Who is Jacqueline & Edward?
My name is Mark Bell and together with my amazing wife Jacqueline and our dog Ronnie, we represent the family company which is Jacqueline & Edward. We focus on creating handmade wedding rings from eco-friendly recycled precious metals and sustainably panned alluvial river gold.
How did it all start?
I’ve been panning and prospecting for gold since I was a young boy. It was my first love. Inspired by a fateful moment driving with my father over Kildonan Bridge in the wilds of northeast Scotland, I spent the next two weeks standing waist deep in a watery hole panning for gold. At the time I loved every minute but had no idea that those two weeks would shape all the years to come. I wonder if that weather beaten old timer, when he shared his wisdom, knew the effects our brief encounter would have on my entire life from the friends I keep, the education I pursued to the business I eventually came to create alongside Jacqueline.
What gold means to Jacqueline & Edward
The work required to extract a tangible amount of gold in a sustainable way without mining the hills themselves often surprises. I have spent whole days finding nothing though typically not in my latter years, but then again, other days I have been rewarded well for the hours of work, the aching muscles, bracing the merciless weather of winter and the relentless midges of Summer. Even on the days a river has given nothing, anyone who loves nature will understand it never leaves you empty handed.
When I walk up the bank of a river, it tells a story. The language the river uses to tell its tale is at first foreign and unintelligible, yet enchanting and enticing. The more you listen, the more you understand (a degree in geology helps I must admit). 30 years on and we are old friends speaking easily to one another the way only old friends can. As with old friends, at least the interesting ones, they still surprise you. I’ve forged similar relationships with the geomorphology of the land, the solid and superficial deposits underfoot and the elements, fauna and flora which surround me.
Gold is dense, and it is inert, malleable yet strong, always unique and beautiful, whilst being stubborn, surprising and evasive. They say if you hold a grain of natural gold in the palm of your hand in direct sunlight, then gold fever seeps into your soul. This happened to my father…. Believe me, I watched during the moment of transformation. From sane husband and father, to relentless gold panner with an unquenchable thirst for the river.
Why change from being a simple geologist and gold prospector?
In more recent years I found another love, which should never have surprised me considering I have always loved creating art as much as I have loved practicing science. It was when I spent time helping to make my wedding rings with an old friend in Scotland many moons ago that I was inspired to progress my art into three dimensions and the medium of metal. Not long after that trip, my wife bought me a beginner’s taster session in silversmithing and from there I found a kinship with ring making and quickly progressing into working with gold.
Quite simply I love working with gold. It’s a tactile process that one moment requires the steady hand of a surgeon as you pour molten metal into a crucible 1 foot away from the sleeping head of Ronnie and the next requires the brute strength of Thor as you try to bend around a 4mm square profile, semi work hardened wire into the desired shape. It needs patience and foresight, attention to detail and persistence. It’s just damn cool if you ask me. One day I am in the workshop creating a complex mixed metal Russian ring and the next I have created a unique 18ct carat gold alloy which somehow reflects a different colour under artificial vs natural light. Life as a ring maker is simply magic and of course is done with the blessing and encouragement of the man who inspired me all those years ago.
So, it made perfect sense to bring my love of natural alluvial river gold and ring making together as Jacqueline & Edward. There may be jewellers out there who work in Scottish Gold and there may be gold panners who pass on their gold to a small number of jewellers, but the two do not co-exist as one person, at least not outside of Jacqueline & Edward. Panning as a kid, geology and geochemistry as a university student, a 15 year career as an environmental consultant and the latter years working as a goldsmith has instilled a rather unusual and unique set of skills which allow Jacqueline & Edward to exist.
We gift our family gold, found over the last two generations within rivers across the United Kingdom and beyond within our ethical wedding rings. It is quite common that we have gold from an area of importance to our Clients, such as stone’s throw from a wedding venue or the hills they used to play in as a child. Alluvial gold from different areas has a unique geochemical fingerprint owing to the geological environment of formation in that location. This means that the gold from different areas we use in our rings can be uniquely tied to that region, just as both rings of a matching pair can be uniquely tied to each other when being made from the same molten bead of gold.
The birth of our Ethical Wedding Rings
For the last 15 years, prior to Jacqueline & Edward becoming a serious venture, I worked full time as a contaminated land specialist within the environmental sector as I built up J&E with my wife during evenings and weekends. During that time, I became a chartered scientist, chartered environmentalist and chartered member of water and environmental management. My job mattered on a moral level, hence I gained additional environmental credentials and was the result of wanting to make a positive difference to the world around me. Jacqueline & Edward inevitably adopts the same values. I don’t want to use any metals directly associated with mining, so we use recycled metals in all of our work, after all I spent some of those 15 years remediating the impacts of historically active metalliferous mines in the north of England. There is plenty of silver, gold and copper already out there and it just needs diverting towards a new existence… one which begins in my workshop and ends in a ring on your finger.
Why the name Jacqueline & Edward?
Our company name was inspired by two very special people in my life. The first is Jacqueline, without who there would be no Jacqueline & Edward. She is the yin to my yang and keeps the company grounded, organised and fuelled for travelling in the right direction. You’ll no doubt hear more from her as these blog posts progress. The second is Edward; Eddie, to those who knew him, or Albert Edward Bell to those who did not. He was my father. It is because of him I found my love of gold and because of that passion I eventually created Jacqueline & Edward (with a warm and hefty nudge from Jacqueline of course). If he was around today, he would have been the hard-grafting old timer who took you out to find gold for your wedding rings with a gold pan in one hand and a flask of hot coffee in the other.
My wife and I love Jacqueline & Edward. We love everything it stands for. It creates eco-friendly wedding rings from sustainable metals. It ties provenance into people’s rings and creates unique stories that people, including us, cherish forever. The ring is the only part of your wedding, bar your memories, that you have on your person every day for the rest of your life. We believe they matter immensely, along with people’s experience buying them. Jacqueline & Edward combines all the loves in our life into one single place and therefore we get to enjoy them every single day….. geology, art, science, communication, design and adventure. Because of this, it will never be a job to us, it is a way of life and has come to define who we are.