In solidarity with Black Lives Matter, over the next month we will be showcasing the work of a different Black jeweller every dayJune 8, 2020 By Rachael Taylor
In solidarity with Black Lives Matter, and because posting a blank square is not enough, The Jewellery Cut will be showcasing the work of a new Black jeweller every day for the next month.
Each day, we will showcase the work of a Black jewellery designer across our social media channels, and you can follow the project using the hashtag #Blackjewellersmatter.
You will also be able to find a growing list of Black jewellers to support, listen to and champion right here in this article, which will be added to daily. So if you want to learn more about this vibrant, diverse and talented community of jewellers, and put your money where your mouth is by supporting Black-owned businesses, keep checking in.
What can you do to help raise the profile of Black jewellery designers? Share this article or #Blackjewellersmatter posts on social media (do feel free to join in with your own posts), tag people you know who might like the jewels, follow the designers and invest in their work, because Black jewellers matter.
Sewit Sium is a New York designer who produces statement jewellery imbued with African history, culture, tradition and indigenous technologies. This silver medallion is an homage to Malcolm X. “Jewellery is universal language,” says designer, artisan and educator Sium. “Jewellery is documentary evidence, witness, corroborator of story. Jewellery is part of a living history that we’re at the centre of now. Jewellery is an activating agent for our collective liberation.”
When Morgan Thomas of Yam was young, her mother brought home a jewellery-making book. It was a fun activity that would transform into a career. “Yam is an ode to my late mother, upcycled materials and new nostalgia,” says Morgan, who makes all her jewellery by hand in Astoria, New York. These Yam Summer Showers earrings in recycled brass and bronze, with cascading upcycled pearls are the perfect shoulder grazers for balmy summer nights.
Vânia Leles was born in West Africa’s Guinea-Bissau and started her career as a model before discovering a love for jewellery. She studied at the GIA and fulfilled her dream of working for Graff before she launched her own fine jewellery brand Vanleles in London. Her jewels are ethically made, using extraordinary gemstones, and the design DNA of VanLeles is steeped in Leles’ African heritage. These gold, diamond and emerald jewels from the Legends of Africa collection use emeralds sourced from Zambia. ”To become the first African fine jewellery house among the top 10 global fine jewellery brands, and to inspire more Africans to enter this industry,” says Leles of her professional ambitions. “With over 75% of what is used in fine jewellery coming from Africa, we need more representation. Representation matters because only then we will see changes on the ground and do the right thing by the communities where the mines are located.”
Ohemaa takes its name from the Ghanaian word ohemaa (pronounced ‘O’ – him – maa), which means queen. This regal costume jewellery brand, founded in 2017 by Dorothy Arhin, aims to create “bold, beautiful, affordable and high-quality jewellery” for both women and children. Her statement jewels, often inspired by geometry, are made using techniques such as hand sawing or laser cutting. These brass Picasso earrings take their inspiration from the famous artist, with Ohemaa creating a line drawing of a woman’s face.
After struggling to find the right kind of jewels for her own professional wardrobe – those that are “combinable, seductive and travelled well” – Marilyne Kekeli left behind a career in strategic to become a jewellery designer. Starting off in 2018 with a collection of just three earrings, designed to adapt perfectly to the boardroom, brunch and bar hopping, she started her journey. A play on the French words for Mother Nature, @mamaterjewels creates “ethical sophisticated adornments for spirited women who want to look good and live well”. “A lot of recent news has felt close to home,” says Kekeli, who is based in London. “It has been painful to see people who look like me being taken from us for the crime of having more melanin in our skin. None of it is new, are things that we as a collective people did not know, or did not mourn. From the investor hesitant to support a business because its owner is Black, to the person that specifically doesn’t date people who look like us, to the customer hesitant to purchase a product shown on a Black model, the grandmother who clutches her handbag when we walk past her, and so on. Today, I stand in solidarity with those in pain and who seek the right to be respected.” Head to the Mamater Instagram page for Kekeli’s full thoughts on this topic.
Jam + Rico
Growing up, Jam + Rico founder Lisette Ffolkes was influenced by her Jamaican and Puerto Rican roots, having grandparents from both islands. She was curious about what it was like for them to grow up there – the traditions, the food, the music. As she grew older and was able to travel to Jamaica and Puerto Rico, her fascination only grew. Jam + Rico – named for both islands – is a reflection of this infatuation with Lisette’s Caribbean heritage, with bold and colourful jewels that capture island vibes with sun motifs, like these gold-plated Sol earrings, or cowrie shells. “A little salsa and reggae with a mix of arroz con pollo, pastelles, jerk and curry were favourites and loves within my home,” says Ffolkes, who is based in New York. “The colours, carnivals, art, beaches and language all inspired me to create and design. That’s when I knew I needed to design to bring me closer to a the cultural connection of my ancestors.”
