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Anne-Marie Warburton donates stunning Fire Ball Pearl necklace for Theatre Orangeville Gala

December 21, 2023   ·   0 Comments

By Constance Scrafield

The fabulous Fire Ball Pearl necklace with white gold and diamond bail on a 14kw white gold chain glimmers in a glass case. It was the annual donation from Anne-Marie Warburton for Theatre Orangeville’s 30th anniversary on the occasion of the ‘Twas the Night Gala this year, Nov. 25. The jewellery was Ms. Warburton’s contribution to Theatre Orangeville’s most important fundraising event of the year that is the Gala’s purpose.

Ms. Warburton is very well known as the founder and owner of Gallery Gemma, which is located in the Alton Mill Arts Centre in Alton. Her business is one of the longest-term tenants at the Mill, having set up shop while parts of the Mill were still very much under renovation.

As a regular feature at Gallery Gemma, Ms. Warburton hosts gem events, to which an expert on the specific gems of interest comes with a large collection. Those gems are passed around the table of a limited number of attendees to be admired, informed about the colour in them – a chance to really understand what each gem offers for beauty and value. They are all available to purchase, and there are no conditions about what becomes of them post-purchase. Some guests buy the stones as part of their own collections; other gems are purchased with a view to becoming part of a piece of jewellery, designed in collaboration with Ms. Warburton or, indeed, with another jeweller.

About this Fire Ball Pearl, in particular, she told the Citizen, “I had cultured pearl event, a second seating of the pearl. I saw this pearl and it was perfect for the piece I wanted to make.”

She explained that pearls are formed in a pocket within the mollusk, and a Fire Ball Pearl can be developed by the pearl farmer by placing an input shape into or even under the mollusk. It takes two to three years for the mollusk to develop the pearl.

Pearl farming in many parts of the world is a very sensitive project, farming the oysters and taking good care of them, checking them and turning them.

“Farmers go to the extent of having armed guards to protect their farms,” she said. “In Tahiti, pearl farmers set a goal to make the water cleaner than in the 1960’s.”

Her pearl event was fantastic and well attended, with so many varieties a person would never otherwise get to see here. Among them was the beautiful Fire Ball Pearl, which she used as the necklace for which she created the 14kw white gold and diamond bail in her studio, placing them on a 14kw white gold chain.

Anne-Marie Warburton’s jewellery donation at Theatre Orangeville’s Gala was won by the sale of individual “bobbles” at $25 each. This year all the bobbles were sold, so gorgeous was the Pearl and diamond necklace.

She told us that she worries she is not doing enough for the theatre.

“The bobbles sold out and [people] are willing to spend $25. I’m always grateful Theatre Orangeville is such a wonderful part of the community.”

After more than 20 years at the Alton Mill, what keeps her interested, as she commented, “It’s not like coming to work – it’s about making people happy. I have lots of things under $50 to give people the chance to buy something neat that isn’t cook- cutter.”

In the course of bringing new ideas and products to Gallery Gemma, Ms. Warburton talked about going to trade shows, being involved in groups and the jewellers’ Facebook.

Information and insight can come from unexpected sources. She commented that she got some insight into the fashion industry by listening to a makeup artist who could show an eyeliner and make that a trend, which led Ms. Warburton to tell us about trends.

“Decades ago,” she began, “a movie showed the heroin’s signature necklace and people had to have it. Or a diamond in a bracelet worn by a celebrity.”

In her own shop at the Mill, Ms. Warburton designs jewellery, especially people’s old jewellery and antiques they have inherited but do not suit them.

“If you don’t change it,” said she about that, “it’s just going to sit in a drawer, but we make something fresh, and it still holds all the lovely memories.”

She does a great many of those in her own workspace at the Gallery.

At the beginning of establishing Gallery Gemma, “It was great fun, very rewarding for everybody.”

Just as she herself was mentored in her early days, there is a young woman in Orangeville taking classes [in jewellery making], whom she mentored and other students. The jewellery industry is very generous in information and help.

To open a shop takes perseverance and money, she warned, noting that some jewellers are more interested in their work at the back of their stores than in the front, talking to customers.

“It is fortunate for me that I love people so much,” Anne-Marie Warburton said of herself. She added that her two staff, Natalie and John, love jewellery and helping people find the thing they love, too.

Her ambition is always to grow her customer base, saying, “I want to bring beautiful jewellery design to our area. Here [at the Alton Mill] it’s not business as usual. This is something you wouldn’t see anywhere else. Everything they’re [the artist tenants in the Mill] doing is of a high standard.”

To any person wanting to go into the jewellery business, her advice is, “Go and work in somebody else’s business. Learn as much as you can – there are so many ways to be in the business. It certainly has been worth the work for me.”

Meanwhile, go and visit her at the Alton Mill Arts Centre in Alton. Here is her website for a preview:

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