Class of 2012’s inspiration ranges from rock climbing to high society.

Scores of graduate jewellery designers rolled into London for the annual New Designers showcase in June, bringing with them new trends, fresh designs and a raft of exciting inspirations from rock climbing to the lives of the hoi polloi.

The annual New Designers show is an exciting few days in the jewellery industry calendar, when talent spotters, retailers and jewellery aficionados flock to see all that is new from the UK’s best jewellery design courses.


This year’s show, which took place at the end of June, showcased the crème de la crème of 2012 graduates’ final major projects, with an ever-increasing calibre of work on display.

In a way that contrasts many of the graduates’ work from several years ago, the majority of the students were presenting wholly commercial collections, speaking already of the appeal of their products to consumers and the wearability of their work. Issues such as price points were already a consideration for many, as were ways of manufacturing their products for fast turnaround.
Several themes emerged across this year’s show, namely textiles and paper, the beautifying of everyday objects into jewellery, architecture and cityscapes and ancient or exotic civilizations.

Textiles and Paper
Bright colours dominated the displays created by students exhibiting at New Designers this year, exemplified through brightly coloured paper and textiles. Flamingo Wilde’s layered paper necklaces echoed the Orient with bright colours and a fan-like appearance, while Central Saint Martins student Fern Jellyman showcased a collection of bright, knitted wools, designed to mimic the shapes and functionality of climbing ropes.

Meanwhile Natasha Mould, a graduate of the Sir Jon Cass school at London Metropolitan University, showcased a subdued palette of black, white, grey and cream paper jewellery. Having taken a class in Paper Intervention, where she discovered the possibilities of paper manipulation, Mould’s graduate collection includes collars and bangles with pointed, lattice-like designs inspired by the flexibility of the human mood and its ability to change, and as a result her work purposely avoids the longevity of silver, gold or acrylic jewellery.

Everyday Objects
Another source of inspiration, and perhaps a reflection of the make-do-and-mend ethic that is once again very conscious in the mind of designers, was that of everyday objects; finding the beauty in the everyday, or turning items such as old chains, Blackberry mobile phones or newspaper articles into items of wearable jewellery.

At Middlesex University two students, Franziska Lusser and Christiana Christoforou, delved into the everyday, but in very separate ways.

While Lusser sourced old, industrial objects such as rusting chains, bolts and saw blades, as well a chain taken from an old wooden door at her family home in Germany, and turned them into sizeable, wearable jewellery, Christoforou delved into the lives of anonymous members of the public, creating more of an anthropological study out of her collection.

Christoforou left a slab of clay at the entrance of homes in her local area along with a message informing the residents in each house of her graduate project and asking them to stamp items or carve patterns into the clay that represent their identities and personalities. The result was a mixed and varied studied of who humans think they are, with Christoforou casting objects that she dubs “fragments” from the clay, turning them into necklaces and rings with pendants based on objects and characters such as mobile phones, spanners and Mickey Mouse.

Vega Bantock of Birmingham City University showcased a tongue-in-cheek study of human behaviour in a jewellery form, taking inspiration from newspaper reports and the depiction of events and personalities in the press. Her acrylic creations included a medal-like necklace based on the controversy of travel during the Olympic Games, with the figure of London Mayor Boris Johnson carved into it and the quote “It’s a journey not a destination”. Playful, brightly coloured and with the satirical punch she was aiming for.

Architecture and Cities
The lines, shape, height and drama of architecture has long inspired jewellery design, and at New Designers the theme was evident in collections from a number of the new graduates. Errin Chenoa Quinn from the University of Contemporary Art in Rochester showcased rings that played on the sweeping arcs and forms of places of worship, in particular tumbledown ruins, where light, texture and the environment have created differences in perspective.

Similarly Humphrey Wong from the Birmingham School of Jewellery showcased a range of powder-coated metal and sterling silver rings and bangles with linear designs created using CAD programs. His work, which references the shape of roofs and bridge-like structures, was both lightweight and statement and a workable offer from a graduate jeweller.

Victoria Thay from CSM also played with lines and shape for her degree collection, using hexagon shapes and slanted lines to play with the way in which an object can look depending on the ways light falls onto or through it. With inspirations including the linear, optical illusion of Bridget Riley’s artworks and the work of optical artist John-Leung, Thay’s designs are both playful and creative, with plenty of commercial appeal.

The Ancient and Exotic
Finally, while we battle out the dreariest of summers, many of this year’s graduates brought a taste of the exotic to London. Designs from Birmingham School of Jewellery graduate Elizabeth Rollo played on the shape of Russian architecture, with on-trend ear cuffs and long drop earrings, studded with pink, blue and purple upturned gems.

Rollo’s course mate Natalie Baxter exhibited a commercial sense of direction with her Entwined in Lace collection of silver jewellery that referenced the beauty of old lace and included honeycomb-like gemstone pendants and a playful hairpiece that sits just above the ear.

Finally, Annabelle Lucilla Hastings of London Metropolitan University showcased her Oriental Embodiments collection, which featured bright 22ct gold-plated jewellery referencing Indian jewellery designs with heavy surface details and filigree.
Hastings’ work is the fruit of delicate and intricate illustrations, which she translates into body adornments through jewellery design. Her quirky chicken earrings had been a big point of interest over the weekend of the New Designers showcase, while her use of richly-coloured agates and pearls also referenced India’s gemstone and fine jewellery heritage.

For image galleries from New Designers 2012 click here.

This article was taken from the August 2012 issue of Professional Jeweller magazine. To see a digital version of the issue click here.