A jewellery designer, a grandmother-to-be and a traveller. Elizabeth Tuman describes her life as “an interesting one,” where travel has brought both love and heartbreak into her life. She reveals how it felt being united with her parents for the first time at 11 years old, to difficult decisions regarding her long distance marriage.
Elizabeth first began designing her own jewellery 20 years ago, but her love for gemstones began long before that while growing up with her grandmother, Wan Tai Chan, who believed in the healing of stones. “At a young age I learnt from that as we were very close. Myself and my cousins grew up always wearing a piece of jade, which my grandma would have patiently hand knotted it in silk so we could wear it, she taught me you should always treat gemstones with care.” Elizabeth still uses the skills learnt from her grandmother to create some of her pieces.
Elizabeth’s career has allowed her to explore countries such as India, China, Thailand and Malaysia. She travels for “about four months”, looking for unique gemstones for her designs. However, finding the gems isn’t always the hardest bit, it’s the buying that can be a struggle: “I’ve had difficult experiences… in places like India you always have to bargain hard for your purchase, sometimes a simple transaction would take a whole day so you need lots of patience to actually buy something.” Her favourite place to find gems is China, and her favourite gemstone is a pearl. The rarest gem she has ever found was an alexandrite in Russia.
Travel has been an important aspect in Elizabeth’s life ever since she was 11 years old as she travelled to England to meet her parents for the first time. Her mother and father moved when she was born in order to get work, so their first ever meeting was very surreal: “I remember it like it was yesterday. My father picked me up from the airport in Heathrow and drove six hours home, my mum was waiting for us, when we first met my dad said: “this is your mum, say mum” but I couldn’t get the words out from my mouth, I froze and my mum started to cry.
It took us a long while to bond; it was really hard at first. When I first arrived in the UK I felt strange and out of sorts and I missed my grandparents and Hong Kong so much… we wasted so much time. But I think it was the whole different atmosphere, the different weather, different languages and so on and I missed my friends but once we bonded we were very close, my mum was my best friend.”
When asked about her favourite piece of clothing, her mother’s memory popped up once more: “Her old mink coat which my dad bought for her with his first wages. The funny thing was my mum didn’t like the coat so much because she never really had a chance to wear it, my mum was a very simple soul but because my dad saved up to buy it, it meant a lot to her… so it means a lot to me.”
Due to being very close to her grandmother, moving to England was difficult and this was the first time Elizabeth experienced the difficulties of long distance: “I used to cry in my sleep because I missed them so much. They came to stay in England for six months then I used to go visit them every summer holidays. I am one of the lucky people who had both the love of grandparents as well as my own parents.”
Her love of gems brought about by her childhood has allowed Elizabeth to design ranges from necklaces to rings, earrings, brooches and bracelets, all of which are complete one offs: “I never make the same design twice; all of my pieces are unique.” She is currently based in Gosforth, Newcastle, and her pieces averagely cost around £100.
Having discovered the difficulties in travel and long distance in her childhood, it seems that Elizabeth still has the same issue today, but this time it involves her marriage. She first met her husband of 20 years, Yousuf, while travelling in India for gemstones. However, as Yousuf still lives in India, distance has become an issue in their marriage: “I married my first husband too young, I was only 18, it didn’t work out but we are still very good friends as we are parents to our son, Danny, who’s making me a grandmother soon.
I met my second husband whilst traveling for my gems and he became one of my gems so to speak… my second husband is the love of my life but we have a long distance marriage and right now I need a new direction in my life. It’s very difficult, we are each other’s true love but even though he is very westernised… his parents won’t let him go. That’s life. I am a very strong person.”
However, travel is not the only passion of Elizabeth’s, fashion has always been an interest of hers which was obvious from what she was wearing – her Burberry silk scarf with matching silk shirt from M&S included bold blues and clashing patterns, which was matched with a leather jacket from OASIS and a skirt from Coast (one of her favourite shops.)
“Fashion and jewellery go hand in hand. I get inspiration with my designs based a lot on what is going on in the main fashion catwalk. I was very lucky to have many aunties who love fashion, from a very young age I had been gifted pieces from Valentino to Chanel, so I always appreciated nice clothes as well as high street clothes I may add.”
A fashion lover yes, but a beauty lover not so much. Nevertheless, Elizabeth is very strict on her skin care routine: “I had skin problems in my teens and I was advised by a very nice lady at my local chemist how to take care of my skins and I stuck by that cleanse, tone and moisture, I am very clear with that. I am now 56 but I know my skin is good, no need to spend lots of money just don’t be lazy.”
If you are looking for “special pieces… for ladies who want to be different and to stand out” then you can visit Elizabeth, see more of her designs and get in touch with her personally at elizabethtuman.com.