Jewellery designer Henry Howard on keeping British design alive.
By Henry Howard
It was incredibly gratifying to see the jewellers Rosie Wolfenden and Harriet Vine, founders of the company Tatty Devine, Stephen Webster and Sheila Fleet recognised in the New Year’s Honours list.
They are representative of the individuality and variety of home grown talent we have, which adds to the United Kingdom’s strong heritage in the decorative arts. It is, however, unusual to see such an overt nod to the trade.
This country’s jewellery designers are individuals who excite with pieces that continue to explore the boundless possibilities of what is achievable with precious stones and metals and who have attained international renown. The last decade saw wonderful innovations in jewellery which were embraced by consumers, especially in the treatment of precious metals (think black gold — now fairly widespread but seen as a bit of an anomaly in mainstream jewellery around 2000), the use of a much wider variety of coloured stones and experiments with unorthodox materials in jewellery design.
Other notable success stories include Solange Azagury-Partridge, her tenure as creative director at Boucheron and subsequent expansion of her brand; Shaun Leane has been a darling of the fashion world for some time now and is appreciated by knowledgeable collectors (his collaborations with Alexander McQueen and the fashion doyenne Daphne Guinness are well documented); Pippa Small continues to create statement pieces whilst respecting the natural form of precious stones. The list could go on and on.
These are only a handful of examples of jewellers who have helped British jewellery become cool again, contributing an estimated £4.64 billion to the economy in 2010, in spite of the recession. The increased desirability of British jewellery designers goes hand in hand with the resurgence of the British fashion scene, whose members continue to be recognised (quite rightly) for their outstanding input to the creativity of this country.
In the same way that innovative fashion designers keep alive the flames of British crafts the same can be said of jewellers. Not only do they give employment to an array of gifted stone setters, enamellers, polishers and other specialists but they are also actively involved at every step in ensuring that these crafts are continued and do not die out. And that is something else to celebrate. Let’s hope we continue to see fabulous jewellery recognised in the future.