December 17 2010
Lucia van der Post
Choosing jewellery is a tricky matter, “taste” being so elusive and so infuriatingly unamenable to logic. For chaps it must be a nightmare trying to choose it for the women in their lives, which is why most of them retreat to the big, safe brands. Nobody could possibly object – surely? – to a cute little box in one of those iconic colours that signal a reassuring recognisable name.
But actually some people like little niche brands. They like the edgy, the avant-garde, jewellers who are pushing at the boundaries. Well Electrum is the gallery for them. It’s always been one of my favourites and its shop in London’s South Molton Street has just emerged from a complete refurbishment. It’s got new owners – CAA (Contemporary Applied Arts) – and its new head of gallery, Flora Bhattachary, kicked off its latest incarnation with some interesting collaborations, homing in on a celebration of art in jewellery, a reaction if you like against the culture of mass production.
There are pieces from a recent RCA graduate, Caren Hartley, among them a series made from broken ornaments (from £80; very eco-friendly), some wonderfully ethereal swan ornament and broken wing-tip earrings (from £1,210) and pieces made from old coins (£95).
Re-using found or old objects and reworking them is a consistent theme among young jewellers. Marta Mattsson takes insects such as beetles and butterflies and incorporates them into jewellery (third picture, from £685). “Sometimes,” she says, “ I see beauty in things that other people find strange or are even repulsed by.” And Christopher Thompson Royd strings together pieces of antique candlesticks to make a white, wick-like rope necklace (£1,680).
Electrum’s jewellers, such as Nina Bukvic, don’t always use diamonds the straight, sparkly way – they like to take opaque black and brown diamonds so that the effect is subtler, less overtly swanky. Less extraordinary but possibly more wearable is Jo Hayes-Ward’s necklace made from 18ct gold, aluminium, stainless steel, silver and oxidised silver (£4,000) – it’s all sculptural shimmering tiny cubes and very striking. She has also made some beautiful long diamond drop earrings in 18ct yellow gold with mink-coloured faceted diamonds (£1,260) and what she calls a “medium princess chaos ring” in 18ct white gold with four princess-cut diamonds (£2,970).
For something less expensive take a look at her exquisite lace disc cuff links in silver (£245). Polly Wales’ Caspian ring (second picture), made from black platinum-plated silver, blue topaz and black sapphires (£1,500) is another gorgeous piece that’s not too difficult to wear. I also love Ruth Tomlinson’s baroque oval brooch made from pearls and west African antique glass embedded in gold plate (£1,530). Since cuffs are very much part of today’s look, Jane Adam’s beautiful silver cuff bracelets (first picture, from £525) reflect the mood of the moment but she has given them an original and beautifully delicate take of her own.
Coming up next year will be a collaboration with a retro-inclined blogger called Mademoiselle Robot, who will curate an online exhibition and window display. One to watch, I think.