Florence Gossec is not just a jeweller, she is a creator of objet d’art. As well as her bold jewels, she uses her signature golden wirework to create an array of floral-inspired headbands and delicate, contemporary ornaments that are alternatives to cut flowers. When she does turn to jewels, the French jeweller does not hold back. Her often whimsical, and outsized, creations are for those who wish to make a statement. These bold earrings were the result of a collaboration with Parisian fashion designer Pascal Millet. Gossec created all the jewellery for the brand’s spring/summer 2018 runway show at Paris Fashion Week.
Bringing French fabulousness to London, the award-winning Catherine Marché creates fine jewellery infused with that understated chic that makes us all eternally jealous of Parisiennes. Originally from Paris, Marché studied her craft in London at Central Saint Martins and City & Guilds before completing further training under the watchful eyes of some of Hatton Garden’s most exacting goldsmiths. Often working on bespoke commissions, Marché enjoys a close relationship with her clients, and seeks to make jewels in gold, silver and gemstones that will accentuate their inner beauty. This gold vermeil Passionata ring with a purple amethyst, which is made by hand in London, is one of the pieces that can be customised, and was in fact designed with stylish men in mind. “One of my inspirations is bringing out individual elegance and the glamour of life in a big city,” says Marché, whose work has ben featured in a number of jewellery books. “Fascinated by antiquity, primitive, tribal jewellery and the beauty of couture, I love to fuse original ideas with a strong aesthetic, using the craft of jewellery making by combining traditional workmanship and cutting-edge technology like photo etching”.
Tenthousandthings was founded by Ronald Anderson and David Rees, who taught themselves how to make jewellery after leaving behind careers in fashion. All their jewellery, which takes inspiration from abstract shapes found in nature, is handmade in New York City. Unusual gemstones, such as this kyanite set in a gold pendant, are a staple of the brand. “Making jewellery is about adding beauty to the world,” said the founders in an Instagram post. “That’s our mission statement. As a proudly Black-owned business of 30 years, we have been fortunate to meet and know many talented African American creators. This is a great time to learn about them.” For some of Ronald and David’s suggestions on creatives to discover, head over to the brand’s Instagram page.
Satta Matturi spent more than a decade working at diamond miner De Beers before launching her own fine jewellery brand in 2015. Her debut collection, Artful Indulgence, was a collection of dramatic, yet wearable, earrings that blend traditional luxury jewellery styles with a modern African twist. Being British and West African, Matturi draws on the traditions and heritage from Africa in her work, mixing it with a global view to create a luxurious brand that resonates with fashion-conscious women on the African continent, and far beyond. “African art and cultures have influenced many modern and contemporary works throughout the years,” says Matturi. “One in particular is the introduction of African mask sculpture forms into European art during the early 1900s. My work, today, as a jewellery designer has also taken inspiration from these striking and highly evocative relics. I recreate them as bejewelled interpretations that have become synonymous with my brand.” For musings on the influence of African and African-American culture on jewellery, art and style, check out her #TJCXSATTAMATTURI takeover of our Instagram account.
White/Space founder Khadijah Fulton studied at the prestigious Parsons School of Design and had a decade-long career in fashion, working for some of the business’s biggest names. It was motherhood that inspired Fulton’s switch to fine jewellery, as she found herself wanting to create versatile pieces with longevity; designs that “honoured a conﬁdent, subdued interpretation of style – approachable yet distinct”. All White/Space jewellery is made in downtown Los Angeles, and Khadijah has a studio just outside the city where she designs. She also works as a creative consultant, and recently created an engagement ring collection for Vrai. All White/Space jewellery is made in 14ct gold, like this one-of-a kind pendant with a diamond set within a lavender turquoise from Kazakhstan. ”Supporting Black business and Black creatives has a lasting effect on communities of colour and our shared humanity, and in order to grow, we will need you beyond this moment,” writes Fulton in a recent Instagram post. “Continue having the difficult conversations, examining your thoughts and decisions, and educating yourself and your children. Continue doing your best to diversify the voices and visions that you support.” To read the full post head to @whitespacejewelry.
