Extraordinary Aquamarine and Diamond ring

I was delighted to find this beautiful Aquamarine as the centre piece for a spectacular ring for one of my clients to present to his wife as her birthday surprise - husbands and boyfriends take note!  The aquamarine was framed by some wonderfully elegant baguette diamonds in a simple but effective design.  The box was handmade in the softest orange leather - the recipient of the gift's favourite colour.

Aquamarine and baguette diamond ring for private client

Aquamarine and baguette diamond ring for private client

A new chapter in the story of the broken earring

In my earlier post I described the bespoke suite of jewellery I have created with one of my closest clients.  The latest addition is a unique pendant designed around an extraordinary Tanzanite stone sourced by my client.  It took many sketches and models to achieve the right shape for the elegant tapered design with Tsavorites and micro-set diamonds by Anthony Griffin.

Tanzanite, Tsavorite and Diamond detachable pendant

Tanzanite, Tsavorite and Diamond detachable pendant

A characterful commission for a wonderful friend

The CAD image here shows the top aspect of a commission for a platinum, bombé gem set ring for a client and friend.  

I worked on every aspect of the design with her husband - the stones were chosen for the birthdates of the four members of the family.  The underside of the ring has a grille work depicting a celtic knot to signify her Irish roots.  And the bombé shape reflects the scoops of ice cream (two) of which she is so fond with hundreds and thousands on top.

CAD image for gem set Bombé ring

CAD image for gem set Bombé ring

Bespoke Jewellery and the Tale of the Broken Earring

Citrines and diamonds

I love the idea of being able to play with jewellery, to combine different pieces, whether that's choosing earrings to wear with a necklace or selecting rings that can be worn together. To be able to take this a step further, and design pieces that allow the wearer to detach elements of a design to be worn in different ways, really adds value and versatility to a suite of jewellery.

 

Over the last four years, I have had the pleasure to work with a client whose vision, eye for detail and appreciation of the technical skills required to make such a piece has taken us on an exciting journey.  In collaboration with master goldsmith Mike Hambling the client and I have created a spectacular suite of jewellery.  

 

The idea came after a diamond and citrine drop earring was damaged making it unwearable.  At that time, I had a beautiful diamond and detachable freshwater pearl necklace.  My client loved the piece and the fact that the pearl could be detached.  Between us, we came up with the idea of salvaging the damaged earring, having it re-cut and polished and made into a detachable pendant which could be worn with the necklace.  

 

Alterations and additional diamonds were set along the necklace and an additional necklace in the form of a simple pendant was designed which mirrored the diamond set top from the original pair of earrings.  This addition to the collection offered the client a less elaborate pendant on which to hang the Citrine.  

 

A pair of matching citrines was sourced to replace the earrings and the remaining earring from the original pair, was made into a beautiful pendant for the client's daughter. 

 

 

Given the wonderful versatility of the suite, further additions have been added which include a stunning Tahitian pearl and diamond drop and most recently a Tanzanite and diamond drop.

 

Tahitian Pearls and diamonds

Beryl and the Design Process for Bespoke Jewellery

We are delighted to be working with brilliantly talented goldsmith Anthony Griffin on an individually designed necklace incorporating three lovely green beryl stones, diamonds and white gold. We decided that we would like to share the design process with our friends and clients as Anthony turns initial sketches into sparkling reality.

Stage One – the Preliminary Sketches

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We asked Anthony to think about a design for a necklace to enter for next year’s prestigious Goldsmiths’ Hall competition. What we love about the design that Anthony has come up with is its combination of sharp shapes and gentle, organic curves. We are considering a fine chain with diamonds at intervals to complement the main pendant.

Stage Two – Selection of Stones

This photograph shows the fine beryl stones that Anthony has selected, laid against the sketch of the design. But the stones will only really come alive when contrasted with the curved elements set with diamonds and the diamond drop.

We look forward to keeping you updated as the design and fashioning of the necklace progresses.

Bespoke Jewellery, Fine Craftsmanship and Fine Engineering

“A thing of beauty is a joy forever.”

