite piece of jewellery to own and to make. I’m also heavily influenced by vintage jewellery – I enjoy putting a bit of a modern twist on classic jewellery styles.

What are you most proud of in your work on your label? 

 

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That I’m able to work for myself full-time and be my own boss. I just love getting to work every day and being on my own schedule. I do feel proud that I’m able to do that, and feel so lucky that I really, really love what I do. I also love meeting customers and seeing them wear things I remember making with my own hands, that’s a special feeling. I remember every single ring I have ever made.

What do you wish you knew when you started? 

I think I would have benefitted from knowing a little bit more about technical jewellery-making processes. It took me a long time to learn a lot of really basic things because I didn’t study jewellery making, so it took me much longer to be able to actually make what I wanted.

In saying that, if I had started out knowing more, I would be a completely different type of jeweller. And I love that you can see that my rings are handmade, it’s more personal that way. Whether it’s sticking wax settings together with my wax pen or carving out sections for a signet, I love getting my hands into it! I get the most joy from the process of making and I believe loving the process does really reflect in your work.

Who is in your wardrobe right now? 

 

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Always lots of Sister Studios, Hello Sisi bags, and I just got a great haul from the latest Coco Store trunk show, including this amazing vintage Versace top I’m obsessed with. I’m a sucker for designer vintage and just vintage in general.

How can we buy one of your pieces? 

My online shop, via email/Instagram for a custom piece, or in person at Sister Studios in Fitzroy North.

For more Kannava Jewels, head here.

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