Jew­ellery Artisan

Exclusively British - - CRAFTSMANSHIP -

The Bri­tish jew­ellery in­dus­try has gone through a mas­sive over­haul in the past half cen­tury, its an­cient her­itage mak­ing way for new de­sign­ers with mod­ern ideas and a fresh take on style and de­sign. Emma John­son goes on a gem hunt

THE BRI­TISH JEW­ELLERY in­dus­try dates back as far as me­dieval times, when Hat­ton Gar­den in the old City of Lon­don be­came a cen­tre for jew­ellers and jew­ellery. Now, hun­dreds of years later, it re­mains an im­por­tant place for di­a­mond buy­ing and sell­ing, and pur­chas­ing vin­tage and com­mis­sioned jew­ellery. Nearly 300 busi­nesses in Hat­ton Gar­den are in the jew­ellery in­dus­try and over 55 shops rep­re­sent the largest clus­ter of jew­ellery re­tail­ers in the UK. In Lon­don as a whole, the renowned names of Graff, Boo­dles, Gar­rard and Ast­ley Clarke, many of them oc­cu­py­ing grand head­quar­ters in May­fair, speak of a her­itage stretch­ing back through the cen­turies. While fur­ther afield, the likes of the Jew­ellery Quar­ter in Birm­ing­ham, and artisan work­shops stretch­ing from Corn­wall and Wales to Sus­sex and Not­ting­ham, show­case the wealth of tal­ent and skill that the Bri­tish jew­ellery in­dus­try still en­joys. And, while it is a world filled with his­tory and tra­di­tion, it is also a rapidly evolv­ing and cut­ting-edge in­dus­try. Stephen Web­ster, one of the most ex­cit­ing Bri­tish jew­ellery de­sign­ers to emerge in the past 30 years, is renowned for his dy­namic and playful de­signs. Awarded an MBE in 2013, Web­ster says that his Bri­tish roots have both in­formed and chal­lenged his work. “De­spite be­ing Bri­tish and hav­ing learned my craft in Bri­tain, I have also tried to break out from what I felt at the time, was a tight, tra­di­tional in­dus­try, more in­ter­ested with the past than the fu­ture.” Some thirty years down the line, Bri­tish jew­ellery is still steeped in tra­di­tion, but is now also some of the most ad­vanced cre­atively. Web­ster him­self is com­mit­ted to con­tin­u­ing this trend, sup­port­ing and nur­tur­ing new tal­ent through his Rock Vault (a plat­form he cre­ated with the Bri­tish Fash­ion Coun­cil which men­tors young Bri­tish-based jew­ellery tal­ent). A proudly cre­ative brand, Web­ster now uses his Bri­tish her­itage to in­spire his work, in­clud­ing his Mag­nipheas­ant, Lady Star­dust and Eng­land Made Me col­lec­tions. “We feel the story has only just be­gun,” he says. “I’ve been com­pelled to re­veal more about what I find in­spir­ing about the coun­try where I was born and live.”