John Keats


I was fortunate enough to have been brought up by a father who taught me (amongst many things) about fine craftsmanship, whether that be in a beautiful piece of hand crafted Jewellery, the cut and colour of an emerald, the intricate makings of a clock or the finely tuned engine of a sleek and beautifully designed classic racing car.  


As I grew up this appreciation developed into a passion and eye for fine, handmade Jewellery on which I was able to build a business.  I am very picky when selecting Jewellery and dismissive of poor craftsmanship.  Mass produced Jewellery just leaves me cold.  For me, a handmade piece of Jewellery, formed with skill accuracy and care by a highly skilled goldsmith, tells a story.  


Identifying goldsmiths and diamond mounters to work on our bespoke commissions, craftsman who excel in their specialized fields, has taken time and I feel extremely privileged to be able to work with two people in particular, Anthony Griffin and Mike Hambling.  Their vast range of skills and experience in the field of diamond mounting sets them apart from others in the Jewellery trade.   


Art Deco bespoke diamond earrings

Art Deco bespoke diamond earrings

Anthony Griffin, bespoke jeweller, at the bench

Anthony Griffin, bespoke jeweller, at the bench

Both are fellows of the Institute of Professional Goldsmiths.  Anthony trained as a diamond mounter and has won awards for his work.  Just recently he completed a micro diamond-setting course in Antwerp adding yet another string to his already full bow.  Over the years we’ve worked together on a number of commissions, each as unique as the next.  It’s a joy to be able to sit down with him and work through the details of an intricate design for a bespoke piece and watch the same design gradually come to life.


Mike Hambling has over forty years experience and is highly regarded within the British jewellery world. It’s a pleasure to visit him in his workshop and watch him at his bench, seeing the raw materials transformed into an exquisite piece of micro-engineering.   Mike’s son Ben is currently doing his apprenticeship with his father and is already showing natural talent and promise.   It’s reassuring to know that Mike’s skills are being passed down to the next generation, which in turn helps to keep the slowly diminishing group of British makers alive. 

Cartier's Fine Jewellery at the Grand Palais

When the name Cartier is mentioned (thanks to incessant advertising) one conjures up an image of the elegant, the opulent, of exquisitely designed and crafted Jewellery, timepieces and objets d’art synonymous with unrivalled quality of fine craftsmanship.  However, it was only seeing the historical collection at the Grand Palais last week, that I fully appreciated the company’s early scope and vision both on a business level in practically inventing the luxury Jewellery market, to the leading asthetic role that Cartier played in development of the decorative arts.


The exhibition, which is displayed sumptuously beneath the vaulted glass ceiling of the Grand Palais, took me on a stunningly beautiful and extraordinary journey, spanning 160 years from Cartier’s establishment in 1847 by Louis-Francois, through the Belle Epoque, Art Deco eras and the decades that followed.  The exhibition includes a staggering collection of 600 pieces of Jewellery and objet d’arts, arranged with impeccable French taste and elegance.  There are many iconic pieces made for equally iconic clients from royalty to wealthy American heiresses.  It was hard to focus on one piece at a time when the next was glinting enticingly out of the corner of my eye.   It was the stories around the jewellery  that really held my attention though, whether that was the sparkling collection of tiaras made for European royal families or the Panther brooch commissioned by Wallis Simpson.   


The bespoke piece that summed up the genius of the craftsmen for me was the spectacular serpent collar necklace commissioned by the extravagant Mexican actress, Maria Felix in the late 1960’s.   Ordinarily it would not be my taste but I was astounded by the quality of the work and the boldness of the idea.  It took a whole year to make.  Using platinum set with diamonds and emeralds and enameled elements, the whole piece is articulated to create the sinuous fluidity needed to drape around the actress’s neck and to represent the serpent.  A perfect union of form and function.

