International Women’s Day: Dr Rona Mackenzie

In celebration of International Women’s Day, here is one of our favourite women that we’ve come across through our work at David Fowkes. Our Chief Operating Officer, Dr Rona Mackenzie, talks to us about her former life as a Headteacher, why it’s never too late to follow your dreams, accessorising Strictly’s Craig Revel Horwood and the emotional experience behind a commissioned piece of jewellery.

What are the highlights of your time in education?

I have always loved working with young people and supporting them in their achievements and have many proud memories along these lines.

A particular highlight, though, would have to be launching Lincoln UTC, a brand new college for 14-19 year olds specialising in Science, Engineering and Computer Science. Working with Siemens and other business partners, we took it from a blank canvas and no premises to launch within just twelve months.

Other key moments include attending the Queen’s Garden Party at Buckingham Palace, dining with Prince Andrew and generally becoming well-respected nationally as a Headteacher and expert on education.

After a twenty-year career in teaching, including becoming an Ofsted Inspector and Principal of Lincoln UTC, you decided to change careers – why ?

I left education in 2017 after becoming ‘burnt out’ and realising that the stress levels of work had masked a potentially serious illness. I didn’t really know what I wanted to do going forward, but I wanted to work in industry so I began studying an MBA full time at Sheffield Hallam University.

Students, their parents and my colleagues were disappointed when I left, but understood the reasons why – but many family members thought I was mad to give up a well-paid job where I was highly respected and known.

What was your life-changing moment?

My illness scare was a massive wake-up call.  It made me realise that a fancy job and title don’t matter, it’s who you are and how you live your life that’s important.

A change of career became inevitable as I sought a better work:life balance.

Having embarked upon my MBA, I turned down a few job offers – in Dubai and London – before a chance meeting with David Fowkes led to my current role.

I’d known David since 2009 when he created my wedding ring. I immediately loved his work and when I bumped into him again on a train in February 2017, I offered to complete my MBA marketing module on the company, supporting his planned business development. Twelve months later I was working with him!

How does your current role differ from your time as a Headteacher?

I feel so lucky to have found my current role, which is altogether a richer experience with the freedom to create, to stop, think and reflect what’s right for clients, a truly collaborative way of working with creative people, and the added bonus that the working day usually finishes at 5pm!

I’m still juggling lots of different components but now have the freedom to carve my own path rather than being dictated to by external factors eg budgets, Ofsted, Government.

I am told that I look younger and I’m the healthiest and fittest I’ve has ever been and have more time for friends, family, hobbies and enjoying my wider life.

What sort of jewellery do you wear?

I actually don’t wear very much and don’t own anything other than my former wedding ring, designed and made by David and which he has now transformed: the diamond was removed and turned into a pendant and the ring now houses a beautiful pink tourmaline gemstone. The re-purposing of my ring means I have kept the memories of fifteen years of happy marriage, and the tourmaline signifies the start of the next exciting chapter in my life.

I strongly believe  that jewellery should be considered the same as a capsule wardrobe and that the pleasure in wearing jewellery is not just about how it looks but the emotional attachment it brings when a person has been involved in the creation of a piece.

Why David Fowkes Jewellery?

I just love his designs, which are known for his use of large, colourful, unusual and award-winning gemstones and strong values of authenticity, trust and collaboration. And I work with a fantastic team who are true craftsmen – going to work every day is a genuine pleasure!

What is it like to commission a piece of jewellery?

It’s so rewarding to reflect an emotional connection and create something that tells a story. For example, some current commissions include:

  • A ring for a lady who was caught up in the Tunisia terror attack, where her husband tragically lost his life. Unable to look at her wedding rings but wanting to keep her husband’s legacy alive, the commission incorporates new (a pink tourmaline as this was her husband’s favourite colour) and old elements (their wedding rings).  They had often visited the gallery whilst her husband was alive. You can read about her story here.
  • Proceeds of a 1920s Cartier brooch, which David Fowkes helped sell at Sotherby’s, were used to create three 18ct white gold, aquamarine and diamond pendants for their granddaughters.
  • A 40th anniversary wedding pendant designed as a surprise by the husband, with specific gemstones to represent different experiences and events.

Through the experience of designing and creating something unique, often combining gems and metals from existing pieces of jewellery, as well as introducing new elements, the owner has a much more emotional connection with the final piece and the joy of knowing it is totally bespoke.

Tell us about meeting Strictly’s Craig Revel Horwood?!

I got to know Craig last Autumn when he wore a number of pieces from our menswear range for some of the Strictly shows.

It was a very exciting time and I had to personally meet him with some options for him to choose appropriate items to wear with his outfits that weekend.

It was fascinating to see behind the scenes of such a popular show and a great treat to watch the live show as a VIP guest of Craig!  He was always very complimentary about the jewellery and I think he really enjoyed wearing it – a particular favourite of his was our amethyst cufflinks, matching lapel piece and pinkie ring from the David Fowkes menswear range.

What does the future hold?

My main challenge at the moment is getting the word out there about David and his jewellery, so that more people get to know about his unique style and approach.

In particular, to ensure people know that you can spend the same amount of money on the High Street, but with a commissioned piece, you come away with something hugely personal that is designed and made for you, and you will want to wear for the rest of your life.

I’ve banned myself from any major studies – I won’t start my sixth degree this year! – but I’ve recently completed courses on gemstones, as well as social media and marketing.

I’m also preparing for the challenge of climbing Mera Peak, in the Everest region of Nepal, in November.

What’s your motto?

Believe in yourself and trust that by being curious and open, great opportunities will come your way.






From concept.
To reality.