Beads Byaree founder Areeayl Goodwin created her costume jewellery brand out of a desire to make her “dreams a reality”. Quite literally. The design of every piece of jewellery in the Beads Byaree collection has come to Goodwin in a dream. This whimsical approach to design has led to the creation of some standout pieces, such as these Sea Baby hoops in brass with a patina finish on the shells. Other spectacular earrings include outsized cowrie shell mobiles, strings of family photos in gilt frames that stretch far beyond the collar bone, and hoops with tiny lanterns that actually turn on and emit glowing lights. “Dream, and it will spread like a wildfire,” says Areeayl, who was born and raised in Philadelphia but now lives in Brooklyn, New York.
Kassandra Lauren Gordon
At the age of nine, Kassandra Lauren Gordon received a gold locket from her mother. It was an important gift – not only did she know her mother had scrimped and saved to give it to her, it would also go on to influence the rest of her life. It was the start of a career-forming love affair with jewellery. “I knew it was gold and delicate, so I had to take care of it,” says Kassandra. “My mum was a single parent, and did not have much money. I knew that she saved, sacrificed and grafted for me for a nearly a year to buy this precious gift. 20 years later I still have it in pristine condition. Every time I see this or wear this locket I feel love, a strong bond between a mother and daughter.” Of the firm mindset that “jewellery equals love” – a feeling that only grew when she would gift friends and family jewels as a teenager – Kassandra decided to become a jeweller herself. The London-based designer studied her craft in the city’s famous Hatton Garden jewellery district at Holts Academy (now the British Academy of Jewellery) before setting up her own studio in East London. Her jewels, which are made with ethical materials like recycled silver and Fairtrade gold, take inspiration from the cosmos. Inspired by planets and moons, her designs have a celestial vibe, like this silver Jupiter pendant, plated with rich 22ct gold and set with a pink sapphire.
Roxanne Rajcoomar-Hadden is reinventing what it means to be a family jeweller by pairing traditional jewellery-making values with contemporary style and service. Rajcoomar-Hadden’s passion for jewels started with the launch of her own brand Goldie Rox, which created bold jewels that often had a foodie theme. Anyone remember her brilliant gold burger collection? You can still buy these tasty jewels at Roxanne Rajcoomar-Hadden, along with deconstructed streaky bacon, chip, tomato and lettuce jewels, for those with an aversion to buns. However, Rajcoomar-Hadden – who joined us at The Jewellery Cut Live in February 2019 to talk about juggling motherhood and entrepreneurship – now offers so much more and is providing many of the services that you might associate with a traditional family jeweller. Before striking out on her own, Rajcoomar-Hadden studied with De Beers and the GIA, and worked for other jewellers, including Bulgari and Theo Fennell. She taps into this wealth of experience to offer varied services including repairs, alterations, valuations and acquisitions. As well as selling ready-to-wear fine jewellery, Rajcoomar-Hadden also specialises in bespoke commissions and upcyling. These contemporary ruby and peridot earrings started life as oval-cut rubies in ornate gold settings. Rajcoomar-Hadden worked closely with her client Anastasia, who had been left the earrings by her Russian grandmother, on the design to update a treasured family heirloom while paying homage to the past with a nod to secret cocktail bars in 1930s Russia. Do you have questions about what it’s like to be a Black jeweller? If so, Rajcoomar-Hadden has kindly offered to answer your questions in an article on JewelleryCut.com. Simply post your question below or email them in to firstname.lastname@example.org
Edas is a jewellery brand based in Philadelphia, created by designer Sade Mims to offer “feminine and staple accessories, accommodating the everyday, eclectic woman”. Each piece of jewellery is made by hand and there is a focus on sustainability, with each item made to order. This pre-order model means delivery takes a little longer, but the benefits are huge – no hoards of unsold stock, thus reducing waste. Each Edas piece is made to be worn alone or paired, such as this combination of the Hattie and Webster gold-plated brass necklaces from the Black Glamour collection. “To our community of supporters who are sharing, shopping and in solidarity with us, we appreciate you,” writes Mims in an Instagram post. “We hope that you continue to stay connected with us and engage with other organisations from here on out that are doing the work to dismantle systemic racism in this country. We are always fighting and we are thrilled to have you along for the revolution.”
Bespoke by M.B.
Barnabus is the London-based creative bespoke jeweller behind the Bespoke by MB brand. Barnabaus has a keen eye for what makes a beautiful piece of fine jewellery (“combining cutting-edge design with exceptional craftsmanship”) and works in a holistic manner with his clients to create one-off commissions. As such, Bespoke by M.B. has a thriving engagement ring business. Barnabus also creates red carpet-ready jewels, which have been worn by a number of stars, including Nadiya Bychkova, Nadine Mulkerrin, Leonie Elliott and Catarina Mira, who is shown here wearing a set of pear-shaped diamond drop earrings. “The strength of Bespoke by MB lies in the ability to convert a client’s thoughts and ideas into a concept, the concept into a detailed design and the design into a remarkable piece of jewellery,” says Barnabus. In light of recent events, Barnabus has turned to the bible in a search for positivity, quoting a number of choice excerpts on his Instagram page, including: “A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.”
