When dreaming up ideas for fine jewellery collections, designers often cast their nets wide, reinterpreting exotic images, creatures and myths from far-flung countries.
Inspiration sprang much closer to home, however, when it came to creating the Sweet Pea collection for William & Son. In keeping with the company’s reputation as one of the most distinctive and definitively British luxury-goods companies, head of jewellery design Nicola Sanderson and expert gemmologist Clemence Devaux drew on a very English influence – the words of 19th-century Romantic poet John Keats.
The result is a collection of 25 exquisite diamond and gem pieces, ranging from bangles and bracelets to earrings, pendants and rings. Launched in 2016, the collection attracted an instant following, drawn by its elegant simplicity and versatility, leading to further pieces being added earlier this year.
Sweet success story
“When we set out to create the collection, we wanted to come up with something fresh with modern flair,” says Sanderson. “Naturally, nature seemed the ideal place to search.”
Working with gemmologist Devaux, she found the inspiration she was searching for in Keats’ poem Stood Tip-Toe Upon a Little Hill, which references sweet peas and provided them with the floral imagery they were looking to work into a collection. It was also a pleasing nod to the company’s British heritage, the sweet pea being an essential plant in the late-Victorian garden.
Creating a jewellery collection is a labour of love, taking anything from a few months to a year, according to Sanderson. “You can’t put a time on it because no two challenges are ever the same, even when you’re expanding an existing collection.”
The process of transforming paper sketches into three-dimensional pieces of jewellery also very much relies on relationships – from carefully matching the skills of different craftsmen in the design stages to having trusted and long-standing suppliers that understand and reflect William & Son’s values. The company’s commitment to the highest quality means it will only partner renowned suppliers that it has worked with for years and, as a member of the Responsible Jewellery Council, it will only use ethically sourced gems.
“The experience and knowledge of the team we have in-house and the experts we are lucky enough to work with outside the business really come into their own,” says Sanderson. “It’s knowing which master craftsperson to choose for which project and having a common understanding of how a piece is constructed and sits on the body.”
Such relationships take time to evolve. “It’s not something that comes overnight, it’s like another language that has to be established organically over time,” says Sanderson.
Something for every style
Made of either 18-carat white or rose gold, each piece in the Sweet Pea collection is inset with diamonds and, in many cases, the addition of a signature gem, including emeralds, blue or pink sapphires, or rhodolite garnets. The style is one of classic elegance with a twist and the pieces are favoured for their unique designs and versatility, both as everyday wear and as glittering accents for evening occasions.
“We try to create collections that will stand the test of time,” says Sanderson. “The way jewellery is being worn has changed over the past few years and this has influenced some of the designs we’ve produced. For instance, we’ve included ear climbers in the latest evolution of Sweet Pea.”
With a collection such as this, it’s a challenge to settle on just one particular piece but, as Sanderson points out, its versatility lends itself to creative interpretation.
“We are seeing a return to jewellery that can be stacked, layered or worn in different ways,” she says. “In the 1920s, women would stack diamond bracelets on their bare arms. Now it’s more likely to be bangles, rings or smaller necklaces that can be bought individually but worn together, building a collection over time.”
However you choose to wear it, Sweet Pea captures the imagination. “The collection symbolises taking a part of nature and translating it into something lasting that can be cherished for eternity,” says Sanderson. “It’s a timeless selection that, like its namesake, will continue to evolve and grow with you.”