By Nagmani, Senior editor H&B International
British luxury brands have a huge fan following around the globe. It’s no wonder that they’re always in the limelight thanks to a number of high-profile celebrities going after them in a big way. More so, it’s a lucrative business model good for the UK luxury industry which, at the moment, is touching new heights.
As part of it, one luxury segment where the British heritagespeaks volumes is jewelry design because of the country’s trailblazing jewelry designers whose design philosophy is unique enough to blow anyone’s mind.
They’re changing the ballgame with new twists and turns and in so doing winning accolades from across the world. One such influential jewelry designer is the London-based Stephen Webster known for delving into the unknown yet rich traditions of his homeland to mostly revive the era of designing breathtaking pieces of jewelry in a whole contemporary style. Even though his pieces are embedded with bits of eccentricity, they’re also marveled at for their royal prominence, making him one-of-a kind in this field.
In an exclusive interview with Horizon & Beyond, we sat down with him to find out what prompted him to try his luck at designing jewelry, what this creative profession means to him and much more.
What drew your attention to jewelry at first?
My passion for jewelry started when I was 16 years old. That’s how I enrolled at an art school. Originally, I had applied for the fashion course but after a tour, the department, which was full of girls with sewing machines, I decided that perhaps it wasn’t for me. Instead, I discovered the jewelry department; workshops full of flames, chemicals, tools, noise and grime.
For me, it was simply a place where everyone seemed to be making treasure. And that’s how I was hooked.
What does it mean to you personally?
The brand has evolved from my personal passion for craftsmanship and the techniques both ancient and modern applied to the processes of making fine jewelry. Feeling stifled by an industry so steeped in tradition that there seemed to be little enthusiasm for creativity, I wanted to apply my skills to an aesthetic that felt more contemporary and progressive. This spirit of rebellion based on impeccable craftsmanship became the foundation of the company from day one.
What are the signature traits of your brand that make it stand out from the rest?
Part of our DNA and what originally put Stephen Webster on the world map is the ‘Crystal Haze’concept that I developed over twenty five years ago. The effect is created by bonding a high dome of crystal clear multi-faceted Rock Crystal over a thin layer of natural precious stone. The cut Rock Crystal allows light to enter at hundreds of different angles causing the stone to produce a holographic-like ‘haze’ of color that moves as the stone is turned. The stones are surrounded by brilliant cut diamonds. The overall effect is striking.
What do you want your brand to be known for?
I want my brand to be known as an environmentally conscious craft brand from Britain defined by exquisite craftsmanship and fearless creativity and design innovation which breaks the boundaries of traditional jewelry.
Where do you get your inspirations from?
I’m very lucky to be able to find inspiration in my daily life and the world that surrounds me. My biggest influence has always been the ocean, but I’m also inspired by nature, literature, visual experiences, music and arts.
Do different cultures affect the way you make your jewelry pieces other than your British heritage?
Absolutely, they do. We must take cultural differences and values into consideration, from colors (Russians love reds and Asian love greens) to sizes (American client prefers a chunky size while everything must be shrinking for Japan) to symbols and history. It’s very easy to make a mistake and in so doing not only get a commercial side wrong but also upset people. I’m totally against this sort of thing. I make sure it never happens.
What gemstones do you use and where do you source them from?
We’ve built our business of designing and cutting our gemstones alongside our collections rather than buying already cut stones. With that in mind, you can’t quite cut and waste a lot of precious stones, so we’re always on the lookout for some interesting and unusual material. My favorite trip is to go to Gem Show in Tucson, AZ. A few years ago, I discovered the most amazing Peruvian Pink Opal and bought the whole drum of it, and we are still using it for our Crystal Haze collection. This year was even more exciting as I found some amazing Spinels of all colors and other great rough material for our Crystal Haze collection. But we also use a lot of traditional gemstones such as all color Sapphires, Emeralds, Rubies and Diamonds as well as all different color Tourmalines, Garnets, Tanzanite. Pretty much if it has color – we will use it.
What’s your latest collection all about and what inspired it?
We’re developing the last part of the design trilogy ‘Altered Perspective’, Vertigo. Vertigo will draw you into the maze, provoking dizziness, a sensation of spiraling uncontrollably toward a world of complete change. Nothing about this collection is as it first appears. And as usual, we will be combining groundbreaking technology with tradition.
To what extent is the sustainability factor an integral part of your awe-inspiring creations?
These days in all businesses there is lots of talk of sustainability and of future proofing. Without sustainable business practices there is no future. Our close involvement with meticulous craftsmanship ensuring the sourcing of conflict-free gemstones, coupled with our community development activities allows us to use our position as a leading brand to inspire people, partners and customers to respect our planet, and champion products and processes that contribute to healthier, happier communities while minimizing our environmental impact.
Which celebs have worn your designed creations so far? And who is your dream celeb you would like to see in one of your elegant and sparkling collections?
There are so many of them to talk about. But Elizabeth Taylor was my first celebrity client, she changed things for me and then Madonna wore our iconic Crystal Haze ring and that really put the brand Stephen Webster on the map. We like rebels with a heart and extraordinary talents and are very lucky to have a great celebrity following.
To what extent does the celebrity endorsement matter to you?
We’ve our long-standing friends, and people we admire for their creativity and raw talent. I guess these are the celebrities we’re championing. But what we really love is to see all kinds of people – famous or not – in our pieces, wearing the collections that move them somehow, emotionally even. Our jewelry is about self-expression and personal identity and we don’t pay celebrities to wear our jewelry. As much as we value the new influencer culture and Instagram “stars”, they aren’t on our payroll either. We’re a bespoke craft driven luxury brand with genuinely innovative design, so the requests from celebrity stylists and editors to wear our Jewellery never end. We do our best to loan to those talents that can wear it well.
What’s next on the table for the brand?
We want to bring our brand into the home (and on your table) for our global clients who want something different. We already produce the Tequila Lore set, featuring glassware hand engraved and crystal cut. My passion for home started from a private commission to make a SgianDubh for a Scottish mate. Researching the blades and learning about Damascus steel inspired me to make a set of carving knives with bronze cast animal heads’ Beasts’ – six of them we humans eat – and from there we started looking at all different aspects of home and barware. We would like o expand into more of a lifestyle brand rather than just jewelry company. We’ve been offering a bespoke service for our jewelry almost since I started the business, 42 years ago, so it’s important that we provide the same type of service to clients for our kitchen and homeware products. In the future, we’ll be expanding our range and making it more accessible. Not everyone buys a set of knives for $25,000.