London-based Melanie Eddy was born in Bermuda and studied her craft in Bermuda, Canada, New York and London. With a focus on bespoke made-to-order jewellery, her love of geometry and obsession with the relationship between the body and the jewel has led to the creation of jewels that are akin to miniature sculptures. As well as crafting jewels in her workshop in the The Goldsmiths’ Centre, Eddy is also a teacher, helping the next generation of jewellers to hone their talents at Central Saint Martins. However, her impressive resume of extra-curricular activities stretches far beyond that. Eddy is also a director of The Association for Contemporary Jewellery, a licentiate (with distinction) of The Society of Designer Craftsman, and is involved in The Society of Jewellery Historians, having previously served as reviews editor for Jewellery History Today, the society’s magazine. And it doesn’t stop there – for a full roll call of her achievements, head to her website. “We need to hear and see more about Black businesses and Black creatives to change the narrative,” wrote Eddy in a recent Instagram post. “Thankfully, with increased and hopefully sustained efforts to highlight our work and our stories, this will change. One of the blessings to come out of this time of terrible sadness and anger has been increased connections within the industry across diverse backgrounds and within underrepresented groups.”
Omi Woods creates “contemporary heirlooms that celebrate all of our connections to Africa and her diaspora”. Omi means ‘water’ in the Yoruba language. Paired with Woods, it pays tribute to founder Ashley Alexis McFarlane’s Jamaican-Ashanti-Maroon heritage. “The word Jamaica,” she says, “derives from the indigenous Taino word ‘Xaymaca’, meaning ‘land of wood and water’.” The Canadian brand’s jewellery is crafted with ethics in mind, and has just launched a collection of jewellery that uses fair trade gold from Africa, as worn by Rihanna on the cover of British Vogue in May. “Omi Woods is the first black-owned company founded by a descendent of runaway Ashanti slaves to create jewellery with fair trade African gold,” says Ashley. “Why is this important? 90% of the world’s gold comes from Africa and, like diamonds, the gold mining industry is rife with human and environmental rights abuses. But it doesn’t have to be that way. The shift is up to you and the choices you make. Now that we all have more time to reflect on our lives, society and choices I really hope we choose ethical in everything we do as much as humanly possible.”
Founder and designer Elizabeth Harrison is the creative force behind Aureliean, and is a barrister by training. What started as a passion on the side of a glittering legal career soon bloomed into a fully fledged brand. The jewellery house takes its name from Elizabeth’s first-born son, who was in turn named after the Latin word for golden. True to his name, he was her champion, pushing her to chase her dream of becoming a jewellery designer. Aureliean’s contemporary jewellery, in 18ct gold with responsibly sourced gemstones, is designed to adorn and empower women as they chase their own dreams, as Elizabeth did hers. The jewels, she says, should help them to elevate their shine as they navigate the matrix of work, family life, friends, personal passions and beliefs. Its wearable luxuries, crafted in London’s Hatton Garden, take inspiration from love, light and the art we can see every day in nature, such as the rich colours of natural gemstones. Alongside a list of recommended reading material, Elizabeth has also chosen to highlight a Desmond Tutu quote on her Instagram page in light of #BlackLivesMatter: “Unapologetically in the words of Desmond Tutu; if you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.”
Doreth Jones grew up in Oxford and was inspired by her stylish mother, as well as artists such as British micro sculptor Willard Wigan, to pursue a career in the creative arts. After learning her craft through a mixture of formal classes and self-taught experience, Jones joined the jewellery industry in 2004. Since then, she has won awards for her work, has seen her jewels worn by the likes of Erykah Badu and has made special pieces for Grace Jones. British jeweller Jones uses recycled materials has “a strong commitment to ethical and environment issues” and seeks to “infuse her work with a passion and commitment to quality, design and integrity”. This talismanic Darker Than Blue silver ring pays homage to African culture with a brass mask motif. Another of Jones’ creations, the Marcus Garvey collection, celebrates the life of the black rights activist who founded the Universal Negro Improvement Association at the beginning of the 20th century. Quoting Garvey on her Instagram page, Jones wrote: “There shall be no solution to this race problem until you, yourselves, strike the blow for liberty.”
