Who is Fairina AKA Fairina Cheng Jewellery?
That’s me! I’m a Sydney-based jeweller who specialises in unconventional designs for rule-breakers and story makers. Growing up, I never thought that I would be a jeweller. The pieces I saw in shopping mall windows just didn’t appeal to me. But all that changed when I made an off-hand decision to take a short course in jewellery making (before formal qualifications in jewellery design and manufacture). That’s when I realised jewellery doesn’t have to look a certain way and an engagement ring doesn’t have to feature a big blingy diamond. It can – and should – tell tales about the person wearing it, and the person who gave it to them.
What does being a jeweller mean to you?
Being a jeweller means being able to create things that make people happy – meaningful keepsakes that celebrate the special people or special memories in someone’s life. Playing a small role in helping people celebrate their relationships is one of my favourite things to do. I love knowing that a piece will always hold a special place in its owner’s heart.
Tell us more about the materials that you use.
I work predominantly in gemstones and precious metals like gold, platinum and silver (and from time to time, weird and wonderful materials like stainless steel mesh). I also work with existing pieces of jewellery, melting down inherited or pre-loved jewels to create modern heirlooms. It’s a great way to incorporate the story of a family, as well as create a piece of jewellery that is kinder to the planet.
My favourite gems to work with are sapphires as they are highly durable and come in a range of beautiful shades. These include stones that change colour and gems with multiple colours in one stone. Can’t get better than that!
What goes into your process of making custom jewellery?
Because each piece is individual, the design process is very much guided by the person I’m making it for. It generally starts with a casual phone chat or an in-person catch up where we explore ideas and I sketch up some designs. They may already have an idea in mind. But if not, that’s totally fine too! A blank slate can be a great place to start.
Next, we refine the designs together until they’re happy. The third step is the most exciting part. Here’s where I get started making! Throughout the journey, I send work in progress shots and updates as the jewellery comes to life. It’s a really fun way to get an insight into a part of the custom jewellery process that many don’t get to see. It also means that they’re kept involved at every step of the way. Excellent communication is so important!
Where do you see yourself in the next 12 months?
I’ve structured my life in a way that makes me happy, and I’m very content with how it is at the moment! In 12 months, I see myself at the bench, listening to podcasts, making jewellery and hanging with my partner, Pete, and my scruffy pup, Brooklyn.
What does a day in the studio look like to you?
After going for a walk with Brooklyn (my adorable workshop pup and Director of Customer Happiness), I start my day on my laptop organising my project list. It contains everything I need to do and remember, so I can keep my head clear and focused. I often spend the morning working away on the laptop and get into the workshop at about midday. This gives me uninterrupted studio time until the end of the day.
When I turn on my podcasts, my mind switches to making mode and I play with metal, tools and fire until Brooklyn comes in and looks at me with puppy dog eyes that say, “I think it’s time to play in the park!” After the park and dinner, you may catch me sending sneaky emails on the couch while watching Netflix.
If you weren’t a jeweller, what would you be doing and why?
I ask myself this sometimes and it’s a hard question to answer. Being a jeweller is who I’m meant to be. It’s hard to picture doing anything else! I would have to be in another field that I’m passionate about, so if it isn’t something related to design, perhaps it would be creating products that make dogs happy and that support rescue organisations!