My light bulb moment: Jewellery designer Cecily Motley

My light bulb moment: Jewellery brand founder Cecily Motley reveals why she decided to start designing mid-market options

  • Cecily Motley, 33, is the co-founder of affordable jewellery brand Motley
  • She worked at Louisa Guinness Gallery and became fascinated with wearable art
  • She realised there were no mid-market artistic jewellery available to buy

Cecily Motley, 33, co-founded affordable fine jewellery brand Motley in October 2017 with Ilana Lever, 32. She lives in London with her husband, Oliver.

Ilana and I have been good friends since meeting at Oxford, where we studied history. After graduating in 2009, I got a job at Christie’s auction house, while she went into management consultancy.

In 2013, I moved to the Louisa Guinness Gallery, working with fine artists such as Jeff Koons to create art jewellery. I was fascinated by art you could wear. 

The pieces would sell for thousands of pounds and I couldn’t afford any of it.

Cecily Motley, 33, (pictureD) co-founded the affordable mid-market jewellery brand Motley

The only option, it seemed, was to resort to High Street brands. But their jewellery would usually break, or the metal would turn my fingers green. 

Mid-market options were limited. Once, my friends and I bought another friend a £300 pair of earrings. But still, one of the posts fell off. It was so frustrating.

This was my lightbulb moment. I thought: ‘There must be a way to make jewellery that’s exciting, unique and still good quality, and accessible for a wider audience.’

I was inspired by the collaboration model our gallery used. It reminded me of how High Street shops collaborate with top designers on affordable collections. So, why not do the same for jewellery?

In January 2017, I quit my job to work on the idea. A few months in, Ilana got in touch to ask for jewellery recommendations. 

I said: ‘It’s funny you ask . . .’ She’d just been made redundant, so she offered to help write my business plan.

Cecily first had the inspiration to create her own jewellery range after working in an art gallery

She became fascinated with wearable art

Cecily first had the inspiration to create her own jewellery range after working in an art gallery and becoming fascinated with wearable art. Pictured: Some of the jewellery in Motley’s range

We sourced designers, makers in Italy, Turkey and Thailand, and angel investment. We kept costs down by using a silver base metal with a gold overlay called vermeil, which is long-lasting.

In October 2017 we launched Motley with five collaborations with designers including Sian Evans and Hannah Martin. Their pieces sell for thousands, but we kept prices at £40 to £350. 

The designers get a fee, as well as a commission on each sale. And we have a three-year guarantee and repairs service to combat throwaway fashion.

We now have 14 ranges and sell online to the UK, U.S., Europe, and Australia. After the first lockdown was announced, my husband had to photograph me modelling new items on his iPhone. 

Yet, we saw a 200 per cent rise in sales, with more people buying gifts for those they couldn’t visit.

Ring sales declined due to increased handwashing, but statement Zoom jewellery rocketed by 70 per cent. It makes you feel good, and we all need that now.

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