Jwllry by Jade
Jwllry by Jade has a catchy tagline that perfectly sums up the British brand: Modern fine jewellery for everyday style. Founder and designer Jade Hibbert describes herself as “advocate for simplicity”, and her keen eye for classic styling and clean lines have led her to focus her work on celebrating and elevating fine jewellery staples such as diamond bands, gold bangles, stud earrings and signet rings. “I’m always on the go, so I like to have a variety of jewellery that is easy to put on, layer up and coordinate with different outfits,” says Hibbert, who also runs jewellery-making workshops in Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire. This illustration of her self-titled Jade collection, drawn by Katherine Hannah, captures the easy-breezy stylish essence of the brand. “It was important for me to have a Black woman in the illustration as jewellery transcends colour, race, gender, culture and modernity,” says Hibbert, who has recently been fundraising for the George Floyd Memorial Fund by running a sample sale.
As a young girl growing up in Nigeria, Adèle Dejak found a love of fashion watching her mother and grandmother dress up in “magnificent fabrics and tribal jewellery”. Dejak originally studied law, but after graduating she found her creative side calling and went back to her studies, this time in typographic design in London. When she moved to Kenya in 2005, she started experimenting jewellery, making jewels for herself in brass and horn, and what started as a hobby blossomed into a business. “I finally gave in and started producing various collections of jewellery and fashion accessories, drawing inspiration from the rich African culture,” says Dejak. “Looking at different pieces, you can easily tell that my stay in Europe also influences my style of jewellery.” Adele Dejak not only takes inspiration from Africa, it was set up to give back to the continent. The brand invests in communities in Uganda and Kenya, teaching artisans the skills they need to produce its jewels and accessories, ensuring these makers have contracts and regular monthly payments. It has also collaborated with Australia for UNHCR to create work for some of the 200,000 Sudanese and Somalian refugees at the Kakuma camp in Kenya.
Sheryl Jones started her working life in the entertainment business, working as a publicist, including a role as vice-president of communications at MTV. Then in 1999, she embarked upon a huge life change as she swapped TV for jewellery. Jones cut her teeth in this new landscape as an apprentice to a Belgian diamond manufacturer on 47th Street, in the heart of New York’s Manhattan Diamond District. Her career progressed on this famous jewellery street, as did her knowledge and expertise of gemmology and design. With a substantial roster of private clients, Jones made the leap in 2002 to launch her own fine jewellery brand. She describes her jewels as having a “fresh, current sensibility and a timeless appeal; heirloom objects that reflect their owners’ individual style while also illuminating every woman’s inner beauty”. Here’s a little example of what she means, in the form of a 2.28ct cushion-cut fancy yellow diamond ring, set with an additional 0.26ct of fancy yellow diamond pavé and 0.90ct of white diamonds. “I have always been passionate about fine gemstones’ transformative power and beauty and dreamed of one day bringing music’s similar vitality to a fine jewellery collection of my own,” says Jones.
Alison Morris is the founder of Veiled Rebel, a London-based brand of “unapologetic unisex jewellery”. Veiled Rebel offers up rebellious, edgy silver jewels that do not seek to confine themselves by assigning to a particular gender. Its capsule collection Venom, “inspired by the sweet spot where sleek silver beauty meets bold metal hardware” takes inspiration from claws and talons, with sharp-ended blade-like stacking rings and earrings. Morris started her career as a solicitor, but a few years ago she traded in the corporate life for something a little more creative. First she tested the waters as a fashion stylist, before falling for jewels and studying at City Lit and Centra Saint Martins. “I dressed the band, I drove the minibus,” she remembers of her early days in fashion. “But I moved on. Fast forward to me sitting in a souk in Marrakech, drinking mint tea, bartering over semi-precious stones. Now, I didn’t know how to barter and I didn’t know what I was going to do with these stones, but I’m impulsive. And here’s the thing, I had my new stones and when I couldn’t find someone to make the bracelet I wanted to wear, I made it myself.” And so a holiday whimsy turned into a career, and now Morris has all the skills to create highly technical pieces, like her Naked ring. While it might look like a simple band to the untrained eye, go and ask her just how difficult it is to achieve that perfectly flat edge on the top and bottom.
