“I didn’t grow up with jewellery or have any sort of affinity for it. I studied jewellery design because my boyfriend at the time was studying jewellery design.”
It was an unusual start for a designer who went on to win some of the most coveted jewellery design awards in the country and who is today, arguably, one of South Africa’s foremost fine jewellery designers.
Noeline Kruger-Angove is a multi-award-winning fine jewellery designer, working from her own gallery and jewellery store in Cape Town’s buzzing Loop Street. Her creations adorn the hands, arms, necks and ears of women around the world – particularly those who appreciate exceptional craftsmanship, attention to detail and personalisation.
MADE TO FIT
The personal becomes the wearable as Noeline is committed to taking the time to really engage with a client’s brief and to understand something about the person who’ll be wearing the jewellery before she starts designing.
“People give away a lot about themselves in a very short time. I read people quickly, or maybe I am just attuned to people’s every gesture,” she says. It’s these gestures that offer clues to an individual’s style and preferences, and which she interprets in her intuitive way.
While Noeline works to understand a client’s desires, she honours her craft and professional expertise by being honest with the client about the feasibility of a design. “I’ll tell a client honestly if I don’t think a design will work, and then make recommendations for how it could.”
Fine jewellery, Noeline says, is something somebody wears for the rest of their life. “It’s like my craft, my handwork, will live a life with somebody.” This, she adds is why she loves designing engagement rings or pieces that mark an important milestone, pieces that carry within them a story and will go on to have a legacy.
“Jewellery is such a personal thing. I become friends with my clients. We go on a journey together. And they come back to me to design pieces for their children, or for when they renew their wedding vows. You become part of their story.” For Noeline this is where the joy of designing lies.
“Jewellery also appeals to me because it is intriguing to see how a piece comes to life. There is a wonder and a mystery to antique jewellery that I just can’t get enough of, which is also why I work in a classic style,” Noeline muses.
Taking care to ensure every detail of both the design and manufacturing of a jewellery piece is exceptional is simply part of how Noeline approaches her work. For her it’s a matter of pride and reputation. “It concerns me what people think of my work. It goes back to my classic training in fine jewellery design. You make something to last a lifetime,” she believes. Noeline adds: “I learned this from my mother; you’ve only got one name. I can’t hide behind the ‘Grey Building Company’. That’s a big part of my motivation too.”
A CUT ABOVE THE REST
But Noeline’s motivation and vision hasn’t always been as clear cut. “I failed the technical part of my third-year course at Technikon!” she admits. It was when she got to fourth year that she decided she would give it her all. “Because I didn’t have anything to lose,” she says plainly. It was the same philosophy that led her to entering jewellery design competitions. And then she started winning. “When I started winning a lot of things fell into place and started to understand that this – this industry – is where I had to be. And of course winning competitions was a great motivation.”
Yet it still wasn’t all shiny diamonds for Noeline. “In the beginning I worked hard but I worked stupidly.” She elaborates and explains that the competitions presented many opportunities for her, including overseas trips to trade shows, lots of media coverage and TV features like Top Billing. “This opened many doors for me, but I was too young to realise what it meant. I got lots of job offers but I didn’t understand what this meant for me so I didn’t pursue it.”
Despite her early naivety, Noeline had some lucky breaks in her career, like starting in a design job straight after tech. “At Visconte I had a real jewellery design job where you work with clients and the most gorgeous stones. I loved it! Even here I was still too young and naïve to realise what it could mean for me,” she explains, saying that jewellery design jobs only come to you when you’ve been working in the industry for 10 to 15 years. “While I was designing, my peers were doing sales at places like Sterns and American Swiss.”
ON THE ROAD, WITH A CHEST OF TREASURES
Luck runs out and is no substitute for hard work, and so Noeline kept honing her craft. Inspired by her passion, she soon set about doing her own thing.
“I literally started from my bedroom in 2005. I would drive out to potential clients with my little suitcase of designs and try to sell my work. And then Michael (Angove, her now-husband) would make the pieces for me.”
Michael eventually joined Noeline in the business, they got married, started another business – Lazer Options, adding engraving to their portfolio – had a son, Lloyd, and eventually realised their dream of opening a gallery.
GRAND, GRANDER, AND THEN A GALLERY
“For years Michael and I would talk about having a shop,” Noeline says of the the space that was to become The Goldsmiths Gallery on Loop. “It was never really about showcasing my own range. I wanted to give a space and a platform to all the talent that I saw. There really were people working in a garage doing beautiful work that never got seen.” Today the gallery is a curated art and design space showcasing fine jewellery, art and photography.
CHAOS, COMPETITION AND CREATIVITY
In between running a business, curating the work for the gallery and being a mom Noeline does less design than she used to, but still prioritises creativity. “At least once a month I call on the grandparents to take care of Lloyd and then I force myself to do something I like. I say force, because sometimes starting can be a struggle, but once I get going I don’t want to stop. And it’s not always jewellery. I’m crazy about my garden and my garden is a very good creative outlet.”
These creative outlets are essential for keeping her on top of her game. “I used to worry about ‘the competition’ beating me to it. But I’ve come to understand – and appreciate – that there is room for all of us. Of 10 people in a room, everybody has their own taste, style and preference.” Today Noeline is confident in what she does. “It took me a while to decide exactly what it is that I do but today I know I am a fine jeweller and that is what I do, and I know what I am doing and what makes my work unique and sets it apart. And that’s a great place to be.”