EN Adriana could have taken the easy route of gliding, It-Girl style, through her twenties. At 24, she is fashion aristocracy, being the grand-daughter of designer Paul Smith and the child of fashion world insiders. She’s friends with all the right people (including the world’s most famous jeweller Joel Arthur Rosenthal, known as JAR) and goes to all the right parties (after we met she was off to pick out a dress for the V&A’s Van Cleef & Arpels party that night, celebrating the opening of its Grace Kelly exhibition). She’s also stunningly attractive in an elfin, delicate way, and wears wonderful clothes.
But she decided, after only a very short period of gliding and glitzing after college, that she “better get on with it.” That “it” is jewellery making, a passion that began with a love of stones when she was a child. “I always had an obsession with gemstones,” she says. “I used to go to the Natural History Museum to collect them,” adding with an endearing – indeed ever so slightly geeky – chuckle: “I was a very cool child.”
BECAUSE THEY’RE WORTH IT
At Central St Martin’s, where she went to art school, Adriana decided to pursue her love of stones with a course in jewellery design. Again, she didn’t stop at that, but did a specialist diploma course in gemmology which took up her evenings – now she knows all about crystallography (mapping of crystal structures), among other technical subjects. “Knowing this stuff helps you with purchases,” she says, betraying an impressive business sense even at 20. “It’s all about knowing whether cuts are good enough. Basically, you need to know that stones are up to scratch when buying.”
Adriana has just launched a line of jewellery on QVC, the shopping channel. The pieces are well made – lots of plated gold and purple stones; jaunty rings (one is green stone with a bow on it) and maxi-pendants (examples pictured). But these retail around the £100-£200 mark – and they’re a different species to her own line of bespoke jewellery.
Adriana has established loyal customers – mostly in the US and France – who are happy to pay from £2,000 for one of her rings, and far more for many of her items (prices depend on the cost of gold at any given time).
Her London customers are all female City executives who happily commission themselves jewellery “because they’re worth it” – men do not come into it. But there are fewer Brits by far than the Americans and French. Indeed, British women and their jewels are a source of consternation for Adriana, and the reason behind her passionate desire to reform the way our culture views and deals with its jewellery. “When it comes to couture jewellery, Brits have lost their way a bit,” says Adriana. “The idea that we should go to a jeweller and have a piece made for us requires confidence – the type that men show when they go to have a suit made. But British women somehow lack that confidence, whereas my American clients are brilliant at scoping out stones and styles they want, and getting on the phone to me. It’s one thing to go to Harry Winston or Tiffany – it’s another to go to a small, independent jeweller and articulate what you want in a piece you plan to buy yourself.”
Becoming extra-intense, she continues: “If British women were as confident about jewellery as they are about fashion and handbags and so on, it would be a different scene. It’s this weird dichotomy with women: if you see a striking engagement ring, chances are the man will have chosen it. The woman, when push comes to shove for her engagement ring, gets all shy and goes for the boring platinum option.”
Jewellery is not just a lovely ornament for fashionable types; it is, believes Adriana, a crucial expression of character for women who must dress conservatively for jobs in financial services, law and so on. And nothing does the trick quite like a really good cocktail ring: “you’ll never regret buying one.”
Even in a corporate environment, the most conservative dresser can put on a cocktail ring and feel a surge of strength and private happiness. It’s where you express your favourite colour; perhaps a passion for citrus, sky blue or bright pink. “Your eye just kind of glimpses your hand as you type and it is uplifting,” she observes.
Second to the cocktail ring is the really great pair of drop earrings: “they can make your eyes and teeth shine and your skin look younger.”
When she puts it like this, I begin to see why investing in a fine bespoke piece of jewellery – or simply paying a little more for something you like – is worth it. “A good piece of a jewellery is a timeless possession you will treasure forever,” she says. Bring on the sky blue, neon pink and lime green, then. Lauren’s collection has launched on QVC (www.qvcuk.com). For her bespoke work, go to www.laurenadriana.com.