Eden Diodati is an ethical jewellery brand that truly has philanthropy at its very core. Or as founder Jennifer Ewah, one of the designers to take part in our very first The Jewellery Cut Live event back in 2018, says, it is a “social impact label of love”. London-based Eden Diodati works with a social cooperative of women who survived the Rwandan genocide. It has trained more than 5,000 such women so that they can create the hand beading for its luxury costume jewels, thus giving them employment. Ewah believes that the high-quality output of these “triumphant female artisans of excellence” is not only helping change lives, it is also helping to challenge preconceptions of Made in Africa. As well as being a talented jewellery designer, who studied at Central Saint Martins and London College of Fashion, British-Nigerian Ewah is also a lawyer and a graduate of Oxford University. “Eden Diodati was born out of a fascination and desire to capture the compassion, empathy and strength that lies at the heart of the beauty of the women that I know,” Ewah told La Maison Couture. Ewah has spoken out eloquently and intelligently about racism on her Instagram page, and we would advise anyone to read back through her educational posts. In one such post, she said: “I am black. Each day, with comprehensive realism (despite being a total optimist in mind and heart) Oxford-University-educated me faces subtle or overt racism. It doesn’t acknowledge my worth nor achievements. Racism is a betrayal of humanity; a betrayal that requires every spiritually motivated impulse of forgiveness and confidence in self worth.”
From her base in New York, Monique Péan engages a global network of suppliers and fair trade organisations to create jewels that are as sustainable as they are beautiful. The award-winning designer is known for her sculptural designs that use ethically sourced unusual materials, such as meteorites and fossilised dinosaur and walrus bone. Inspiration for her pieces comes from “the tangibility of time, cosmic history and geology”. Though her travels in search of raw materials take her far and wide, including a trip to Antarctica, all Monique Péan jewels are made by hand in New York City using recycled gold and platinum. As well as ensuring her jewels are crafted ethically using sustainable materials, Monique also gives back financially. The jeweller has pledged that a minimum of 1% of her brand’s revenues will be donated to charity:water each year. She also team with other charities on special projects, and founded the Vanessa Péan Foundation to create scholarships for underprivileged students in Haiti, as well as many other philanthropic accolades. “I am the product of love in the face of centuries of pain and injustice,” writes Monique in a recent Instagram post. “The freedoms and opportunities that I have been given are because of the struggles of my parents, my ancestors and so many lives lost and exploited. Let’s all do our part to mobilise peacefully for a better tomorrow. Now is not the time for silence, now is the time for effective action.”
Londoner Trevor Davis grew up surrounded by jewellery. His father, Keith Davis, a child of the Windrush generation, was a goldsmith and worked for David Morris. His father was, as Davis describes him, “the first and only Black high-end fine jeweller in the company and country”. It was quite a legacy to follow, but after a childhood spent playing with jewellery-making tools, Davis has caught the bug and decided to make his own way in the jewellery industry. He travelled to Trinidad, where his mother, also a child of the Windrush, was born, and studied traditional jewellery making. In 1990, Davis decided to return to London to join the jewellery scene, but the reception he received was not quite as welcoming as he had hoped. “I could not get any work being a Black minority,” he says. Davis, however, was not to be deterred. He secured funding through a loan, and industry support in the form of a lifetime mentorship from Marcia Lanyon. Since then, Davis has followed in his father’s footsteps to Bond Street, working for Graff, as well as other jewellers including John Donald, Van Peterson Designs and Ming Jewellery. He also runs his own jewellery brand, Trevor Davis Jewellery, and over a career that has spanned four decades, he has won an international reputation as one of the most skilled jewellers working in London today.
New Yorker Johnny Nelson was born in London but grew up in Brooklyn. In his youth, he idolised edgy fashion houses such as Vivienne Westwood and Alexander McQueen, and soaked up inspiration from “the iconic neighbourhood jewellers that elevated hip-hop culture in the 80s and 90s”. Before discovering jewellery, Nelson was a rapper. It was a lack of funds that pushed him to ask his mother to create a multi-finger ring for him so he could keep up with the styles worn by his friends on tour. She did, and he was soon getting lots of attention for his bold accessory. This led Nelson to create his own jewellery brand in 2017. He finds inspiration in Black history, punk, hip hop and spirituality. A speciality of the brand is hand-carved portrait jewellery, such these rings depicting abolitionist and women’s rights activist Sojourner Truth, politician and educator Shirley Chisholm, civil rights activist Martin Luther King Jnr and abolitionist and political activist Harriet Tubman. A major moment for the Johnny Nelson brand was when Kerby Jean-Raymond and actress Lena Waithe wore his button covers to the Met Gala, which were specially commissioned for the event. “I’ve been a victim of police brutality on multiple occasions growing up in Brooklyn,” Nelson told JCK magazine recently. “I thank God that I’m alive every day to tell my story. I like that the world is coming together in hopes to create change. I pray that people can learn to be more loving and that the generational curse of racism can be broken.”
