Laura Kay wants more from Britain. Besides the alleviation of the stress of stockpiling jewels for fear of a Brexit-induced currency crash in 2019 (“I’ve bought loads of stock and hope that tides us over”), the owner of Muswell Hill jewellery shop Tomfoolery would also like us to slow down and appreciate the craftsmanship of jewellery. And to help us do that, she’s curated an exhibition called Art Ring.
“[Art Ring] is a chance for jewellers to make one-of-a-kind rings that are a celebration of craftsmanship and artisan techniques, which I don’t feel are so celebrated in the UK as in other countries,” muses the platinum-haired magpie, citing the excitement around jeweller Shaun Leane’s A Life of Luxury auction at Sotheby’s in New York last year as an example.
Though Kay sighs when she catches herself saying it, and professes it to be one of the more hackneyed phrases of our age, many of the jewels at Tomfoolery – a temple to intricately crafted, individual jewels – are indeed one of a kind. Kay focuses her buying strategy on unusual, often handmade designs that you most definitely won’t find on the high street; unless, of course, that street is the leafy Fortis Green Road, one of North London’s chicest shopping spots and a hub of independent retail.
Step inside Tomfoolery’s gallery-like environs, and you are treated a smorgasboard of jewels from an international roster of names, some that you’ll have heard of and some you won’t. Affordable fashion jewellery from the likes of Danish brand Scherning or the Grecian jeweller Christina Brampti sit beautifully alongside more expensive pieces from British-born Polly Wales and new signing New York pearl brand Mizuki.
Tomfoolery is well known for its engaging client events, such as its bridal and trunk shows, and it was during one of these events that Kay starting mulling over the idea of her in-store exhibition, Art Ring. The show, which will run until January 31ststars creative rings – 57 in total – submitted by more than 30 jewellery designers.
“I’ve felt like there’s a customer who wants a unique ring,” says Kay, who returned to Tomfoolery in May after a spell away on maternity leave. “It might be a statement, or it might be everyday wear but very intricate. So I thought, how could I structure an event or celebrate that concept?”
To help create Art Ring, Kay turned to her diverse roster of jewellers, many of whom have been selling through Tomfoolery for years. The brief? “To showcase your craftsmanship in one piece,” says Kay. “A lot of jewellers can do that well with brooches but they are a little bit dated. [The rings were to be] big, bold, masterful. I did want it to be wearable, so not so crazy that it wouldn’t be worn.”
Some jewellers, such as Jo Hayes Ward, dipped into their archives to supply big cocktail rings that fit the brief, while others created new works from scratch. The rings are on display in the Tomfoolery store, each accented with a card that explains the designer’s inspiration and the craft journey. “You get the makers’ point of view and that’s so much more personal than buying off shelf,” says Kay of the extra element these makers’ notes bring to the buying experience.
All of the rings in Art Ring, which officially kicked off on November 8th, are for sale, with prices ranging from £390 to £18,000. Some have already been snapped up by – Kay is pleased to report – self-purchasing women. “One customer had just won three contracts, and came in last Saturday and treated herself,” she says. “I love that.”
With such a successful start, Kay feels buoyed by the prospect of making Art Ring an annual exhibition, which she plans to run for at least three consecutive years as she continues on her mission to get British shoppers fired up about collecting and appreciating beautifully crafted, artistic, one-of-a-kind jewels.
Art Ring is on display at Tom Foolery, from November 8th to January 31st, 2019.
Catherine Mannheim yellow gold, tourmaline cabochon and rose-cut diamond ring
One of the designs in the Art Ring exhibition at Tomfoolery
Ruth Tomlinson yellow gold, champagne diamond and rose-cut brown diamond Treasure ring
Ami Pepper yellow gold and sapphire Beachcomber ring (left) and Franny E bronze, silver, opal and diamond Covert the Universe ring
[Art Ring] is a chance for jewellers to make one-of-a-kind rings that are a celebration of craftsmanship and artisan techniques, which I don’t feel are so celebrated in the UK as in other countries
Rusty Thought yellow gold, silver, rutilated quartz and diamond Shield ring (top) & Eily O'Connell silver, yellow gold and citrine Melusine ring
Maria Frantzi yellow gold and gemstones rings >
Laura Kay is the creative director of London jewellery store Tom Foolery