The Royal Jewellers S02 ep10 : Leo Devroomen Jewellery [London]

Interview with Leo Devroomen

Leo de Vroomen is recognised today as one of the world’s most prestigious designers of bespoke jewellery. Born in Holland during the Second World War, Leo was the youngest of eight siblings and the family tulip growing business was long since spoken for. From an early age he dreamed of a more artistic life, a world away from farming. Following his apprenticeship in The Hague and qualifying as a Master Goldsmith in Switzerland he came to London in 1965. Whilst lecturing in jewellery design at the Central School of Art and Design (now Central St. Martins) he met Ginnie, his future wife, design partner and muse. This successful relationship resulted in the formation of De Vroomen Design.


Devroomen: I am one of the few remaining true goldsmiths still making beautiful handcrafted
jewellery and our customers come to us for that speciality.

Devroomen: I am involved in overseeing every aspect. I still care whether a wire is 1.4mm thick or
1.8mm thick and that’s a very important decision very often.

Devroomen: When we undo those little screws, two of them, one here and one on that side, we
could take the whole of the top off because there’s an oval and we just sort of bend it roughly into
shape. See what I’m doing, I’m sort of guiding it through these pliers, using it as a little vice really.
And you sort of look at the stone roughly, we don’t get piece of shit like this and we don’t … the
bottom of the set and then I’m intending to put this shank onto this piece here. This is a pretty
amazing looking ring, this is a para eva tomb ring.

Leo DeVroomen Jewellery

Devroomen: I go to Basal and I look at stones so I see an incredible stone. At that particular
moment I’m not quite sure what I’m going to do with it, but it’s somewhere in the back of my
mind I see this stone is going to make something really fantastic, so I buy. Sometimes the
customer, you have the imaginary customer in your mind, you see a woman of a certain stature,
certain outfit and you think that type of woman that dresses with energy kind of clothes would like
a particular brooch that would really finish that picture off. So that’s the woman sometimes
inspires you.

Devroomen: When it comes to earrings you design earrings for different shape heads. Women have
oval faces, women have heart shaped faces, women have round faces, all these different faces,
shapes need different ear clips or earrings, a bit like a couturier as opposed to just a jeweller who is
interested in the piece of jewellery only, I see it very much as part of the overall picture of
enhancing the person that wears it.

Devroomen: I always say you can’t park a brooch on any woman. So it’s very interesting to make a
brooch because that can almost be a small, miniature work of art. And you can indulge in that and
it doesn’t have all those boxes to tick to work.

Leo DeVroomen Jewellery

Devroomen: This was done in the 70’s and this was done by the setter that taught at the trade
school here in London. So the setting on this is incredible. If you could examine it with an eye
glass you will see that the little grains that hold the diamonds here are smaller and they get
gradually larger and larger as the stones get bigger and then they go smaller again, and then to
finish it off he put these little tiny grains here that run over this edge. But look at the back, look at
the back of this, here I cut all this, that’s a good piece of jewellery that’s a traditional diamond
mounting with the back holes as we call them, they’re cut, you drill a round hole, you go in there
with a little piercing saw and you make the hole square, but not just square because as the curve
goes that way, these holes taper one way when they are in this curve, and they taper the other way
and you see that in the camera? And they go right down to tiny little holes, beautifully even, same
thickness, bars, bars in between go a little bit thinner. And this piece was completely hammered
out of a flat piece of gold. You can imagine the amount of stress that goes on in the gold here. This
goes this way. And then here it goes the other way. And it’s all, there’s no solder, there’s nothing
else happening there than pure what we say work. The only soldering that we did was this catching
hinge and of course this piece of platinum that we put on the top, or white gold, I can’t remember
what I used here.

Devroomen: All the basic workmanship that we do which we are known for, for example the re…
work, it’s identical to the way it was done 500 years ago and we don’t design with a computer, and
we don’t do waxes that are computer or originated and a wax thing comes out at the other end and
it’s cast by the millions. None of that comes into our workshop, so our workshop is still very basic
and very simple.

Leo DeVroomen Jewellery

Devroomen: This is not hollow, this is solid gold and is all forged out from a square bar and it’s
quite heavy and you have this beautiful curve here, look how that curve goes to the stone and
there’s this little dish here, which is engraved on the inside, which is, there’s wonderful texture
there and then we made a little hollow section here that flows into this overall shape. And there we
have put a little catch, see, I mean look at that hinge, perfect hinge, look at that.

Devroomen: It has to enhance the person that wears it and if it doesn’t do that, even though it’s
very symbolic and it’s very deep meanings behind it like some people’s jewellery is you know it’s
more like a kind of very romantic story behind it, when I look at a woman that’s wearing a piece of
jewellery, I don’t see that story, I don’t see any of those deep thoughts or symbolism that might lie
behind this piece of jewellery and so to me that is important but if it doesn’t work as a piece of
jewellery then to me it has actually failed as a piece of jewellery. Faberge would be jealous of this
because Faberge, I don’t know whether you know but he, all his texture underneath his enamel was
giosh, what we call engine term, this however is what we call and frinking and you see this pattern
here, it’s all cut by hand as I was explaining to you earlier on, that’s and the enamel is very slightly
graduated, very subtle, it’s slightly darker on the edges here than in the middle, see. Beautiful little
stone, this is one of the first pieces I made. If you’re going to a diploma show of one of our
colleges here, when I was teaching there it was called Central, Central School of Art and Design,
later became Centre of St Martin, that is a fantastically creative environment. Where that all ends
up, that’s another story because we have got a very small jewellery industry here. So a lot of these
people end up doing commission work, specialist work, which doesn’t necessarily catch the
limelight. Doesn’t get on the world press you know. Now this, it’s all made out of, these sections
are manufactured, made by us of course and we have these wonderful hammered finish on it, you
see the very fine plenishing on the gold, which is what we call our re… finish. Now if you turn the
necklace over you’ll see these back plates here have little “T” shapes in them, because this
particular customer wanted this necklace which we have upstairs, we’ve got one like it, but she
also wanted to be able to wear this with diamonds sometimes so what we’ve done is we’ve made
these sections here replaceable with identical sections which we can take out. So if I turn it over
and you can just go like this, and the customer herself if you going to engrave little numbers on
here it’d be 1, 2, 3, so she always knows where it goes. So we’re making other sections like this
where they’re covered with nine diamonds, nice, good sized diamonds, so it is nicely set in three
groups of three. When they come back from the setter we will finish this whole necklace off, call
the customer and she will have something very unusual.

Leo DeVroomen Jewellery

Devroomen: We don’t have huge workshops anymore employing lots of craftsmen, very, very few.
But we have a fantastic wealth of independent so called freelance craftsmen that many of them
trained in my workshop and they are still around and we’ve got some fantastic setters, they’re not
in London, they can’t afford London prices, they’re out in the sticks somewhere, we post the work
to them, they know exactly what I want done, we speak on the phone, it’s amazing, for my set up
it’s perfect.

Devroomen: I’m a goldsmith and I very much feel gold should be gold because it’s a little bit
strange metal, white gold, it’s not, nothing to do with gold really because it doesn’t look golden.
It’s got palladium in it which gives it its whiteness, so if I have to use white metal, I’d rather use
platinum. And of course platinum has its disadvantages that you can’t enamel it and we do a lot of
enamel work, so we tend to stick to yellow gold and be a true goldsmith, the gold, it’s very
malleable we love 18 carat gold really.

OFFICIAL WEBSITE: Leo DeVroomen Jewellery