Valerie Madison’s alternative engagement rings are a perfect representation of her two loves – nature and jewellery. The Seattle-based designer originally studied environmental science before becoming a jeweller. As such, her designs “celebrate not only the beauty of life and love but also the natural world and the stunning gemstones that come from it”. Madison veers towards the unusual in her gem selection and is a fan of salt-and-pepper diamonds, rose-cut diamonds, uniquely shaped stones and vibrant hues, such as the blue of this Montana sapphire. All Valerie Madison designs are handcrafted in Seattle and made using recycled precious metal and hand-selected gemstones. “Keep channeling those deep feelings, having those hard conversations about privilege, and taking those actions we’ve all been discussing and promising and I know we will get somewhere positive,” said Madison in a recent Instagram post. “The outpouring of support you all have shown me has been incredible. From your reshares and your follows, and even your recent purchases, you are showing me that my business and its success personally matters to you and that’s been very touching. As one of the few Black-owned businesses in my city of Seattle, I’m proud that you can hear me and that I can connect with this community. Supporting #blackbusiness ensures that there is diversity in business and has a lasting effect on communities of colour. We can’t grow and be successful without you. Please continue supporting #blackowned everywhere not just today but throughout your lifetime.”
Spirituality is at the core of Harwell Godfrey designs, with each piece “designed with healing energy in mind, each gemstone is thoughtfully selected to enhance the wearer’s experience”. If you’re not feeling energised by pink topaz at the centre of these gold, white onyx and rainbow sapphire Hexagon Shield earrings, it’s definitely time to check in on your chakras. The designer behind the brand is Lauren Harwell Godfrey, who creates her bold jewels, inspired by ancient textiles and ethnic patterns, from her studio in San Francisco. Lauren has been working hard over the past few weeks and has used her jewels for good, raising $70,000 (and counting) for NAACP by donating 100% of the profits from a black onyx, diamond and yellow gold heart pendant to the grassroots–based civil rights organisation. “Organisations fighting for justice for Black lives continue to need our help,” said Harwell Godfrey in a recent Instagram post. “This may no longer be trending but the fight is far from over. Please do what you can to educate yourself, give what you can, be it in donations, volunteering, etc, and vote. I plan to keep this heart [pendant] around forever with 100% of proceeds continuing to be donated, so if you’ve been thinking about it, yes it’s still available.”
You cannot pin Castro NYC down. When designers describe their work as eclectic, it tends to be varied but within a certain framework. With Castro, it truly is wild. As the American designer, who is now based in Istanbul, told The Stone Set: “I refuse to be held by just one style. I do what I want. If you don’t like it, don’t buy it: it’s simple. Not hard.” Within that wide open expanse of design freedom, Castro has his favourites, such as his fur talisman paws. In this design, an antique bisque bear head, heavily adorned with gems and jewels, sits atop repurposed mink fur used to simulate a paw. Other signature designs, all made by hand by Castro himself, include his gold Infinity Locks (which actually work), and antique porcelain Dollies transformed into angelic creatures with quirks like diamond chest plates, gold sandals and wings. “Jewellery is for the ages,” said Casto, who makes about 35 jewels a year, in an interview with The Lux Cut. “People have died out, but jewellery has not and will not. People love to adorn their bodies. People love to shine. Black people for sure. Africans were the first ones to do it, and we do it well.”
Mateo New York
Matthew Harris, founder of Mateo New York, was born and raised in Jamaica’s Montego Bay. The son of a seamstress made his way to the US aged just 16 to study hospitality at university, but upon graduating he discovered his “true passion” – jewellery. After teaching himself how to create jewellery, Harris launched Mateo New York in 2009 with a selection of men’s jewels inspired by items you might find within “a working man’s toolbox”. The collection was a hit, and Mateo soon expanded and began making fine jewellery for women, like these aquamarine, pearl, diamond and 14ct white gold drop earrings. Mateo’s luxurious jewels with a fashionable edge have won the brand fans the world over, kickstarted by Rihanna wearing its pieces, according to Harris. It is now stocked at stores including Net-a-Porter, Browns, Matches Fashion and Moda Operandi. Mateo was also selected by the Smithsonian to be featured and sold at the African American Museum of Art and Culture in Washington D.C in 2016, and the Smithsonian Hirshhorn Museum of Contemporary Art in 2017. “As a Black man, there’s not many of us who have a fine jewellery business,” said Harris in a recent video interview with Forbes Africa. “[My jewellery is] sold worldwide in the best stores. I think I’m setting an example for people of my colour and for Black gay men who want to aspire to be [something more]. I’m a part of all these communities – [and I want] to truly just influence people in the right way – [and I’m a] part of this entire whole world. We are all one.” At this point in the interview, Harris laughs at himself, referring to this last comment as a “cliché, like a 1992 Michael Jackson song”. It might be cliché, but the sentiment is bang on… and if you’re quick you can use the related code WeAreFamily at the checkout at Mateo’s website to get 30% off.
