How Rock Vault is mentoring the next generation and inspiring the US.

Get Brit jeweller Stephen Webster talking Rock Vault and he’s happy. “It’s my favourite thing at the moment,” he says. But for such a major initiative, the collective of young jewellery designers, which shows at London Fashion Week, had a pretty ignominious start, as he recalls it.

“It was a dinner at my bank, Coutts. They get together these eclectic groups and this one was all fashion, journalists and big hitters like the chief exec of Agent Provocateur and [British Fashion Council chief executive] Caroline Rush. Someone said what about jewellery? We have all these amazing talents but why is it that I am one of just two or three people doing it on a global scale? And it all came from that really, because I said I honestly felt there was no platform for them. So Caroline Rush said ‘go on, you do it then’.”


She pledged that she, the BFC and LFW would support him and Stephen said something like “yeah OK, I’ll do it in a couple of years, I haven’t got the time right now”.

But Caroline didn’t let him off the hook that easily. “She’s like a Rottweiler,” he laughs. “So I did it, I had to do it. This list of applicants landed on my desk on Christmas Eve and I went through it all on Boxing Day in great detail.” Rock Vault is now in its fourth season and has become a globally renowned proving ground for young designers.

Stephen says it will work as a mentoring programme. The designers involved will stay with it as long as they need it and as long as they deserve it. Once they mature out of it, or haven’t done the work necessary to stay in it, they will move on and Stephen and his panel – a posse of pundits and jewellery experts – will monitor that every season.

This year it went to Couture in Las Vegas for the first time and there, says Stephen, you really got the spirit of it. “We really made a noise, word got round and everyone wanted to come and see the designers who we’re saying really are the best in England right now.”

But the biggest thrill must have come when David Yurman took to the stage to collect the Human Spirit Award at Couture and announced how impressed he was with what Stephen was doing and that he would do the same for young American designers, proving the power of the Rock Vault template.

Stephen says the schedule is changing for Rock Vault and instead of doing LFW twice in a year it will probably do one London appearance, plus Couture and from next year, BaselWorld. “Basel turned it down initially but they saw us in Vegas and then asked us to show there. I said ‘But you turned us down?’.” He had his fun with them before relenting and now he says Rock Vault is at the major fairs. “Except for Hong Kong, but I don’t even show there.”

Is it taking up too much of Stephen’s valuable time? Not yet. Right now he says they’d have to wrestle it off of him but he can envisage a time someone else takes the mantel. Until then he’s doing OK and will even have time to refurb his Mount Street store and open in Harrods this year.

He saves his final words for Caroline who he praises for being really sharp. “You need that, especially in fashion where there’s all these egos. Without someone like her things just don’t actually happen and she is really on the fucking ball.”

Stephen Webster and Caroline Rush were selected as Bering Trailblazers in the Professional Jeweller Hot 100 2013 in association with The Company of Master Jewellers. To read a digital version of the Hot 100 book online, click here.