There ought to be a palpable frisson at the thought of wandering freely with one’s debit card among the jewellery display cases in a large department store, but on my last visit to such a place I came away quite disenchanted. Contemporary jewellery seems to be split between two camps: the flashy, desperately overpriced, “brand name” jewellery, and the flashy, desperately over-designed, “young designer” jewellery. Neither appeals much to me. I do not want to look like the wife of a Russian oligarch (or his mistress), nor do I, when I walk into a room, want people to comment on my jewellery before they say hello to me. No! Bejewelled, I want to inspire in an onlooker the same kind of delirium that Juliet inspired in Romeo, the first time he saw her.
O, she doth teach the torches to burn bright!
It seems she hangs upon the cheek of night
Like a rich jewel in an Ethiope’s ear;
Beauty too rich for use, for earth too dear!
Well, we can always hope. Anyway, I’ve found a jewellery designer who makes me feel like this all by myself! A designer who combines originality with quality and beauty with superb technical skill. Actually, I must thank my husband for the introduction, for it was he who discovered Brooke Gregson first (and bought me one of her pieces for my birthday, clever man).
Brooke is an LA lass, but she has been resident in London for some time now. She has two fabulous young daughters and a cosy studio on Ledbury Road in Notting Hill (at which you may inspect her wares, by appointment). One of the several distinguishing and distinctive features of Brooke’s art is her breadth of experience and study; she has worked in textile design and is both knowledgeable and passionate about art history, geology, metallurgy, astrology, and astronomy.
Rather than just extolling her skill and creativity, I decided to do a short interview with her. Please read on…
Brooke, most contemporary jewellery strikes me as being nothing more than shiny, insubstantial baubles more at home on a Christmas tree than a woman. Your jewellery, however, does not instantly pass from my mind as soon as I have stopped looking at it. There is real substance and presence in your work. (As a yogi, I very much admire body and spirit working in harmony.) Please tell us something about your creative ethos.
I think it is important to have an artistic approach to designing a piece, but I also keep in mind that jewellery is deeply personal and should allow the wearer to feel as if it is an extension of her being. I try to find the balance between my own strong influences from Art and Nature and the aesthetic and spiritual side of my clients. Therefore, I am very careful to source stones that have a deep, soulful energy as well as aesthetic appeal. And I always want to work with craftsmen who take the same passionate approach as I do to creating a piece of jewellery.
Another aspect of your work that I find very attractive is the way you successfully combine the historical with the contemporary. Speak to us about this, please.
I was fortunate enough to grow up in a household that appreciated art, and I have in my academic career studied art history from the Middle Ages to Contemporary. When I decided to make the leap from the academic to the creative world and become a designer myself, my former studies in art history had a great influence on me, particularly the Art Deco period, and, specifically, the Bauhaus, and Wiener Werkstâtte movements, both of which were responsible for beautiful, soulful, and whimsical work with a simple grace. The jewellers of the Wiener Werkstâtte also recognised the beauty in “ordinary” stones and put them to use in fine jewellery. I am always looking for the juxtaposition of contrasting elements in my work—ancient and modern, refined and unrefined. I think good design always plays with the balance of two opposing elements.
Your choice of materials is very fresh and original. The warmth and deep lambency of your stones is striking. Tell us something of how you go about selecting gems, and how you decide their shapes and settings.
I am and always have been a lover of stone, which I think must be genetic, because my grandfather wanted to become a geologist and both my parents have been avid stone collectors. Finding the perfect stone is one of my favorite parts of the jewellery design process; a good stone can sometimes spark the best ideas. I truly feel that every stone has a soul and a distinct energy, and in some ways possesses a unique character, exactly as a person does. I use my intuition when I choose the perfect stone. I also like to pair coloured stones together that I think complement each other, just as certain people attract each other. Of course, I do think of the basic cut and clarity of the stone—but sometimes I throw those rules out of the window when I find a stone that may not be considered a “good” stone traditionally, but which has a strong character.
Which craftsmen do you work with creatively to bring an idea to the finished product?
Because I am a bit of a perfectionist, the people I work with must be accomplished experts in their field. I also look for a real bond and personal connection with everyone who is part of the actual construction of a piece. I look at the jewellery-making process in the same way as a band does when creating a song: all of the parts must be working together in harmony in order to create something that is timeless.
You are becoming more and more well known, and I applaud that. Tell us something about what you have planned for the future, please.
I have always approached the business organically, and luckily this has worked in my favor, because I have not tried to expand too quickly, and only when it felt right. I started out happy to be selling in one city and have gradually enlarged my operations; it’s very satisfying when your work is appreciated in other countries. Although I would like to see the business grow, it is crucial to me to keep the soul of the business intact, which is why I will only work with stores where the owners are as connected to their clients as I try to be with my own.
Thank you, Brooke. I love your work!
You can learn all about Brooke and her jewellery at www.brookegregson.com.