BRI­TISH IN­SPIRED

As you look through the Bri­tish jew­ellery hall of fame – fea­tur­ing ev­ery­one from huge brands to artisan de­sign­ers - what be­comes clear is how im­por­tant their Bri­tish roots are. “The Bri­tish jew­ellery in­dus­try is a melt­ing pot of cre­ativ­ity, in­no­va­tion and char­ac­ter­ful de­sign with a long his­tory of ex­quis­ite crafts­man­ship,” says Alexis Dove who makes all her prod­ucts in her work­shop in Lewes, Sus­sex. Dove’s jew­ellery is very or­ganic, tex­tured, quirky and of­ten fea­tur­ing mo­tifs of wild roses, foxes and seashells. In­spired by the English coun­try­side and rugged coastal land­scapes, Dove says: “I’m heav­ily in­spired by the en­vi­ron­ment around me, so be­ing a Bri­tish de­signer greatly in­forms my work.” Theo Fen­nell - whose sig­na­ture Arts col­lec­tion, pre­dom­i­nantly charms and pen­dants in the shape of a heart, has been re­worked and adapted over 25 years, fea­tur­ing flags and fish to an­gels and sa­fari an­i­mals - agrees. “There is a brother­hood among the trade in this coun­try that is quite ex­cep­tional,” he says. “I think I am prob­a­bly far more in­debted to Bri­tish­ness than any­thing else and the essence of the coun­try, its more ar­cane tra­di­tions and quirks, its cul­tural odd­i­ties and hu­mour have heav­ily coloured ev­ery­thing we have made. Cel­e­brat­ing nearly 30 years in busi­ness, Links of Lon­don is per­haps one of the most dis­tinc­tive and recog­nis­able Bri­tish jew­ellery brands. Start­ing out life as a brand spe­cial­is­ing in be­spoke cor­po­rate or­ders, it has ex­panded its range to in­clude jew­ellery, watch and gift prod­ucts. A proudly Bri­tish brand, in­spired by iconic land­marks, the weather, the Bri­tish sense of hu­mour and ma­jor sport­ing and so­cial events. “When we are not be­ing in­spired by Bri­tain, we are be­ing in­spired by those uni­ver­sal themes of love and mem­ory so key, es­pe­cially, to jew­ellery,” says global brand di­rec­tor Mark Owens. Per­haps its most im­por­tant pieces re­main its dis­tinc­tive Sweetie Bracelets, and its friend­ship charm bracelets, a col­lectable way to add to your Links of Lon­don col­lec­tion over time.

“At its VERY BEST, there is a WON­DER­FUL SENSE of an un­in­ter­rupted TRA­DI­TION of CRAFTS­MAN­SHIP and ex­cel­lence com­bined with an ORIG­I­NAL­ITY of thought and DE­SIGN that has no equal any­where else in the world” Theo Fen­nell

NUR­TUR­ING TAL­ENT

While Hat­ton Gar­den and Lon­don has al­ways had an im­por­tant rep­u­ta­tion for di­a­monds, gem en­thu­si­asts would be re­miss to ig­nore the im­por­tant in­flu­ence of the renowned Birm­ing­ham Jew­ellery Quar­ter, which has es­tab­lished it­self as the cen­tre of the Bri­tish jew­ellery in­dus­try over 250 years, and is re­spon­si­ble for start­ing the ca­reers of hun­dreds of big names in Bri­tish jew­ellery. To this day, it pro­duces over 40 per cent of Bri­tish jew­ellery, has made both the FA Cup and the cap­tain’s whis­tle from the Ti­tanic, and is home to nu­mer­ous work­shops, fac­to­ries and flag­ships. Award-win­ning de­signer Diana Porter, who has been work­ing in the in­dus­try for over 20 years, be­gan her craft af­ter an in­spir­ing jew­ellery course in Birm­ing­ham. Her nu­mer­ous col­lec­tions all have etched words in­cor­po­rated into the de­sign, the flow of the text, hand-etched con­tin­u­ously around rings and ban­gles, are Porter’s take on the clas­sic eter­nity band. “My col­lec­tions are a syn­the­sis of my life ex­pe­ri­ences – I use words in­spired by life’s jour­ney and all its stages. The words not only bring mean­ing to the ring, but cre­ate a tex­ture which adds to the de­sign.” This en­dur­ing com­mit­ment to Bri­tish jew­ellery, es­pe­cially for new­com­ers, has meant an emerg­ing and di­verse range of artisan jew­ellers, widen­ing and ex­pand­ing the of­fer­ing to in­clude new brands whose ap­proach to de­sign is chang­ing the face of Bri­tish gems. Daisy Knights, who learnt to make jew­ellery from her hobby silversmith fa­ther when she was a child, ex­plains how sup­port­ive the in­dus­try is to new­com­ers. “We are all pretty friendly, share work­shop con­tacts and ad­vice, and re­spect each other. There is a great deal of sup­port be­tween small in­de­pen­dent brands. “I think hav­ing ac­cess to the mas­ter crafts­men from Hat­ton Gar­den and Birm­ing­ham’s Jew­ellery Quar­ter has a huge im­pact, it means that any idea can be talked through and is pos­si­ble,” she says. Knights’ un­der­stated, wear­able luxury, jew­ellery is solid gold and sil­ver so can be loved, and worn daily without plat­ing rub­bing off, and then handed down through the fam­ily. The col­lec­tions have been de­signed to be loved and cher­ished. “It’s an in­dus­try com­mit­ted to nur­tur­ing skills, sup­port­ing young and emerg­ing de­sign­ers and devel­op­ing home grown tal­ent,” says So­nia Menezes, Head of Brand, at Clo­gau – a which uses rare Welsh gold in all their pieces, and takes notes from Bri­tish his­tory as a touch­stone for its de­signs. Heav­ily in­spired by English and Welsh land­scape and his­tory, many of Clo­gau’s pieces con­jure ideas of flora and fauna, his­tory and leg­ends. The 25 year-old brand uses mo­tifs adorn­ing the likes of Hamp­ton Court Palace, Kens­ing­ton Palace, Kew Palace and Hills­bor­ough Cas­tle, as well as fea­tur­ing royal re­galia and be­ing in­flu­enced by the glam­our of the royal courts. “These palaces wit­nessed many of the defin­ing mo­ments of our na­tion, and col­lec­tively they ex­plain much of the na­tion’s story,” says So­nia.

