Scottish Designer Ellis Mhairi Cameron Comes to America

A Highlands heritage overseas: While her jewelry roots remain deep in her homeland, the artist’s US clientele is steadily growing.

December 5, 2023  |  Rachael Taylor

For Scottish jewelry designer Ellis Mhairi Cameron — whose rustic gold and diamond creations draw on the crags and clouds of her Highlands homeland — taking her business to New York in 2020 was a gamble. Or to use her local parlance, she was being a total chancer.

Her bewildered, wide-eyed laugh at this, accompanied by a shoulder shrug and a splaying of long, stiletto-shaped black nails that perfectly match the ink-like tattoos on her arms, is only partly convincing.

While she might feel there’s been an element of luck in her growing list of retail clients and the fact that half her sales now come from the US, there is also a shrewdness to Cameron that serves her well. She is the master of her own fate.

Engagement set featuring old-cut diamond ring and gold wedding band. (Ellis Mhairi Cameron)

Confidence pays

Her decision to travel to the States within 18 months of launching the Ellis Mhairi Cameron brand stemmed from the steady trickle of US customers who had discovered her online. Some found her organically, others through targeted ads that highlighted her heritage.

“I was trying to explore that Scots diaspora,” she says. “I started getting some orders [from the US]; not loads, but enough for me to think I should explore going over there.” Orders tended to be for pieces of $2,000 or less, and Cameron reasoned that if people were confident enough to spend significant sums online without having handled the jewels, how much might they spend if they could see it all in person?

Taking advantage of a grant from art-promoting agency Craft Scotland, she got on a plane and set up her stall at the New York Now show. This roll of the dice paid off, and she secured her first US retail client at the fair: concept store Lingg in Cleveland, Ohio. “They ordered some Scatter bands and some of the big Shield rings, and that gave me confidence,” she remembers.

In general, Cameron finds that her larger statement pieces tend to do well in the States, where customers like to embrace adventure in their adornment: “They’re not afraid to layer and stack, and come up with very unique combinations.”

Scatter ring in 14-karat yellow gold with 4.5 carats of old-cut diamonds. (Ellis Mhairi Cameron)

Unearthing treasures

Unfortunately, the pandemic arrived just weeks after that first show, but Cameron’s enforced return to digital outreach wasn’t the disaster she’d feared it would be. The designer continued to sign up new US retailers that year, including the Oakland, California, branch of fine jeweler Esqueleto, and Colorado boutique DonLo Mercantile. Her brand is now available at 15 locations in 10 states, and she has taken on Allana Lalot, founder of Canada-based jewelry-sales agency Lalot, to support her growing network of retail partners.

Cameron’s latest collection, which she will be showing at Melee the Show in New York this February, is Legacy — a fresh ode to her roots. Her family has been farming the same land in Scotland since 1502, and Cameron partnered with a metal detectorist to unearth ancestral artifacts buried on the farmland. Their discoveries included a brooch, a locket, and a Cameron clan pin bearing a Gaelic inscription that translates to “We come bearing weapons.”

The textures and shapes of these found items have inspired the Legacy pieces, which contain soft-yellow baguette diamonds. This is a thoughtful departure from her usual penchant for brown and orange diamonds; her plan with this collection was to “capture the essence of discovery — the awe-inspiring moment when digging in the earth reveals a glimmer of something extraordinary.”

X old-cut large hoop earrings in 14-karat yellow gold with diamonds.
(Ellis Mhairi Cameron)

Main image: From left: Ellis Mhairi Cameron; old cut diamond Nugget pendant necklace. (Ellis Mhairi Cameron)

This article is from the November-December 2023 issue of Rapaport Magazine. View other articles here.

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Scottish Designer Ellis Mhairi Cameron Comes to America

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