Maria Felix's bespoke jewellery crocodiles


A short blog is not going to do justice to this exhibition.   If you love Jewellery, then get over to Paris and see for yourself.  The exhibition runs until 16 February 2014 and tickets are available at www.grandpalais.fr/en/event/cartier-style-and-history

Paris by Perfume - a bespoke jeweller's guide

In the old days – before Baron Haussmann bashed the big avenues through the swarming streets, before the famous sewers sanitised everything – Paris reportedly smelt really bad. Even London, the first industrialised city, struggled to match the Parisian pong. The well to do yearned for olfactory distraction and thus was borne the craft of perfume. All this is absolutely undeniable historical fact based on rock solid research.

Perhaps I exaggerate a bit but Paris is the home of perfume as much as fashion and for a change from adventures in jewellery I thought I would share some of my favourite perfume boutiques and emporiums.  As I was agreeing with a client and friend the other day, one of the best ways to enjoy the city is to wander with a theme and what better modest purpose to have when relaxing, than to search out the best in fragrance, whether classic, modern or innovative.

First though, a declaration of debt and gratitude: my favourite book on perfume is the wonderful “Perfumes, the A-Z Guide” by Luca Turin and Tania Sanchez. Turin and Sanchez paint rhapsodic word pictures of the greats and despatch the grot with equal aplomb, without regard for established reputation. Take this description for example of Boucheron’s Jaipur Saphir – “My eight-year old son, who has an inherited fondness for trash, always gravitates, tugging me by the arm, toward the type of gumball machine that contains an oversized, brightly coloured assortment in a big transparent sphere. Put the coin in, turn the handle, and there falls into your hand a soiled, dusty ball the size of a sheep’s eye, which tastes like a cross between shampoo and taxi freshener. Jaipur Saphir achieves the same effect without any of the fun.” Some of the other descriptions are less equivocal – see www.perfumestheguide.com for some more excerpts.

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I like Turin and Sanchez’s judgement, because they have introduced me to lots of great fragrances that I didn’t know but the new does not win praise by virtue of its novelty alone and the classics are not dismissed for their ubiquity. No harm then, in beginning with Chanel and best of all the original store at 31 rue Cambon, Paris 75001, with Coco’s exquisite apartment still over the shop – you can make a virtual video visit with Vogue’s Carol Woolton and see some great still pictures at hookedonhouses.net. At the boutique you can get No 5 of course, in all its forms. It remains exquisite, not least because of Chanel’s prescient purchase of its own rose and jasmine fields. You will also find Chanel’s “les exclusifs” range of fragrances, available only at Chanel stores, including appropriately enough 31 rue Cambon eau de toilette. If all this puts you in the mood for some contemporary Chanel inspiration, then turn to Karl Lagerfeld’s inimitable (if occasionally scary) aphorisms at Twitter


Time to move on to another – this time contemporary – perfume great. Frederic Malle has a small boutique about five minutes walk from Chanel at 21 rue du Mont Thabor, showcasing 18 fragrances by 11 different perfumers. Carnal Flower is as voluptuous as it sounds but in sophisticated style. Vetiver Extraordinaire is one of my favourite masculine fragrances but could be worn as easily by a woman. The perfume comes in bottles and boxes of a weight and solidity that underline the sense of quality, reminding me somehow of the thunk of a luxury car door.

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Carry along rue du Mont Thabor until you get to rue Castiglione, turn left and the wonderful “abstract floral” fragrance of Jean Patou’s Joy will reach you before you get to the little Jean Patou glass-fronted boutique on the left. As Joy is probably my favourite perfume I can never walk past without stopping for just a moment. I have a half-theory that if I do this often enough I will gradually absorb the scent and never need to buy it again. Zig-zag across rue Castiglione and you can stop by Annick Goutal’s pretty shop and beauty salon at the corner of Castiglione and St Honore, where they do an express facial by appointment and you can replenish stocks of Eau d’Hadrien.

Just opposite you, across rue St Honore, is the Guerlain boutique. On the table on the left as you go in, you’ll find a series of Guerlain fragrances which are only available here. But if you prefer, you can forget all that and splash on some Shalimar if it’s evening or Eau de Guerlain or Jicky if it’s not. I just bought my father Habit Rouge for Christmas. He tried some absent-mindedly and was immediately and wistfully transported back in time to his twenties. It was only then that he remembered that he had been recommended the fragrance by a knowledgeable friend in the sixties and had it worn it often as a young man.

