At W&W we are fortunate to truly love what we do. Jewellery is not just our job, it is our passion and as with every passion, the ember had to ignite somewhere. Whether the flame was fanned by a relative adorned in evening finery, the meaningful weathered band of an old, loved wedding ring or inspired by something altogether more studious. Join us as we delve into the past of our W&W team to discover when their obsession with jewellery first took hold…
I am particularly drawn to history and the earliest jewellery created. Those early pieces combine alluvial gemstones, often rubbed and polished along a riverbed, and rare metals that must have been even more precious than they are today. So much of how jewellery is made today, what it is made of and the skills involved in the craft can be traced back to those earliest pieces forged with heat and tools.
There are two pieces that particularly inspire me…
The Lochbuie Brooch – Prior to its current home in the British Museum this extraordinarily skilfully crafted brooch was made in a place I know well and have visited for over thirty years. It is a wonderful, remote landscape with human activity reaching from pre-history through to the farm that is run there today. The 16th or 17th century brooch was handmade by a nomadic worker and yet it is an incredibly fine piece of work that many of today’s jewellers would struggle to produce in a fully functioning workshop. Who was the maker? Where were the materials from? What did it cost? A piece like this transports us back to a time when such work must have been highly valued for all the right reasons as the familial inscription illustrates. I hope at least one piece of jewellery that I have been responsible for will last the test of time in the same way!
“Masquerade” – part book, part gold pendant, part treasure hunt by Kit Williams 1979.
Kit Williams is an artist craftsman and the focus of his 1979 masterwork was a handmade 18ct Gold Pendant modelled as a hare set with gemstones. It was buried as the prize in a treasure hunt with the accompanying illustrated book holding all the clues to its location. It became a publishing phenomenon. The jewel itself was a beautifully crafted hare encapsulating the mythology of early history and clearly caught people’s imagination around the world. For a piece of jewellery to communicate its value on so many levels with so many layers of meaning is extraordinary and an inspiration to me when developing any original design.
It is hard for me to pick just one item of jewellery that inspired me as exploring jewellery has always been a huge part of my life. I was drawn to accessories from a young age – I used to make my own beaded bracelets and necklaces – and started buying silver jewellery at markets as a teenager. Over the years my knowledge base grew and with that my interest in jewellery developed.
I have always loved history and as a youngster was fascinated by the Vikings particularly. I started researching traditional Viking jewellery and fell head over heels for twisted Viking rings. This interest slowly developed into a love for Scandinavian jewellery.
A big eye-opener for me was a necklace designed by Bent Gabrielsen in 1959 for Georg Jensen jewellery. I discovered this piece 10 years ago and still love the architectural 3D shapes and the way the light rolls over the high polished surfaces of their pieces.
More recently, I remember visiting the PAD Fair at Berkeley Square in 2018 where I saw an impeccable art deco bracelet from 1922 by Cartier, showcased by Siegelson New York. The finest gemstones were used, a combination of diamonds, coral, and onyx. It absolutely blew my mind (and still does).
It is true craftsmanship which inspires me, how a piece is made, the use of colour and texture, the vision behind a piece and how it all comes together with a beautiful synergy of elements. Because of this, I can be just as inspired by contemporary silver jewellery as I can by an elaborate antique piece.
I have to admit I have never been the greatest follower of fashion or design (you can probably tell based on the clothes that I wear!). However, what I have always loved about jewellery is the symbolism that can be communicated through individual pieces, and that jewellery is often used to mark major milestones in people’s lives. Predominantly this is associated with happy occasions, but it isn’t always the case – particularly historically.
The Victorians were fascinated with symbolism and motifs, from crescents and moons, hearts and hands, snakes and insects to birds and flowers. They all had their own meaning because of the symbol itself and its relation to the recipient’s personality. These motifs, combined with the person that gave them the item, held great significance to the wearer.
We continue a variation of this symbolism today in the pieces we make at W&W and it is this meaningful aspect I enjoy the most, whether the sentimental connection is through the gemstone that is chosen, the details we add to a design or the hidden words we engrave. It isn’t always obvious to the outsider, but it is this bond which I feel makes a bespoke piece truly special, a beautiful little secret known only to a select few.
The wedding ring is the piece of jewellery that has most inspired me, not because wedding rings are known to be the most elaborate item (although they can be) but due to their significance.
One of the only pieces of jewellery worn over many centuries by both sexes, the wedding ring originates from early ceremonial tradition and is recognised and honoured amongst multiple cultures, races, religious alignments, and socioeconomic backgrounds. It is not exclusive to a particular elite or class but a symbolic piece of jewellery accessible to all showing their marital status. For these reasons I find the wedding ring fascinating and culturally diverse; wherever you go in the world, even in the most unfamiliar places, a wedding ring is a universal love symbol recognised throughout humanity.
The earliest history of wedding rings dates back to the Egyptian pharaohs who first used rings to represent eternity, as a ring has no beginning and no end. The circle also reflected the shape of the sun and moon, an important part of ancient Egyptian religion, whilst the space in the middle of the ring represented a gateway to the unknown.
When Alexander the Great conquered the Egyptians, the Greeks then adopted the tradition of giving rings to their lovers to represent devotion. Later when the Romans conquered Greece, they picked up on this tradition and began using iron and copper rings in marriage ceremonies.
The GIA has a particularly interesting article on the history of wedding rings, click here to find out more.
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