My favourite piece of jewellery that I own is a beautiful pair of oxidised silver earrings by the Norwegian artist Tone Vigeland. I love them because they’ve got everything that makes Vigeland’s jewellery so sublime: Movement, texture, sound, the satisfaction of one tiny element repeated dozens of times. I’d admired Vigeland’s work for years before buying these from Electrum Gallery, where I was working at the time, and had had the privilege of handling and ogling them for months before taking the plunge. When I finally did, I found it hard to believe that I now owned a piece by my favourite jewellery artist and biggest source of inspiration.
What about other jewellery designers? I asked a few what their favourite pieces of jewellery were and why. Their answers reveal an intriguing mixture of individual expression and sentimentality.
Tine de Ruysser chose a necklace (pictured), given to her by an uncle who’d bought it in Africa. “It already looked old and worn when I got it. (The bare patch of twine was smaller, but there were beads missing even then.) The beads are made from silver and have a wonderful patina. It is the only genuine object I was ever given by those family members that live in Cape Town. Even though it is old, and made from thin silver beads, it looks both contemporary and classical. (It makes me think of twenties pearl necklaces because it is fairly long.) And because of all of this, I actually wear it. Which is more than I can say of most of the jewellery I own.”
Barbara Clamp also favourited a necklace received as a gift, chosen by her husband for their anniversary. “It makes me feel special,” she says. “I wear it all the time as it reminds me of special times.”
Some chose pieces of their own making. Alexandra Simpson picked her engagement ring because “it is sentimental to me and I designed it, so it is an extension of me and my creativity. I also like the sparkle!” Sally Lees says of her own Etched Roses ring, “It was one of the first pieces of silver I etched and is my favourite as it is easy to wear and goes with everything!”
Amanda Doughty’s self-made wedding ring still bears the scars of its creation: “Although I made it myself, I especially asked a few of my jeweller friends to work on it for me to make it more meaningful.” There were a few technical hitches along the way, but, “That’s what makes it so special. To this day I can still see the tiny solder join!”
Lin Cheung chose a small badge made with 24ct gold leaf by Rory Hooper. “It's simple, pure, utilitarian and luxurious at the same time, unmistakably gold and was only £5 (at the time), just a perfect thing.”
The utilitarian luxury aesthetic is shared by Amanda Mansell: “There are two rings which I never take off. One is silver the other 18ct yellow gold. About 1.5mm wide with a texture. They are very simple, not very expensive, easy to wear, and don't get in the way which is important for me as someone who works with her hands!”
As soon as a piece of jewellery leaves the shop, gallery, or market stall, it takes on a life of its own, and will mean different things to different people. At its best, a piece can speak to one’s head and heart simultaneously. It can be a reminder of people, places, or times, while also speaking volumes about one’s personal aesthetic values and style. Probably the most successful pieces, though, are the ones that connect with a person on so many levels – individuality, sentimentality, practicality – that they are worn every day. These lucky pieces have found a soul mate in the person who wears them.