The Royal Jewellers S01 ep4 : Stephen Webster Jewellery [London]
Interview with Stephen Webster
I was a punk and I was completely punk and I was probably one of the only
ones in Hatton Gardens at the time. I used to get picked on for that reason but
I don't know if it was stubbornness or what, I stuck to that and I also stuck to
jewellery. I went and worked for a designer, and it was when I was working for
that designer [Andrew Grima] that I actually knew that there is much more to this industry.
Stephen Webster is a company that enjoys making quite bold statement
jewellery. Quite colourful, because after sort of 26 years of being in the
industry if you are lucky enough to pull out the parts that you enjoy and to work
in and with that is what I have done.
It's all I know that is for sure, and I suppose you know my wife works in the
business as well, my brother he is in the workshop… you know this is my
livelihood, my family, it is everything.
I came from I suppose the wrong side of the tracks, and for a start I went to art
school when I was 16 and not really knowing what to do and picked up on
jewellery while I was there thinking this really looks great, I don't know if it was
the tools, the shinny objects, I don't know what it was but something I honed in
on and I stuck with it.
I left art school to go straight into a job. I was making hand made chains in
Hatton Gardens which really thinking about that now, yes that is a very small
stiff world. I knew that this was not what I wanted to do and almost as soon as
I started I started looking for another job.
KM – What years are we talking now?
This was mid 70's. I was a punk and I was completely punk and I was probably
one of the only ones in Hatton gardens at the time. I used to get picked on for
that reason but I don't know if it was stubbornness or what, I stuck to that and
I also stuck to jewellery. I went and worked for a designer, and it was when I
was working for this designer that I actually knew that there is much more to
Who was that?
It was a guy called John Doyle. There was a few of them, there was a guy
called Andrew Grima.
KM – Now he has gone over to Switzerland to Gstadt now.
Yes. They were kind of the pioneers of a lot of modern jewellery.
Prior to this group, it was very much (only in Britain) jewellery had not really
evolved much from Victorian styles. When people got engaged they bought
pretty much a ring that looked like their grandmother's ring. There was very
little difference. And this sort of crowd came along and once you get a
movement it feeds off itself and more people join. It was a period when
interesting jewellery was being made, certainly in Britain and Europe. Up to
what it had been before it was even avant-garde. It was very new, they were
using new materials. I mean Andrew Grimmer would use big natural crystals
and things, which no one had used.
In jewellery by the late 70's, early 80's it had almost gone, it was unbelievable.
KM – Why?
Everything became more conservative. In my opinion, I started to look very
corporate. I think that it was fashionable to be maybe a banker, or maybe in
the city and be… And there was this corporate look and that did not fit with
Some of the things we make that are the most successful, which are a lot of
rings and bracelets and things. They don't get bought for occasion, they get
bought because a woman usually self purchases, comes in and she says, 'that
ring in blue'. I've got a blue outfit and it is going to be perfect, it is much more
than that way.
I was a craftsman, the first say ten years; all I wanted to do was make
jewellery beautifully, so I came from a different sort of area.
You can from artisan side
I've had to learn to be somewhat of a businessman, because I employ 20
people now, and I had to learn to be a sales person. I am off to New York
again tomorrow on a round America trip, I just got back three days ago selling.
Luckily I like it, I like people and that is a big bonus. When you were talking
earlier about the British, where are the British with jewellery, no one really
knew about British…. It is to my advantage. You know I go to a stores and I'll
be the only British designer. You know they will have Italians there; they'll have
Americans there - domestic - they'll have different things, but a British guy who
comes dressed in Oswald Bowtank suits is a novelty act.
Why is it that the Brits haven't got an LVMH or a Hermes?
Even though we give off this think that we understand about luxury we don't.
The French understand about luxury, they understand protecting and building a
brand. I don't think we are very good at that. We are quite good at encouraging
people to be I suppose sort of freer thinking, experimental in our art schools.
Certainly that art school, St. Martins, which is where a lot of people come from
it, feeds people to be doing something different. Rather than being taught this
is how we are going to make beautiful courtier thing, it is something, it is a
feeling, it is a street way because that is attractive to young people. People
want to be young people; people don't want to be old people.
In Britain people are a bit scared to have a big vision.
I don't know.
It is very Anglo-Saxon to be afraid of success.
It is, absolutely, and I think when I first starting going over to America I was
definitely like that. I would look at some of the American designers who had
been very successful, like David German and John Hardy and some of these
people and I'd think, well that is them, that is not what I do. Now sort of three
years down the line, of actually having some success in America I have
actually changed my vision. Even a year and half ago, there was six of us in
the company, now I think there are 21.
Where does your inspiration come from?
It generally is not something that you can sit down with a pencil and say I am
going to come up with a new idea, which is going to be a big successful
collection. It will be something, and then you can work on it.
I like to think that we make fashion forward fine jewellery.
OFFICIAL WEBSITE: Stephen Webster Jewellery