Benée Rubin has worked hard to get where she is now. Trained in how to make custom jewellery at a time when it was still very much a man’s world, this single mother worked full-time crafting jewellery for some of Vancouver’s top jewellery stores before deciding it was time to relaunch her own company with her signature “Two in One” interlocking necklace designs: each of her unique necklaces can be worn together or separated into two necklaces allowing two people to share a bond and show it to the world.
Why did you get into jewellery design?
I was going to university and working part-time in the jewellery business, working at Ben Moss. I really liked it: I loved art classes and building things with my hands. British Columbia was the only place where you could do a jewellery manufacturer and repair apprenticeship.
In 1989, I started my company Designs by Benée, and at 34 years’ old, I was a single mother. I knew that I wanted to be my own boss and I had $100 in my account after I finished buying all of my tools. I was so young and stupid I didn’t know how afraid I needed to be. I just did it.
I am a master goldsmith. I physically make the jewellery. It’s a different aspect than just being a designer. I’m fascinated by how things work and how things fit together. I’m one of the few women classically trained to work at the “bench”, as they like to call it, who got to work with gold and diamonds and rubies and make stuff. When I started my career, I trained with Europeans: two years with Erik Lyth, a Danish master, and two years with Swiss master Elois Lander.
Tell us a bit about your company.
I really believe in jewellery that tells a story and that everyone has their own unique story to share. People tell me why they are getting a Two in One necklace made and who will be wearing the second piece of the design. I’ve had husbands and wives buy my necklaces because one of them was going off to be stationed in Iraq or Afghanistan, or they were buying a Mother and Child necklace because their son or daughter was going to leave to college. I have even had one of my necklaces go up on the NASA Space Shuttle into orbit!
Starting with the Oneness Mandala necklace, which I was inspired to make after seeing it in the Jet Li movie “The One”, I got a huge response from people, who seemed to like that these pieces of jewellery were two pieces that came together. Soon people started requesting different things but I didn’t have the time or resources to make brand new pieces. After a few years I went by, I decided to make a couple of new Mandala necklaces, followed by Mandala cufflinks. Then it became crosses and then others asked for a Star of David. Then someone asked for dog tags. Jewellery takes on an extra meaning if people can add their own ideas to it, so I left room for people to customize.
After my daughter grew up and went to live with her dad, I wasn’t a full time caregiver and I could take the time to think about where my business was going to go and to grow my business. It’s unbelievably time consuming to not only design the jewellery but also to do the writing of the material, the photographs, making the molds, your master models. It was a year in the making to get to this point and really launch the line.
How would you characterize your style?
Clean lines. I love detail and clean lines. I love history, I love symbols. I like things that are multipurpose.
Who are your clients?
For these collections, my customers are romantics. A lot of parents and husbands and wives buy my jewellery. For instance, a mother will buy the Two in One crosses for herself and her son or daughter. I design so that it won’t go out of style the next year or two down the road.
What do you think moms should know about your jewellery?
Well it takes a beating! You can wear it everyday. You can get baby food or puke on it and it’ll clean up perfectly. That’s a lesson I learned pretty fast as a jewellery designer and a mom! The little ones can grab the chain and it won’t break. My jewellery is built to last and can be handed down. I make things that are practical but can stand the test of time and are beautiful in its design and manufacturing.
Where can people buy your jewellery?
My website is www.benee.com, which has all of my launch designs broken up into four categories: the Mandala necklaces, the Yin-Yang necklaces, Two as One necklaces and Cufflinks. And anybody who reads this, if they contact me and mention that they read about my jewellery on Vancouver Moms I’ll take 10% off!
Anything else to add?
I think that what stands out for me is that I will really work with you to make you something special. If you’ve got old gold, some of grandma’s silver spoons, stones handed down, we’ll use them in any one of our designs to make something that is really unique to you. And share your story about why you are getting one of my necklaces or cufflinks or a custom design and I will post it on my site! You bring us your story and we’ll let your story shine.