Carry on down rue St Honore towards the Palais Royal. If, perversely and we all feel like that sometimes, you want something British in Paris, then you’ll pass Jo Malone and Penhaligons. Just a little off the beaten track at 5 rue d’Alger, however, you will find the truly lovely little boutique of perfumer Francis Kurkdjian, with its dream-like miniature Parisian skyline. As well as having created some beautiful fragrances, Francis has also come up with some original ways to convey them. On a fine day you might find a bubble machine filling the street with scented soap bubbles. Inside you can buy soap bubbles like the ones you used to enjoy as a child, only with a great scent. There are also perfumed leather bracelets and laundry liquids and conditioners. Now that’s practical luxury.

Back on to rue St Honore heading towards the Palais Royal and one of my favourite scent stops is the idiosyncratic little boutique of ceramicists Astier de Villatte. As well as beautiful ceramics and scent the store also sells a mixture of stationery,scarves, furniture and books. I have to admit that I have never actually bought any of their perfumes but but I love the eau de cologne everytime I try it. You can buy it almost by the litre. It’s the Frenchness of the concept that attracts me more than anything else, the idea that by combining seemingly unconnected lines of products one can create something new and interesting a la the original concept store colette and I guess in it’s day, Hermes. (Nothing in this line in Paris, however, quite beats Cineaqua at the Trocadero. Museum of cinema combined with an aquarium. Now why had no one thought of that before… Because it’s a bit daft that’s why. But I digress).

Our next stop, Parfum Nicolai, 28 rue de Richelieu, at the side of the Palais Royal, is very different. Patricia de Nicolai hails from the Guerlain family and whether by genetic heritage or cultural influence she produces a superb range of perfumes. All the money goes on the scent. The packaging is simple and straightforward. You’re unlikely to see any advertising. You remember my image of the heavy car door clunking at Frederic Malle. Well, this is more like a family Ford or city car pulling up. You’re not impressed, until that is, this glamorous, intelligent and beautifully dressed woman gets out. The “New York” scent pulls off the same trick for men. By Paris standards the perfumes are good value and the candles a great deal.

I normally then take my heavily laden Parfum de Nicolai bag and go into the Palais Royal. On the far side – Galerie de Valois -you will find the exceptionally beautifull Serge Lutens boutique. Even if the perfumes were awful, you’d still want to go in but there are some tremendous scents that live up to the decor.


Two final fragrance experiences to recommend to you. If it’s summer, go and sit down for a few minutes in the Palais Royal’s exquisite central garden, where on the right day the roses are heavenly. (By the way, I found this lovely sketch by Katherine Tyrrel on a great website called www.urbansketchers.com which took me back to summer.) If it’s cold and the leaves are gone, then find a cafe with a good terrace and sip a glass of vin chaud, breathing in the warm fumes of wine, cinnamon and citrus. The great writer, Colette, lived in the Palais Royal towards the end of her life and you can imagine her perhaps enjoying both these experiences. A critic once called her an “olfactory novelist” and she accepted the term gladly claiming that “I have followed my nose and it has always lead me to what is best and worst”. She advised her female readers that a woman should remain faithful “to a well-chosen perfume, linked to your moral person, to your physical charms, a perfume your friends love and recognize, one that surprises people you meet for the first time and that makes them dream” (“Parfums,” Paysages, 152 and thanks to the For the Love of Perfume for bringing my attention to these quotes). I hope you find a perfume for you that makes people dream.

