British jewelry designers marry a history of rich craftsmanship with a dose of urban cool for diverse and dazzling diamond designs. Designers both established and new, minimalist and flamboyant, are rethinking the possibilities of natural diamonds in playful reinterpretations of traditional diamond jewelry. Here, discover our favorite British jewelry designers—each bringing a chic sparkle to everyday embellishment.
1. Jessie Thomas
Goldsmith training informs Jessie Thomas’s jewelry, which is undercut with a flawless technicality. Jessie, who shares her Chelsea workshop with her father—master goldsmith David Thomas, who learnt his trade from Georg Jensen—also inherits from him a love of simplistic design.
Her pieces curve recycled gold into sensuous shapes, casting diamonds on the crest of a golden wave or coiling them into precious whorls. Diamonds hold a tantalizing appeal for Jessie, who works with stones of different sizes for designs which make the stones the focus. “If it’s a large ‘central’ stone, I’ll work the design outwards from the diamond, making sure the piece always shows off the stone to its best advantage,” she notes. “I try and keep everything paired back, because I like simplicity but also to make sure the stone is not overshadowed by unnecessary ornamentation. When working with clients on bespoke pieces, we choose the right diamond first and then the design comes second to that. The stone is more key than the design often,” she adds.
Diamonds, whether floating on the earlobe or coaxed into scalloped silhouettes, add a unique edge to jewelry which puts old-school techniques at its heart. “Diamonds are so beautiful, you don’t really need to work hard to add much to them: they do most of the work to make a piece look good,” says Jessie. “From the perspective of being a goldsmith, their strength makes them so easy to work with. They enable you to do interesting settings you can’t often use with other stones: you can float them, tension set them, heat them – the list goes on!”
Completedworks brings a sculptural simplicity to jewelry design for minimalist pieces which weave their way around the body, spinning webs in precious materials and casting hypnotizing loops around fingers and earlobes.
Jewelry, crafted in the brand’s London studio, nods to artistic director Anna Jewsbury’s background studying mathematics and philosophy at the University of Oxford, with pieces reduced to their most essential silhouettes. Diamonds, unexpectedly placed, take on a teasing character, and when delicately edging ribbons of gold in fluid earrings, or punctuating the broken edge off a circle in offbeat rings, bring a subtle sensuality to jewelry. “When I’m thinking about the diamond in the design it’s usually about balance and ensuring that the design and setting is not unnecessarily complicated so it doesn’t overwhelm the diamond,” says Anna. “It requires a precise, simplified, and edited-down design to eliminate any distracting elements.”
Anna is drawn to the beauty in individual diamonds, putting them at the center of designs which consider the emotional connection with the wearer. “I think it’s the longevity of the stones and the charm that comes from each one being completely unique,” she notes of her attraction to diamonds. “I think they also present a challenge when it comes to design, to create something a little bit different than what is expected of them, moving beyond their usual associations.”
3. Theo Fennell
Jewelry is imbued with a playful theatricality in the hands of Theo Fennell. Jewelry, painstakingly created by hand in the brand’s workshops in Fulham Road, draws on mischievous motifs—diamond-studded bees and butterflies and intricately-embellished floral and fauna; curving skulls gleaming in diamonds; and bird brooches wearing diamond stripes proudly on their breast. “I tend to use unusual diamonds,” says Theo. “Ones with life and character rather than standard stones—and that can come through the cut and shape, but also in its inner fire and subtlety of color. The highest color and clarity stones are not always the most alluring.”
Unexpected design details rethink the possibilities of diamonds, with unusual cuts and placements setting them in a new light. The natural world is a favorite theme, and diamonds—whether as the main focus of the piece or used as a subtle sprinkling—bring it to life in all its glory. “We use a lot of old diamonds brought through various trustworthy channels and from a network of dealers and polishers we have built up over the years, who know what we like and that we trust. Very often they will think of us if they see an unusual stone,” adds Theo.
Diamonds hold a special significance for the jeweler, who looks for stand-out stones he feels a connection to before considering what role they can play in a design. After over four decades creating jewelry, the magic of diamonds continues to hold him enthralled: “The idea that they have taken so long to form, a time during which humanity is just a blink of the eye, gives them a romance and gravitas that is deeply moving. For such a simple formula the variety is astonishing.”
4. Stephen Webster
Fine diamond jewelry is infused with a rock ‘n’ roll sensibility in the hands of Stephen Webster, who brings a cool edge to traditional materials and exquisite craftsmanship. His jewels, taking inspiration from music, art and film, are defined by bold silhouettes for a collection which draws jagged zigzags of diamonds around the neck and fingers, and encircles wrists in sweeping, glittering forms.
Diamonds form the basis of designs which tell stories with their eclectic forms, with Stephen creating designs around the exceptional gems which capture his imagination on buying trips. “I will have a short list of different materials I want to source and then get lost in the journey—the journey is part of the design process, so I guess you could say that it all comes together when I find the perfect material,” he says. “When working with any raw material, I love the idea that something so beautiful can come from something found in the ground. Diamonds are particularly beautiful; for example, as soon as you put a pavé surround on a central stone it can really elevate the design and make something really exceptional.”
Annoushka Ducas brings a chic wearability to the pieces which encompass her eponymous jewelry brand, with an easy fluidity forming the cornerstone of jewelry women love to wear.
While diamonds have always played an integral role in her designs, they have recently taken center stage with the launch of the Love and Commitment collection. Diamonds, whether irregularly placed on gold bands or translated into blooming, sparkling flowers, add a beautiful embellishment to jewels designed to be worn every day. “Unlike many designers, I am not obsessed by perfection in each stone, but by the individuality of the color and the cut that enhances it,” Ducas tells us. “When using more substantial diamonds as center stones, obviously I consider the carat, color and clarity—all of these are H/S1, excellent cut and GIA-certified—but chasing perfection in diamonds and gemstones is not something I’m really interested in. For me, the beauty and joy is in sourcing stones with character and individuality, which, in my opinion, can only come from natural diamonds and gemstones.”
In her bespoke designs, diamonds weave life stories into glittering webs for jewels imbued with significance. Her My Life in Seven Charms collection is a precious and wearable biography, with charms commissioned by customers bringing their history to life. “For this, the design leads, and I then make the decision about what diamonds add to the design,” Ducas says, who can make anything the customer desires. “I recently made a beautiful old-fashioned microphone in 18ct white gold for Rachel Johnson, set with twinkling diamonds,” she adds.