Meet The Leopards

From designing jewelry for Elton John to partnering with the visionary Alexander McQueen, hear the stories of the incredible Leopards in the Forevermark podcast mini-series.

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It all started when yet another handbag was sold for over $100,000 at auction and Solange Azagury-Partridge and I were wondering how we could raise awareness of fine jewelry as an important fashion accessory and not seen as an afterthought.

Founded in 2016, the Leopards is a group of like-minded jewelry professionals who would like jewelry to be celebrated as a fashionable part of anyone’s wardrobe.  Not wishing to give our ages away, between us we have around 200 years of experience in the jewelry industry worldwide.  

Something that we were delighted to discuss through a series of podcasts we developed in partnership with Forevermark, in their latest instalment from the Power of a Diamond.In these podcasts, each of us, the six Leopards, had another chance to celebrate the wonder, awe and creativity that jewellery inspires. We have shared our passion and our stories from designing jewellery for Elton John to partnering with the visionary Alexander McQueen on unforgettable runway pieces. The episodes have been hosted by – best-selling author, broadcaster, and contributing editor to Vogue India, Bronwyn Cosgrave; and author, historian, editor, stylist, and Leopard herself, Carol Woolton.

You can listen to all episodes here.

The Leopards are all aware of the creativity and skills that have to be learnt and the work that goes into a piece of jewelry which will last forever and can be passed on to family, perhaps reset for a younger generation and hold its value.  Fine jewelry, and particularly diamond jewelry, has both emotional, talismanic and intrinsic values. As my dear friend Carol Woolton, British Vogue’s Contributing Jewelry Director, rightfully says “diamonds are the single jewels, above all others, which have consistently dazzled us. They’ve encapsulated
the zeitgeist of each age for which they were created and over time have perfectly illustrated the changes in society and cultural shifts as it transformed and democratized, reflecting in its icy facets the modernization of our own society.”

Most couples celebrate life’s milestones with a diamond: an engagement ring, perhaps a diamond wedding ring or eternity ring, anniversary gifts or the birth of a child.  More recently, women have been more enthusiastic about buying themselves a piece of diamond jewelry – a pair of diamond ear studs, a right-hand ring as a personal reward for a promotion, or just because they saw a piece and liked it.

We all fell in love with this unique gemstone that was formed billions of years ago. Whatever their size or crystal shape, no two diamonds are alike, similar to fingerprints and, while it may sound a little whimsical, when presented with a range of diamonds, people say that one draws them in, speaks to them.  It may have slight imperfections, or not be pure white, but that’s the one they want.

Recognizing that industries have to evolve or die, the Leopards also discussed among themselves the training of a future generation of craftsmen.  And there are many skills involved in making a piece of fine jewelry, whether that be at college or as an apprentice.  Either way, we’re talking years of practice before someone can make a piece singlehandedly.

With this in mind, we partnered with the Prince’s Trust to start a mentoring program for young people interested in jewelry making.  We subsequently involved the Goldsmiths’ Centre, the premier charity for the jewelry, silver and goldsmithing trades to help with our training programs.

Who are the Leopards?

  • Solange Azagury-Partridge is an artist jeweler.  Solange has no formal training but has built up a rather Bohemian clientele from most sectors of arts.  Her men’s and women’s jewelry is a regular on the red carpet at film awards.
  • Theo Fennell’s workshop covers every eventuality, from racing trophies to fine jewelry.  Sir Elton John, who won the Leopard Award for Jewelry Icon at the first Leopards Gala, is one of Theo’s faithful clients.
  • Shaun Leane designs jewelry for all tastes, from powerful, slightly gothic diamond pieces to charming floral jewels.  Shaun will always be associated with the stunning pieces he made in collaboration with Alexander McQueen that were exhibited in the sell-out shows at the Metropolitan Museum in New York and the Victoria & Albert Museum in London.  
  • Stephen Webster is the rock’n’roll jeweler and his clients are not shy types. As well as running his own design studio, Stephen is the Chairman of the House of Garrard.  His designs range from everyday pieces with an edge to the wonderfully flamboyant.  Indeed, something for everyone.
  • Carol Woolton has been capturing styles and moods of diamonds for over 25 years writing for Conde Nast titles, and widely about antique and contemporary jewelry for magazines, newspapers and online supplements around the world and published five books on the subject. “I think each diamond’s journey is so extraordinary which is why they’ve obsessed us for thousands of years.”

And me, Susan Farmer.  I have spent most of my working life with the De Beers Group covering just about every aspect of diamonds, including jewelry design competitions, the benefits diamonds bring to the communities that work with them such as health, education and environmental programs in southern Africa.