Rue St Honore and rue du Faubourg St Honore (rue Royale is the dividing line between the two) have been at the centre of Paris perfumery since Houbigant set up shop with his sign of a basket of flowers in 1775. Of course, there are many other places close by that have wonderful perfumes. Opposite the Elysee there is the great old house of Caron with some legendary fragrances. On the corner of rue Boissy d’Anglas is the Hermes flagship store with its own range of exclusive scents as well as the standards. Further along, there’s a Tommy Hilfiger if you want some Tommy Girl (read the great Turin and Sanchez write up if you think I’m joking.) Hotel Costes has its own fragrance store next door (and a florist selling only beautiful roses). (That said, much as I am drawn to strange French combinations like Cineaqua and still like the hotel, I can’t quite get used to the idea of buying perfume from a company that also has a ready meals line in the supermarket).

A Bespoke Jeweller's Guide to Place Vendome

Paris is a place to connect with the great traditions of jewellery and at the heart of those traditions is Place Vendome. I thought it might be helpful for jewellery aficianados visiting Paris to offer a short guide to some of the great jewellery houses there.

Place Vendome, Paris

Place Vendome, Paris

Let’s begin, facing north, at the cross roads of rue Castiglione and rue du Faubourg St Honore, looking towards Vendome, rue de la Paix and the Opera House. On the corner is Guerlain’s flagship, pop in for a few sprays of their limited edition perfumes on the counter on the left to fortify yourself for the trials ahead and then off we go. Immediately on your right on the corner of Castiglione and Vendome is Buccellatti, the great Italian jeweller covered in an earlier article. Don’t miss the fabulously crafted silver animals. The octopus has been replaced in the window for now by an amazing silver boar. But it’s the rings and pendants that will take your breath away. Buccellatti is about fine workmanship rather than huge stones. The work may be too ornate for some but I love it for what it is.

Turning right on to Vendome, don’t miss Breuget, one of the pioneers of the wristwatch. Amongst Breuget’s early clients were Marie Antoinette and Napoleon. Breuget is now owned by Swatch but don’t let that put you off. There are watches of great complexity and stunning simplicity. At a price of course. A Patek Phillipe boutique is just alongside so you can compare easily.

Back to jewellery next with Chanel, although there are also some special versions of Chanel’s watches. For me the main draw is the amazing brightly coloured cocktail rings.

A good warm up for the glories of Van Cleef and Arpel’s flagship store, followed by Boucheron. I particularly like Boucheron’s woven gold scarf sprinkled with small diamonds. But diamonds, seriously big diamonds, are the major key here.

This will bring you on to the corner of rue de la Paix. You should then cross over, because a series of jewellers of greater or lesser renown will take up towards the original Cartier store. The lovely gemmologist M Paul Bassene is in charge of the fine jewellery there. If you want to make him smile then ask him about his ostrich farm – no, really – his personal passion aside from great jewellery.

After your exertions you have a wide choice of options to eat, drink and recuperate. Here are some ideas:

For something inexpensive and informal, turn off rue de la Paix on to rue Casanova and walk towards the Palais Royal and the numerous sushi and noodle restaurants on the way.

Join the tourists – nothing wrong in that – at the cafe de la Paix opposite the Opera House or in the bar at the Ritz on Place Vendome. Both are worth doing at least once.

If you want a sense of slightly edgy glamour and a fashion crowd – think Jimmy Choo, Gucci and Russians – then it’s back on to rue du Faubourg St Honore, turn right and off to Hotel Costes, the original boutique hotel. You can always come here for a cocktail before eating somewhere else.

For fine dining, there is the very discreet Carre des Feuillants restaurant in an enclosed courtyard off rue Castiglione. The set weekday lunch with wine is tremendous value (about 85 Euros a head) for what it is and where it is in Paris. If you want to stray more adventurously a la carte on food and wine or go for dinner, then be prepared to pay rather (well, an awful lot) more.

Finally, if you can’t make your mind up, then turn left on rue du Faubourg St Honore and march the short distance to Marche St Honore. Eat oysters and other seafood at the L’Ecume St Honore crab shack and fishmongers or window shop the numerous restaurants, cafes and bars until something takes your fancy.

Pasta, Buccellati, Bespoke Jewellery and the Octopus

Yum!!

Yum!!

