Kerry Miles, founder of Precious by Kerry has been creating unique personalised jewellery for the past five years. Inspired by her family and her own personal experience, the jewellery can be made from breastmilk, ashes, placenta or even from an umbilical cord and aims to offer customers the “ultimate personalised gift”. The jewellery also comes in a variety of precious metals such as gold, rose gold, platinum and white gold.
The family business operates out of her home in Cloughey in a converted garage which is now her work studio. Other than herself and the help of her family, the business employs one other person on a freelance basis. Miles, who “pours her all into her jewellery”, says that each piece she makes takes a part of her with it, “it’s incredibly personal and to be a part of that journey is a real honour” she concludes.
So how is the jewellery made?
Miles’s process is simple. Customers can order online to select their own personalised jewellery type, – such as a breastmilk bracelet. Once this has been done, Miles sends them a collection pack which features a vial for the milk to be secured in. Alongside the pack is a measuring sleeve which the client can then use to get their size right.
Once this is completed, the pack is sent back to Miles who keeps it labelled and organised in a fridge until it is ready to be made. At this point she adds that “there is no room for error, especially when you’re effectively dealing with bodily fluids”.
The milk is then dehydrated using a machine which, over the process of a week, slowly mixes together with a few drops of natural preservative to turn it into powder form. In its powder form, the milk is then infused with either glass or resin to create a “mesmerising jewel effect”. Each different substance creates its own distinctive colouring, for example the breastmilk looks like pearl drops, whereas the placenta encapsulates looks like speckled precious stones. Once the jewellery is ready, it’s simply packaged and sent to the clients.
Before Miles began her jewellery business, she was an art teacher at a secondary school. It wasn’t until her second child was born that the idea to create unique jewellery came to light. Miles’s eldest son Harry helped her figure out how to preserve breastmilk in resin, which she had already been using for years in her art, to create rings as a way to celebrate her own breastfeeding journey.
Like for many women, breastfeeding is not always a simple or easy process. A national NHS report for 2020 found that out of the 41,065 total births for the year, 41% of the babies born were bottle fed as mothers struggled to provide enough milk themselves.
Speaking from her own experience, she remembers when she had her daughter Daisy. Miles had arranged to return to work on a part time basis, yet during this period, she recalls that Daisy was still too used to breastmilk and struggled to be bottle fed. The pain to try and feed her daughter via other means went on for months leading Miles to become all the more stressed.
By the time it came to return to work full-time, Miles was too worried about leaving Daisy that she ended up being diagnosed with postnatal depression. This seemed to only get worse when Daisy was diagnosed with B-12 deficiency. Eventually she was admitted to hospital, where in total she spent five weeks.
Throughout this hard time, Miles recounts that she met “genuinely, lovely people” through her jewellery business who helped keep her spirits high through tears, laughter and ultimately someone to talk to. Since that low, she explains the business has “grown from strength to strength”.
So why has breastmilk jewellery become popular in recent years?
Due to breastfeeding becoming a more normalised part of society especially in public, there is more room for unique concepts such as the jewellery brand to shine, Miles suggests. Additionally, she says that for many mothers who struggle with breastfeeding and endure different pains and problems, they can see the jewellery as a reward to celebrate their experience.
Furthermore, the complete personalisation of the jewellery makes it an attractive niche for individuals who are looking for something to mark an occasion through either the breastmilk or the ashes of a loved one. During lockdown, with everyone working from home, the business has been moving successfully along as more people are now taking the time to find out about the brand. When discussing her order intakes as a result of the jewellery’s new found popularity, Miles says that on average the business takes in over 30 orders weekly.
Looking to the future, Miles suggests that whilst the business begins to grow steadily, she has no immediate interest in taking on additional staff or opening her own store. She explains that she is content working out of her own home and that whilst she doesn’t think of herself as a business woman she just does this to make her happy.
However, the glass infused jewellery which already carries 70% of this business could expand and take over resin in the future. She reiterates that she is not looking outside of her bubble at the moment and wants to stay as a niche and simply wants to “get better and provide a stronger service” for her clients. Miles remembers that when the business first launched its website, she was worried that it would feel less personal but it had the opposite effect. She says, “the website allowed us to reach a lot more people, which for me is the whole point.” Being in personal contact with the individual who the jewellery is for is a priority for Miles as each client gives her “something incredibly personal”. She expresses that the jewellery and clients’ individual stories are what the business is all about, “finding the beauty in the most natural substances”.
Miles notes: “I think the business also only works because I am so deeply committed to it. I have to be an integral part of the business which is why it’s done so well so far.” The personal touch that Miles incorporates into her work plays a vital part in the success of the company, which prides itself on being a friendly, family business. Speaking of her family, Miles says that her son is considering joining the business as he exhibits the skillset to help the company move forward.
“If my son joins, then who knows I might change my mind somewhere in the next four to five years and expand a little bit” she concludes.