If you’re interested in jewellery and handy with the internet, you will have heard of Astley Clarke. It is the brainchild of Bec Astley Clarke, who seven years ago spotted a gap in the market – the chasm between what she calls “highly priced diamond-orientated Bond Street and the high street, which is also mainly based around conventional designs and diamonds, though at the less expensive end”.
Her original vision had been to become “the jewellery equivalent of an Anya Hindmarch or a Diane von Furstenberg – that is, very design conscious but reasonably affordable”. Clarke wanted to provide pieces that women could wear every day but that were nonetheless precious. Today the brand has become particularly well known for its use of colourful gems and offering real jewellery at accessible prices.
When Clarke founded the company, almost everything she sold was designed by other jewellers, but gradually she added her own creations, which today account for some 80 per cent of sales.
A while back I wrote about the brand’s Woven collection, which was inspired by the ropes and knots that climbers use (Clarke’s father being a doctor and passionate mountaineer who was the medic on the first British expedition to Everest). For this winter’s Fao collection, the most precious from the brand so far, she and creative director Lorna Watson have once again looked to family history. The name itself comes from the nickname of Clarke’s grandmother, Fao, while for the design themes they turned to her grandfather, Sir Cyril Astley Clarke, a geneticist, president of the Royal College of Physicians and an ardent butterfly collector. They’ve tried to capture the butterfly’s beauty of movement as well as the glittering patterns found in its wings. “We didn’t want to do anything too literal,” says Clarke, “but we’ve tried to translate the undulating movement of the wings by using molten pavé diamonds, which is incredibly difficult to do.”
The result is an enchanting and feminine collection. It is based around two stones – a sweet pink/peach stone called morganite and Rose de France, a lilac amethyst – which they’ve set in 18ct rose gold and combined with gentle grey pavé diamonds to add an almost vintage air. Among the pieces there are three rings, three necklaces (one round pendant and two drop-shaped pendants; example third picture, £1,950), two pairs of earrings and one bracelet (fourth picture, £2,950). The stones are either pear shaped or rather wobbly circles, which gives them added charm. The large pendant necklace is £6,400 in morganite (first picture, left; £4,250 in Rose de France), a round Rose de France ring is £3,750 (second picture; £5,600 in morganite), and drop earrings, each stone topped with a little curving cap of the grey pavé diamonds, are £2,250 (first picture, right; £5,250 for the bigger version, in morganite). The Fao collection is sold on the brand’s website and in Astley Clarke departments in Harrods, Liberty and Selfridges.