Jewellery maker spotlight: six names to know

Talented jewellers transform little pieces of metal and gemstones into our most treasured possessions. We visit the workshops where the magic happens

Katie Lees – Designer and goldsmith, Katie Lees Jewellery

KATIE LEEs Designer and goldsmith, Katie Lees Jewellery
Jewellery clockwise from top: Vex pendant, from £685; Halo, from £425, Victory, from £535, Insignia, £1,520, and Chevron, from £650; Ring, £780, Cluster, £525, Rise, £610, and Mantra, from £1,520, all Katie Lees Jewellery (headshot: Andy Bell Images)

What influences you creatively?

I have lots of books on architecture and Art Deco which inspire new works. For me, a really organic way of designing is to fall in love with a stone first and then base the overall look around it. I’m a fan of quirky geometric cuts and colours of diamond, and quite often the design process will spawn another ten ideas. So I guess that making itself inspires me!

How would you describe your signature style?

Geometric, Art Deco and unusual stacking shapes are recurring themes. I feel my designs transcend time: they look modern but have a classic aesthetic. I love how my clients view my work – some say it evokes a vintage feel, others say it reminds them of Aztec or Egyptian imagery.

What is your daily work routine?

Emails and coffee, followed by stone orders and prep waxes in the morning, then stone setting in the afternoon. Around this, I’ll be meeting new clients in consultations and discussing commissions. Podcasts and audiobooks are a favourite in the workshop, but it has to be music when I’m emailing!

What are you finding particularly popular at the moment?

Individualism and non-traditional, alternative jewellery is reigning supreme, as are coloured stones. Customers often ask me what makes a ‘wedding band’, and I always reply, ‘Whatever you get married with!’ I champion people following their own style and getting something they’ll love forever.

Jane Harrison – Designer and maker, Jane Harrison Jewellery

Jewellery clockwise from top: Best Bud wedding ring in 9ct gold, £540, Spring Awake Bud cluster ring in sterling silver, £240; Carved twig band in 9ct gold, £300, all Jane Harrison Jewellery

How did you get into jewellery design?

I graduated from Glasgow School of Art in 2012, and I’ve been creating contemporary jewellery ever since. I now specialise in hand-made, bespoke pieces, including wedding and engagement rings.

What inspires your work?

I am heavily influenced by sentimental moments and memories. I believe that each item of jewellery will become a vessel for the milestones in your life. That, to me, is really special.

Talk us through an average day in your job

Every day is different: sometimes you’ll find me in my home office working on commissions and answering enquiries, or I’ll be at my work bench actually making things, which is my favourite place to be. The one constant is that I always have my two dogs beside me, keeping me company.

What is the most memorable piece you’ve made?

My own wedding ring – I wear it every day and I’m so happy with it. I went for a traditional 18ct yellow-gold band with a brushed finish, the same as the one I made for my husband.

Claire Moore – Designer and co-owner, Jewellery By Design

Jewellery clockwise from top: Diamond-wrapped bubble ring in 18ct white and yellow gold, £POA; Diamond pendant in 9ct yellow and 18ct white gold, £POA; Pear-cut aquamarine and diamond ring in platinum, £POA, all Jewellery By Design

What do you love about your job?

So many things! Mostly the people I work with – we really are like a family. I’m also lucky to be able to combine my design and making skills to create pieces which mean a lot to clients.

What characterises your work?

My early jewellery was inspired by the movement of windmills, with each piece incorporating a spinning element. Nowadays, my work is defined more by each item being completely unique: more often than not, my creations consist of a client’s old jewellery transformed into more wearable pieces.

What do you see trending in bridal jewellery in 2020?

Brides are increasingly opting for vintage designs, bands set with diamonds of mixed cuts and lots of milgrain edging. Grooms are leaning more towards platinum.

Linda Byers – Owner, Byers & Co

Jewellery left to right: Handmade rings, £POA; Diamond ring set in yellow gold in oxidised silver, £230, both Byers & Co (headshot: Craig Stephen)

How did you become interested in this business?

I always wanted to be a jeweller. I made friendship bracelets at primary school and my parents sent me to a silversmithing workshop for my thirteenth birthday. I progressed to studying jewellery design, opening my own shop over five years ago. Weirdly, I don’t wear any jewellery myself – I get my fix by working with it every day.

How would you describe your signature style?

Simple designs with exceptional stones are what defines my work. My style is fairly minimalistic, but I have a passion for interesting and unusual stones, the personality of which will often steer the design in a certain direction.

How do you structure your working day?

I love the radio, so I think about time in terms of radio programmes. Every day starts with coffee, Lauren Laverne and walking the dog. I then tend to spend the day making or drawing, and in the evenings you can quite often find me on the sofa for an hour or two jotting down ideas or doodling.

What do you anticipate brides will be lusting after in the coming year?

As people become more ethically aware, there is a greater demand for coloured precious and semi-precious stones. I’m also seeing more family gold being recycled and reworked, so a warmer palette of colours might emerge.

Sheila Fleet – Creative director, Sheila Fleet

Jewellery clockwise from top: Arctic Stream pendant, £168; Matrix Embrace band in 9ct rose gold and 9ct white gold, £549; Tidal bangle, £1,477, all Sheila Fleet

How did you get to where you are professionally?

I went to Edinburgh College of Art in the swinging ’60s, and have been designing and making jewellery for more than 50 years now.

What characteristics define your work?

Everyone has a unique style, just like handwriting: I’d say that my work could be described as sculptural, organic and colourful.

Where do you take your inspiration from?

I tend to look to the natural world around me, such as the sea, land and sky, as well as the history of Scotland and my home in the Orkney Islands.

What does your typical day look like?

Each day brings its own challenges, but I often take on the role of conductor, overseeing each area to ensure everything is co-ordinated in the workshop.

What piece or pieces are you most proud of?

I have always enjoyed the journey of jewellery-making, and there are a few pieces that I wear more frequently, like the Seasons, Creel, Tidal and the new Arctic Stream designs. The Runic collection remains an old favourite too.

Alison Harris – CAD designer, James Brown & Partners

Jewellery from top: Diamond dress ring, £POA, James Brown & Partners; A CAD creation comes to life in James Brown & Partners’ workshop

What’s your educational background?

I graduated from Cardonald College and then Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art & Design, before furthering my Computer Aided Design (CAD) training. Last year I completed my Professional Jewellers’ Diploma with distinction – but I would say I am always learning on the job too!

What does your CAD work entail?

I specialise in bespoke design, which means that I need to be focused on all the small details, both aesthetically and from a manufacturing point of view. We love to involve clients in the process as much as possible to make it an enjoyable and personal experience.

Talk us through your most memorable design

I had a lot of fun with this one (above) – the customer wanted to use her own diamonds and gold, and we supplied baguette-cut diamonds for something a little different in this show-stopping cocktail ring. We used her gold for the band, and provided some more for the setting, which is a fantastic way to combine old with new.