Here at Lebrusan Studio, a day in the life of a jewellery designer involves so much more than unleashing ideas with pencil and paper. There’s the consultations with excited clients at ourLondon Diamond Bourse headquarters, the market research and moodboards, the transportation of jewels between specialistcraft workshops in Hatton Garden, and the sourcing of beautiful fair-tradeddiamonds andgemstones to bring the designs to life.
With this breadth of responsibility comes a wealth of niche knowledge that we love to share with you. Today, we’re exploring the brifka; a day-to-day staple for the average jeweller but an unfamiliar concept to many others. Though simple by nature, this time-honoured tool has an interesting history.
A brifka is a small makeshift envelope, used to package diamonds and gemstones. Also known as ‘parcel paper’, the brifka is incredibly basic in form; a piece of paper is folded carefully to ensure that its contents cannot fall out.
Although a brifka can be created at home using white printing paper, brown craft paper or origami paper, jewellers recommend, when possible, using dedicated brifka paper, whose formula some specialist manufacturers have been developing for decades.
When meant for a small number of polished diamonds or gemstones, a brifka usually consists of three paper layers. At first there are two thin, transparent papers – one white and one coloured - and a thick, opaque sheet of paper as the outer layer. The first layer on the inside, usually a soft tissue-like material, is used to protect its contents against scratches and minor impacts. Its transparent nature enables the diamonds or gemstones to be viewed without completely freeing them from their packaging, inviting jewellers to count them and give brief inspections without risking loss or damage. Though the second layer of paper, called the flute, is often blue in the instance of diamonds, different colours may be used for specific identification purposes. This allows jewellers to quickly recognise and sort diamonds based on criteria such as size, colour, clarity or origin.
The word ‘brifka’ derives from the Yiddish בריווקע (brivke, ‘little letter’),a diminutive of Yiddish בריוו (briv), meaning a postal letter.
In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, waves of Yiddish-speaking Jewish immigrants left their homes in European diamond trade centres - such as Antwerp and Amsterdam - driven largely by religious persecution and a lack of economic opportunity. Many of these people were already involved in the diamond trade in some capacity, bringing with them not just their professional connections and their skills in cutting, trading, and evaluating diamonds and gemstones – but some existing stocks of diamonds from home. These precious stones were often transported in unassuming, lightweight packages which cost next-to-nothing to create and reuse.
Initiating businesses and networks within the jewellery quarters of London, Birmingham and Manchester, these knowledgeable individuals helped to establish the UK as a notable player in the global diamond market. Their legacy prospers not only through institutions such as the London Diamond Bourse, but jargon often carried by the breeze down Hatton Garden’s grid of busy side streets, like brifka, mazal und bracha(‘good luck and blessing’, said with a handshake at the end of a diamond deal, and strop(a stone that won’t sell.)
The jewellery industry is an ever-evolving landscape, having ushered in an abundance of new technologies and opportunities since the arrival of the first Jewish diamond merchants in the UK in the late 19th century. We love the brifka for its timeless simplicity, as one of very few aspects of a jeweller’s life that hasn’t changed over the years. Lightweight and flat, brifka paper can be stored in large quantities without taking up any space. It’s cheap to buy, cheap to ship, and its opaque outer layer – unlike the Perspex window of modern Diafix boxes – offers quiet anonymity to its sparkling contents. And our favourite part? The brifka is reallysatisfying to unwrap.
For a breakdown of more jewellery jargon, check out ourJewellery Basics page.