We meet the renowned jewellery designer Job Dibben who has been producing exquisite pieces at his shop and studio at Smithbrook Kilns for nearly 25 years…
“Even now, if I ever feel uncertain about the business, I just head to the workshop and start making things.” Not that jewellery designer Jon Dibben has much to be uncertain about. Having spent nearly 25 years creating his astonishing jewellery at his shop and studio at Smithbrook Kilns, Jon has been voted an 'Inspiring Independent' and ‘trend setter’ by the industry press. As a passionate advocate of Fairtrade and Fairmined gold and platinum, his debut FTFM design was recognised by the British Jewellers' Association as a landmark piece of the past 125 years.
But Jon’s future as one of the UK’s leading independent jewellers was hardly set in stone. It took a drifting, nomadic youth and a summer spent on a Greek nudist beach for Jon to realise his talents. “I could turn my hand to most things but didn’t really know what I wanted to do. Then I went away travelling at nineteen and I came to a beach in Greece where about a thousand people lived in bamboo huts. I met really hardcore travellers there who would visit India in the winter, buy cheap stones there and sell jewellery they’d make back on the beaches in Greece.”
"I have a rather obsessive, perfectionist streak. Which is a useful thing to have when you make fine jewellery!”
Jon followed their example and began creating jewellery from stones and shells to earn some money to fund his travels. After more adventures around Europe and the Middle East, Jon arrived back home in Guildford and began selling pieces at market stalls, craft fairs and festivals. Then a jewellery designer friend offered him the lease on her workshop at Smithbrook Kilns near Cranleigh. “I didn’t feel ready for it; I was 23, but I took a leap of faith and took it on. I sat in the workshop terrified for a couple of months and then I just got on with making stuff. It was probably the most wonderful, creative period I can remember.”
The success of Jon Dibben Jewellery since has meant he has been joined by his brother Paul and a small team of expert goldsmiths and gemologists to help him achieve his distinctive, intricate and very beautiful designs. “We’re pretty established now but it never ceases to amaze me when people walk through the door and buy our stuff. The hardest part, for me still, is getting that initial idea and vision into a realistic, working piece of jewellery. That’s where the pain and hard work comes in: the actual craft. But you’ve got to stick with it.
“I feel connected to and inspired by nature, although I don’t feel the need to recreate it"
I asked him where his inspiration comes from. “I feel connected to and inspired by nature, although I don’t feel the need to recreate it in my jewellery. But it’s in the way that nature is functional as well as beautiful that inspires me to make jewellery that is as functional as it is beautiful too.
“When I finish a piece that I’m really pleased with, I genuinely struggle to sell it. I get really attached to it.” He still gets a little misty at the recent theft of a necklace from the shop, the stones of which he had carefully collected over years.
So what does he attribute his success to? “I have a really split personality. I have an entrepreneurial, ambitious side which has helped get us to where we are, but I also have a rather obsessive, perfectionist streak. Which is a useful thing to have when you make fine jewellery!”
For more information visit www.jondibben.co.uk or visit the shop at 40a Smithbrook Kilns Cranleigh, Surrey, GU6 8JJ