Former graffiti artist now designs jewels for charity


With a police record for criminal damage, things could have turned out very differently for Alex Angel-Benscher.

The 29-year-old from Southend describes his younger self as "misguided", after spending several years mixed up with the wrong crowd.

But the former graffiti artist has used his "eye for design" to run a jewellery business which aims to help impoverished children in the developing world.

Eighteen months ago, he set up Vurchoo, an online jewellery business with a conscience. His collection comprises nine limited-edition pieces, including necklaces, bracelets, rings and earrings, ranging from £150 to £350.

The design of each piece is inspired by the drawing of children from the developing world, who ultimately benefit from their sale. For every purchase, Mr Angel-Benscher donates a quarter of his profit to charities aiding the children.

The concept emerged after Mr Angel-Benscher, whose uncle Simon Benscher is the chairman of Liberal Judaism, took a career break to travel the world.

He said: "During the recession, I was made redundant twice in six months. I used the savings I had to go travelling, and volunteering, for 14 months." During his time abroad, he helped out at a Cambodian orphanage.

"I was really misguided when I was growing up and got in trouble for my street art. During my teens, I got a formal caution for being equipped to cause criminal damage. It wasn't until I went travelling that I realised how lucky I was to be born in the UK."

His aim was to set up a business with a creative slant that would also "help people less fortunate than myself".

After a course with the Prince's Trust, Mr Angel-Benscher was awarded a £4,000 investment to develop his idea. He made contact with the orphanage where he had previously volunteered and asked the children to draw pictures of things that were important to them.

He used the images as inspiration for his designs, which are then produced by a manufacturer in Asia. Once sold, a proportion of the proceeds are sent back to the children.

These donations are channelled through two UK-registered charities that work in Cambodia and Rwanda.

Vurchoo was recently nominated for Ethical Jewellery Business of the Year at the UK Jewellery Awards.

Mr Angel-Benscher said: "It's good for people to see that it's possible to turn things around and that someone they've been judging can make something of themselves."

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