London-based jeweller Disa Allsopp was born in the capital but grew up in Barbados, where the island’s charm provided inspiration galore. You can still see this lasting legacy in her jewels, which celebrate vibrant gemstones set in heavy, textured gold. This particular ring, which is handmade to order in Allsopp’s London studio, features a 4ct Colombian emerald in a rubover setting. Allsopp personally selects each stone she works with, and favourite gems include golden citrines, warmly hued garnets, rubies, sapphires and morganites. She also enjoys working with white and coloured diamonds, with a particular penchant for rough diamonds. You can find her work at stores around the globe including Dover Street Market, Gill Wing, Diana Porter, Twist Online and Whitebird. You can also catch it online later this year at the digital edition of Goldsmiths’ Fair.
If you’re after a big rock or a rare gem, London jeweller Thelma West is a great place to start. West, who was born in Lagos to a “young and vibrant family”, moved to the UK as a teenager to finish her education. Originally, she had plans to become an engineer, but a fascination with jewellery and diamonds led her to move to Antwerp aged just 17 to study gemmology at the prestigious Hoge Raad Voor Diamant. After a stint in Spain working for a major diamond supplier, West returned to London to set up her own brand and has spent the past 15 years sourcing “some of the rarest gems for my esteemed clients all around the world”, and transforming them into luxurious jewels, like this one-of-a-kind Black Rebel engagement ring set with a 5ct pear-shaped diamond. Philanthropy is an important part of the Thelma West brand. The designer runs a sponsor program for education in Nigeria, while also contributing to a medical fund for the paediatric hospital in Lagos. “In most of my 20 years working as a diamond dealer, I was the only Black person in the room,” said Thelma in a recent interview with Harper’s Bazaar. “My coping mechanism is, ‘I don’t notice’, but really, it’s lonely, especially as I have been and continue to be subjected to many subtle and unsubtle forms of racism. Thriving and enjoying running my businesses the best I can through the mental exhaustion that comes with the racism I face daily takes too much energy and incredible effort. Black designers face a grand structural problem in the fashion industry. It’s built on a culture of exclusivity and elitism – a structure where we simply do not find that we have access to the same basic tools and resources our white counterparts have. This portrays the very obvious message, ‘You don’t belong’.”
London-based jeweller Emefa Cole describes her designs as “for those fearless individuals who wish to stand out from the crowd”. This ring, in particular, captures this bold spirit. Available in solid gold or gold vermeil, its design is inspired by the cooling down of molten lava. The designer’s inner magpie first started to ruffle its wings in a night market when she was a child. Cole was allowed to choose her own jewels for the first time, and selected a pair of golden stud earrings set with rich red gems. Cole credits much of her love for jewels and artistic drive to a childhood spent in vibrant Ghana: “Gazing at stones that sparkled in the sun, dazzled by the brilliant flashes of light; stringing necklaces made from Job’s tears; enchanted by tales of people finding nuggets of gold after heavy tropical rainfall had washed away layers of soil.” After honing her skills at The Cass London Metropolitan University, Cole now creates striking, sculptural jewels using traditional techniques, such as lost wax casting, and ethically sourced materials.
Posted by: Steph
Thanks for creating this article. I would like to support more jewellers of colour but struggled to know where to go 💕
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Posted by: Diya
Great😉 article I enjoyed this.. Hoping to view more
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Posted by: Brenda Joyce
Please register me as a member/supporter and send me all future communications.
Replied by: The Jewellery Cut
Hi Brenda, Thanks for your message. We\'ve just signed you up for our newsletters, so you should start receiving them from today. Do also feel free to follow us on any social platforms you use. Thanks! The Jewellery Cut Team
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Posted by: Debra Ballard
I noticed Disa Allsopp is not on your list. She is a London born fine jewellery designer who works with silver and gold. She\'s amazing and ethically sources all of her materials. She is quite established and well known so I\'m surprised she didn\'t make your list!!
Replied by: The Jewellery Cut
Oooh, wonderful suggestion. We\'ll get right on that ?
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