MOD­ERN OUT­LOOK

“The last ten years has seen a par­tic­u­lar shift in the in­dus­try, with the in­tro­duc­tion of much more fash­ion-led and branded jew­ellery,” ex­plains Suzanne Adams, whose brand Lon­don Road Jew­ellery spe­cialises in gold- and gem-set pieces with a heavy fash­ion lean­ing. Its col­lec­tions are in­spired by na­ture, ar­chi­tec­tural de­signs, Vic­to­rian jew­ellery - the Starry Night col­lec­tion with rose-cut di­a­monds and pieces fin­ished with black rhodium plat­ing is very spe­cial - and Lon­don it­self. “The Pim­lico Bub­ble col­lec­tion was Lon­don Road’s first col­lec­tion,” says Adams. “In­spired by the fun and colour of the 1960’s, its vi­brant, bub­ble-like multi-coloured gem­stones are set into domed rose gold pen­dants, rings and ear­rings.” With man­u­fac­tur­ing done in the Birm­ing­ham Jew­ellery Quar­ter, Shen Lon­don’s wear­able in­vest­ment pieces are a real hymn to Bri­tish qual­ity and de­sign, cou­pled with an un­com­pro­mis­ing out­look on di­a­mond qual­ity and sourc­ing. In­spired by its founder’s mem­o­ries and ex­pe­ri­ences, Shen Lon­don is renowned for of­fer­ing the high­est end jew­ellery de­sign, fem­i­nine and del­i­cate in style. Col­lec­tions in­clude The God­dess (a cel­e­bra­tion of pure fem­i­nin­ity cre­ated for strong and stylish women), a re­cent ear­ring col­lab­o­ra­tion with Ni­chola Joss, and their ‘Your Di­a­monds’ 2017, pro­gramme, whereby clients can hand-select the gem­stones that will fea­ture in their be­spoke jew­ellery. The Bri­tish jew­ellery in­dus­try to­day is, “in­de­pen­dent, young, ec­cen­tric and an­drog­y­nous,” ex­plains Tansy Aspinal and Vic­to­ria Van Holthe, who set up their brand Tada & Toy in 2014, to of­fer af­ford­able, ac­ces­si­ble jew­ellery for women. Their pieces are an amal­ga­ma­tion of min­i­mal­ist Scan­di­na­vian-in­spired lines, with a mono­chrome colour pal­ette and in­no­va­tive con­tem­po­rary shapes. “We get in­spi­ra­tion from street style, na­ture, friend­ship and tex­ture, but our de­signs are rooted in con­tem­po­rary Bri­tain and are about how to re-in­ter­pret jew­ellery ideas to suit the lives of the mod­ern Bri­tish women.”

IMAGES op­po­site page: Theo Fen­nell, and his col­lec­tion of Sap­phire & Di­a­mond Water Lily Rings (poa) and Ruby Queen of 'Arts Pen­dant (£3,425) in cel­e­bra­tion of Her Majesty the Queen's 90th Birth­day the­ofen­nell.com this page: Daisy Knights, and her Life Neck­lace in Solid Rose Gold and Sil­ver (£220) and yel­low Strike Ear­rings, in Solid Yel­low Gold (£68) daisyknights.com

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