‘Like all good things, it seemed to come out of the blue,’ says jewellery designer Solange Azagury-Partridge of her role as judge for the BBC’s hotly anticipated new show, All That Glitters – ‘I thought, it’s another adventure – I’ve had so many adventures in my career.’
Solange is well known for her wild and whimsical jewellery creations – her London boutique is a mecca to the colour and imagination that define her unique aesthetic and her Hotlips designs are so iconic she now runs them as a separate business. She spent several years as creative director of the legendary French jewellery house, Boucheron, and has pieces on display in the permanent collections at both the Louvre and the V&A. Suffice to say, her jewellery judging credentials are impeccable.
The All That Glitters premise is simple – weekly challenges and eliminations, one winner – think the Great British Bake Off, but with diamonds. The unique twist is that the show unmasks the rarefied world behind fine jewellery – ‘it’s visually beautiful, dramatic, visceral,’ says Solange. Laugh-a-minute Canadian comedian Katherine Ryan presents, and Solange teams up with old friend and fellow jewellery designer Shaun Leane as the judging duo – ‘Shaun and I used to see each other out and about at parties – with Lee McQueen etc,’ says Solange, ‘we know each other well, we have a nice rapport’.
Add eight jewellery design hopefuls and you have all the elements of gripping competition TV. And, says Solange, mysteriously, ‘we do have a point of difference…’ she pauses, ‘but I’m not allowed to tell you…’
Here, Solange delves deeper…
What can we expect from the show?
‘It’s a competition format, with weekly challenges. We choose one jeweller of the week, and send one contestant home, until only the winner remains. It’s very focused – we filmed at the jewellery school in Birmingham over weekends in March, and ten intense days in a row at the end of July. It’s all about the contestant and their life stories. And there are a lot of surprises’…
What were the challenges?
‘It was mainly fine jewellery – gold, precious stones – some costume jewellery, for variety. Every week the contestants designed what we call a ‘bestseller’ item, and then a bespoke piece. An outsider coming in with a specific task – ‘I want a present for this person for this reason’. That’s tough – the jewellers have to put their own character into it, and honour the person they’re making for. Set by people from all walks of life, the challenges add a special moment to the programme. The crescendo is a diamond engagement ring’…
How did you judge?
‘By the end of the programme we have to make a really quick decision. Jewellery is subjective, so we try and look at everything logically and outline certain criteria – how well it’s been made, how it’s finished, whether the idea is good. Some people had better ideas than execution, and some had very good execution, but then the ideas weren’t so great – it was very tricky – traumatic’!
Tell us about the contestants?
‘Everyone’s path to making jewellery is unique – that’s what makes it so interesting. The contestants have varying levels of experience, different perspectives – they all started in their own way. They became very close. We had to be dispassionate about the work – it has to be about what they do, not who they are’.
What can we expect?
‘It’s very visually powerful. And tense! They’re doing it as you watch, so there’s a lot of pressure – precious materials, time constraints, a camera in your face – I couldn’t do what they do! There were hairy moments, lots of drama. It is a physical, dirty, visceral profession, jewellery – you have to be strong and tough to do it – I think viewers will be surprised by what’s behind it’.
And Katherine Ryan is presenter?
‘She’s the glue that holds it all together! It’s clever to have a comedian as the host. The pressure is intense for the contestants and as judges we have to be serious, professional – everyone’s putting their heart and soul into it. We needed someone light-hearted – she diffuses all the pressure’!
Designers to watch?
‘There are a couple who will be big, if they’ve got the staying power… It’s a vocation, jewellery design – there are so many pain barriers in this business’.
Is there a second series on the horizon?
‘It took me most of the first series to find my bearings – the first two episodes we looked like scared rabbits, Shaun and I. By episode 5 and 6 I felt more confident. I’d love to be part of a second series, let’s see what happens’…
In her own words…
To see more of our exclusive behind the scenes coverage from All That Glitters, visit www.naturaldiamonds.com/AllThatGlitters