Inspirational Woman: Emma Brankin | Owner, Bauble Magpie

Emma Brankin

Former lawyer turned antique jewellery mastermind, Emma Brankin of Bauble Magpie is a force of nature.  With her forthright no BS attitude, she is currently shaking up the fuddy-duddy elitist world often associated with antique jewellery.

Her daring brand of repurposed antique intaglios taps into her clients’ emotions and highly personal histories. Emma’s unique talent lies in taking these powerful, sentimental antique pieces and interpreting them to perfect distinctive, individual and unique talismans for her clients. Emma finds it fascinating how, time and again, the mottos hand engraved well over a hundred years ago remain perfectly apposite for today. She notes that certain key human traits endure, like love, grief, mischief and our love for our pets! As Emma frequently points out to her followers, ‘ain’t too much changed my little treasure troves!’.

In just over a year, Emma has been recognised as a global entrepreneur to take note of in 2023; her jewellery has been showcased on the red carpet, recently at the BFI Festival and is on many an international stylist’s watch list.  Emma puts her skyrocketing success down to having ‘balls of pure steel!’

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

Absolutely not, although my mum did try to. I started business life as a healthcare lawyer.  A combination of constantly banging my head on the corporate glass ceiling and finding myself on the wrong side of the old boy’s network took its toll on me. During lockdown in August 2021, I turned to my other passion and perspicacity and decided to back myself by launching Bauble Magpie using the power of Instagram.

Have you faced any challenges along the way?

How long have you got!?  My natural candour is a heady mix of a superpower and a fire starter.  As a modern woman shaking up what is often seen as the elitist world of antiques and discovering that many jewellery brands of note are still headed up by men despite their pieces being primarily targeted at women, I’ve felt first-hand what it feels like to be the underdog.  Constantly fighting for progress, improvement, respect and a fair deal. Fortunately, I’m a quick learner.

What has been your biggest achievement to date?

Passing GCSE physics with a Grade C. It remains both my worst exam result to date and my proudest achievement. I struggled with physics because I am not good at accepting things as facts just because I am told they are. Which says both good things and bad things about my inquisitive but argumentative nature.

Latterly, being recognised as the founder of a successful business I built from scratch with no savings or backup support has been hugely validating for me. I am super proud to be on the jewellery map.  After years of being lambasted for my bold and opinionated character in the corporate world, Bauble Magpie’s firm foothold and astonishing growth has been a defining moment, knowing that finally, I could bin some of my demons,  proving that I am more than capable of mega success not only to an impressive cohort of naysayers from my past but crucially to myself. I always believed I was destined for greatness, and finally, in my mid-forties, I am hitting my stride, never looking back and fully focused on global success.

What one thing do you believe has been a major factor in your achieving success?

Courage.  The courage to back myself after years of being squashed. The courage to stand alone and start my own brand with no prior experience in owning or running a business or in retail commerce, online commerce or indeed, the jewellery industry.

It sounds like madness on paper, but I am proof positive that if you can manage to block out the noise, follow your passions, trust your instincts and work like a Trojan, then good things will surely follow.

How do you feel about mentoring? Have you mentored anyone or are you someone’s mentee?

I have lots of people I consider to be mentors. Around 10 at the moment. Different people I go to for different things. They include people with backgrounds as entrepreneurs, IT specialists, jewellery maker-owners and jewellery sellers. The trade is notoriously cut-throat, and I have found this to be true. There have certainly been times in the last year when I have felt a most definite Sopranos vibe. However, given my background as a lawyer, I prefer not to get involved with anything that has the whiff of dishonesty about it; I’d rather sleep at night!

But yes, I always seek input from the handful of key people that  I respect and trust. However, ultimately if I feel strongly about something I will always take my own route whilst remaining cognisant, I hope, of the potential pitfalls around that. But at the end of it all, what my career has taught me is that I’ve got to be me, so I always put my instinct and judgment at the heart of my decisions.