I’m on holiday, so this entry is also going to be a break from my life in Paris and preoccupation with beautiful jewellery. Well, at least for the most part. We’re back in Tuscany. Several things strike me immediately – French food scales the heights better than anyone else but for everyday pleasure, you can’t beat the Italians. All the cliches are mouthwateringly true – tomatoes transformed into exotic fruits, salad made sublime with olive oil and salt. Does it really taste this good or do we simply want it to and therefore make it happen?

Equally striking is the fact that the opposite is generally true of Italian style in all things – cars, clothes and indeed jewellery. You only have to wander along an Italian high street to be reminded that they produce an immense amount of tat in all these fields. And yet we forgive them because the great designers also come up with genuine beauty and innovation.

Expanding this thought, it seems to me that great design depends on the courage to go too far, to get it wrong. Good taste is wonderful but it can also be the enemy of innovation and beauty. The truly beautiful is not merely attractive, it has an other worldly quality. And of course sometimes it goes too far and tips over into kitsch or ugliness.

All of this is typified by one of my favourite great jewellery emporiums in Paris – the magnificent Italian house, Buccellati, in Place Vendome. Their windows are full of extraordinary things – my favourite is a full scale exquisitely made silver octopus but there are also the three finely detailed monkeys (see no evil etc). It is a great mystery as to who would want to pay a small fortune for such strange objects. But I am glad they exist – imagine meeting the craftsmen in Florence – Giuseppe is our sterling silver octopus specialist and so on.

A Buccellati dish sold at Sotheby's

Alongside these great monstrosities, however, Buccellati also has the most beautifully made fretwork diamond and gold rings. At their most elaborate each ring demands a month’s work from a master craftsman. That’s what they told me anyway but knowing a little about it I can easily believe it. Buccellati dares, often fails but occasionally wins the admiration of all with jewellery of surpassing beauty.

A lesson for anyone interested in the exceptional. If you like everything on our site then we are playing too safe. We have to get it wrong from time to time if we are to bring you something special. 

It’s time for pasta so arrivederci for now.

The Tour de France, Sushi, Globalisation and Bespoke Jewellery

Le Peleton passes

Le Peleton passes

The Tour de France was wonderful. I have never understood what all the fuss was about cycling, particularly on the continent. But to watch the pack go past at high speed was an amazing spectacle. The atmosphere was wonderful too, with families sitting at cafes all afternoon and then rushing forward – with stepladders from home at the ready – to see the Tour go by.  For those who somehow missed it, the final stage was won by Mark Cavendish of the UK with a blistering turn of speed. Overall winner was again Albert Contador of Spain, so as a British woman with a Spanish name in a French city, I could be doubly happy.

This set me thinking about nationalities, borders and complicated globalisation stuff. The other night we ordered Sushi. The nice man who took the order was Egyptian. And the even nicer man who delivered it was Senegalese. So Japanese raw fish ordered by a British woman from an Egyptian, delivered by a Senegalese in a French city. I wanted to ask the nationality of the cook (well the sushi roller) but didn’t get round to it. Definitely not French though and definitely not Japanese either for that matter.

All this brings me to the impact of globalisation on individualistic designer maker jewellery boutiques. Here in Paris I am constantly on the lookout for new designer makers to inspire me. This is how I found my friend Petra Domling whose exquisite pale settings with silver and gold are rare in both taste and originality. Petra’s German though.  Eleanor Ford, another designer I discovered turned out Eleanor to be based in London and visiting Paris. Only now she’s moved to Australia. Globalisation has it’s twists and turns. 

Bespoke Jewellery and the Ghost of the Comte de Harcourt

We held our Spring showcase in mid-March, presenting exciting new work from some of our designers and nationally renowned goldsmiths. To mark the event, less conventionally we also enlisted the support of the ghost of French aristocrat, the Comte de Harcourt (deceased 1792), whom I met in Paris. I hope you agree that the Comte still cuts quite a figure despite his troubled history.

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Should you wish to avail yourself of the Comte’s services, he can also be contacted through the wonderfully professional and enthusiastic team at www.gravitylive.co.uk