What a Gem- A jeweller restores life’s treasures, writes Tonya Box.

Bent over a workbench in her quiet home studio in Wilston, Brisbane jeweller Barbara Heath tends to the hopes and dreams of her clients. Fragile, distraught, optimistic or hopeful, they stumble upon her path seeking answers to profound problems. A broken earring, a fractured family heirloom, a ring of promise, each holding a memory or sentiment that to its owner is of inexplicable value.

For 32 years Barbara has restored precious items and designed jewellery for life’s most cherished moments – a first Christmas, wedding, birthday, anniversary. Her business name could not be more fitting. She is the Jeweller to the Lost. Barbara’s long list of clients is owed to the best type of advertising there is – word of mouth. She now works on jewellery for the granddaughters of some of her first customers. Along side fellow jeweller Juan-luis Gonzalez, Barbara works in her downstairs studio surrounded by lush trees in an untamed garden.

The tapping of metal against metal is the soundtrack of our first meeting. Like many people who run a business from home, Barbara thought it was impostant to create a work zone that wouldn’t invade her living space.  “Downstairs is for working and upstairs is for living,” Barbara says. “There is no internal staircase and this allows an important separation betwen these spaces, even if it is 50 paces from the front door.” Upstairs, Barbara finds solace reading a good book in her favourite armchair.

However, it is her husband, Mal Enright, who governs the décor there. An avid collector of everything from grandfather to wall clocks to pie funnels, Mal has been careful to display his collections around the home in an orderly and non-invasive fashion. These antique items and objects of nostalgia are in stark contrast to his significant contemporary art collection that he carpeted the walls until 1999 when he sold it. “It was time for a change. Now I collect anything and everything from local Queensland history that has saved and retained a story,” Mal says. A front room is stacked high with books and boxes where Mal often retreats. Around the house, display cabinets and drawers revealglass beakers, candleholders, foot stands, lucky charms, old photographs, butter boxes, bone implements and colourful brooches.

Luckily, Barbara finds living with Mal’s collections inspirational. “It’s a matter of figuring out how to display the collections and live with them successfully. My work is stimulated and pushed by these collections. Each object has a story, much like the jewellery I make,” she says. Barbara and Mal work collaboratively on public art projects and are responsible for the ornate door handles at the Brisbane Magistrates Court and several public artworks around the city. As they work together in business and life, the couple’s home is a place where anything can happen.