I don’t think I am a mentor to anybody just yet but people do certainly come to me for advice about both personal and business issues. I don’t feel qualified to assist with either, but I will always try my best, with an open heart, to help if I can. I always try my best to highlight other jewellers who are offering something exciting whether that’s in terms of design, value or rarity. The Instagram community has been so supportive. My outspoken nature has undoubtedly ruffled feathers with some of the dyed-in-the-wool ‘experts’, but I remain focussed on what I know I am bringing to the table.

If you could change one thing to accelerate the pace of change for Gender Parity, what would it be?

Misogyny; in the form of both conscious and unconscious bias. This is inextricably linked, in my opinion, to the all-pervading corporate lip service paid to equality, which is basically the mainstay of what exists right now. A lot of hot air and bugger all actual meaningful change. Gender Parity and other uncomfortable areas of discrimination like race, religion and health are viewed by most as no more than a set of inconvenient barriers that a corporation has to manage with kid gloves.

I realise that’s a depressing view. But it is also, sadly, my firm belief, founded on my personal experiences and those of many, many of my friends.

If you could give one piece of advice to your younger self what would it be?

In business, back yourself because you are good! You are not ordinary, so don’t pretend to be; it’s exhausting. And don’t listen to the tedious 9-5 dullards with no guts or imagination.  Only dead fish go with the flow.

What is your next challenge and what are you hoping to achieve in the future?

Growing the brand and gaining worldwide recognition!  I’m working on a collaboration with the jewellery artist Susannah King; we have a beautiful, respectful harmonious symbiosis and friendship; she calls me her ‘jewellery big sister’. This collaborative venture celebrates women supporting women and a lot of fun where my antique offer will collide fabulously with Susannah’s unique perspective and incredible ability with colour. Each piece will present an epic juxtaposition, and it is so exciting for me because we’re going to catapult antique intaglios into her aesthetic which I find to be more than modern; it’s blumming futuristic!

Additionally, it is absolutely all go for my pieces, the brand is building fast towards my desired fine jewellery aim. Increasingly we are creating beautiful pieces with gemstones for our clients with spectacular results. My line of Intaglio Ingots has had a soft launch but I absolutely believe they will do big things for the brand, they are gold ingot pendants that have been cast from the best and most popular intaglios and will be available in a variety of colourways, I just know that they are going to do huge things.

I am poised to roll out Jesslocks, a solid gold working padlock housing an antique intaglio, named after a Jess, which was the tether that the Victorians placed around the foot of their pet birds. These heavy pieces have been widely admired and lusted after, and I can’t wait until they start to roll out, they’re luxe, talismanic attention grabbers.

Empowering, luxe and highly individual, these talismans are handmade in England, as with all our pieces, with the utmost care and attention.

We’re also expanding our awesome EnaBailers. These indispensable widgets allow you to re-position your charms without any faff and are destined to become the ultimate hero piece for boss women always on the go.

In summer, we will add Ear EnaBailers to the fold, allowing our epic intaglio charms and ingots to be worn as earrings whether matchy-matchy or the ultra-hip mismatched look.

Our EnaBailers make it much quicker to style the perfect ‘neckmess’ or adorn a chunky bracelet and are already beloved by clients who keep coming back for more!

And finally, I plan to grow the ready-to-wear side of the business; that is a challenge because the demand for the bespoke pieces is such that I can barely keep up as it is!

What would you like to be known for?

I’d like the brand to be known for breathing new life into lost and forgotten treasures and for bringing intaglio jewellery to the masses. We will maintain our commitment to innovation and excellence so that the brand will become synonymous with luxe, considered, well-made pieces. Attention to detail is always paramount.

Personally, I’d like to be known for my courage and resilience. If I am fortunate enough to ever have the platform, I’d love to become a sort of informal ambassador for middle-aged women everywhere and as a champion in destigmatising mental health issues.

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