Project: Lila's Jewellery

Design: Four-by-Two
Opening date: February 2014
Store size: 26 sq m

Lila's Jewellery store in East Dulwich, London has a dual purpose: to educate the public on responsible gemstone and metals mining, and to showcase pre-owned gold and gemstone jewellery for customers to buy. Named after owner Catalina Rosca's daughter, the shop has a warm and inviting atmosphere with a focus on sustainability and education.

Rosca's family, originally from Romania, has a strong association with promoting responsible mining. 'The Gemstone market has long been over-shadowed by the poor mining conditions and exploitation of its workers and to address this, the jewellery trade has lately begun to focus on fairer conditions for extracting precious stones,' says Rosca. 'Yet, those brands actively involved in a fairer trade are top-class companies with often-prohibitive prices. The majority of the high-street jewellers are pretty vague as to the origin of their stones. So we believe that buying new jewellery puts an even greater pressure on the already turbulent mining conditions. By re-designing and re-conditioning pre-owned jewellery, Lila's is giving back to the market and at the same time, relieving some of that pressure.'

The 26 sq m retail space was designed in collaboration with Four-by-Two, which has previously worked on projects for Harvey Nichols Edinburgh, Dune and Phase Eight. The team sourced 1950's furniture, factory lamps from the 1960s and adapted existing materials such as railway sleepers to form display cabinets and merchandising units.

Bespoke wallpaper inspired by a drawing of a diamond solitaire created by one of the store's jewellery designers was also digitally printed.

'We set out to create a store that would be a little gemstone in the local community,' says Liz Cole, senior designer at Four-by-Two. 'It was important to hero the products and by placing a focus on education, it's not just about selling to the public, its about creating an immersive environment that helps them to understand more about the unique journey of the jewellery. Each display cabinet relates directly back to the making and discovery process and has a story to tell.'

A central feature is an old mining cart, originally used for sourcing gold in Transylvania, an area recognised as having the largest deposits of the precious metal in Europe and where mining activities go back to the beginning of the seventeenth century. There's a panning table, a cutting and polishing station, jewellers workbench and an old architect’s drafting board used as the cash desk. Four-by-Two also created a cabinet for young designers who recycle materials that had a previous life, re-interpreted to sell-on to a new owner.

Lila's pre-owned gold and gemstone jewellery is repolished to a high standard, then taken to the London Assay office (for official hallmarking) researched, graded and valued by an expert.

The company owns the garages behind the store and plans to transform one of these spaces into a gallery and workshop for schools and colleges, helping to educate interested parties to the level of work that goes into a piece of jewellery from initial discovery through to a final design.

Edinburgh-based design agency Norse developed the brand identity for Lila's.

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