By Rachael Taylor
My job can be dangerous. Certainly not dangerous in the conventional meaning, but dangerous in that I see too much. Being a jewellery editor brings with it all the perks of spending time around beautiful luxury jewels – trying them on, scrutinising them, loving them instantly – but, at the end of the meeting, they always have to go back.
The reason this is dangerous is two fold. Firstly, it can create a longer wish list than one would ever be able to fill, so disappointment is a constant companion. Secondly, once you understand fine jewellery and what makes a certain designer so special, it is impossible to fill that void with a substitute of a lesser quality. This is how jewellery shoppers become jewellery collectors: we get hooked on the minutiae.
If you’ve fallen under the spell of jewels in the way I have, you’ll recognise the rollercoaster of saving up for a fantastic once-in-a-lifetime jewel, only to realise as soon as it is in your possession and your funds are exhausted that the ‘lifetime’ rhetoric might have been a bit steep. In fact, you’ve already seen another jewel that sets your heart a flutter.
This is a phenomenon beyond our control that we cannot possibly hope to suppress… seriously. Humans are hardwired to gravitate towards shiny new things. Back when we had to survive on our wits rather than our credit cards, learning something new could be the difference between life and death. As such, we have a part of our brain – the substantia nigra/ventral segmental area – dedicated to rewarding novel images with a hit of dopamine to encourage you to keep seeking the new.
This is a fabulous neurological excuse to buy jewels, but in an era where fiscal responsibility and sustainable consumerism are almost – almost – as rewarding as getting all the shiny new things your SN/VSA can handle, there has to be another way, right? Well, now there is.
Aishleen Lester of Le Ster is an award-winning jeweller (including winning the coveted The Jewellery Cut Live bursary in 2020) ad exciting new name to know. Her jewels exude modern sophistication, with sharply pointed, highly polished gold designs inspired by fireworks. Set with stones including opals, jade and tourmaline, they are a joy to wear – and would make for a brilliant addition to a black-tie outfit, especially the statement earrings.
Myriam Soseilos is, as I like to call her, a jewellery magician. This multi-award-winning Cypriot designer always has something incredible up her sleeve, like her jewels that change shape in heat, and snap back on cooling. Who knew you could have hours of fun with a hairdryer and some diamonds? Her fashionable jewels often have a little twist, such as the use of lab-grown gemstones, some kinetic movement or perhaps a hidden compartment.
Another master of jewellery engineering is Alice van Cal. The London-based designer, who studied her trade in Cartier’s workshops, has developed a patent-pending jewel called The Alice. This versatile design, which looks like a simple pendant with a central gem of your choice surrounded by a double halo of smaller stones, can transform into four different pieces of jewellery: a ring, a hand jewel, a bracelet and a necklace. C’est magnifique.
When it comes to fabulous and rare gemstones, Eva Meijer is a veritable font of all knowledge, having studied and lived in the gem hub of Bangkok. Her eclectic curation of gem-centric jewellery is a beautiful, and highly covetable, reflection of this. Loaning one of her pieces will allow you to explore gems you might not be familiar with – soft-pink spinels, autumnal sheen sapphires, golden heliodor. A gemmological adventure awaits you with Eva.
Susi Smither of The Rock Hound is, as her brand name suggests, another gemstone expert. What I love about her work is that it a bold expression of her personality that often defies convention by teaming gems with unusual materials, such as gold smothered in neon ceramic coatings or tumbled Muzo emeralds is settings that appear as if the gold is molten. She also takes ethics seriously, working with sustainably mined gems and Fairtrade gold.
What makes Karen Philips’ work so special is her masterful command of gold. If you look closely at her pieces, you will see that each has a texture that she has described as ‘disorganised elegance’. To achieve this look, she uses flurries of gold strands. These can be used to cocoon gemstones, such as darkly hued tourmaline, polished rock crystal and raw diamonds, or just to add interest to the surface of her one-of-a-kind hand-hewn treasures.