Last week I spent an afternoon in Clerkenwell at the magical studios of Hannah Martin, one of London’s top fine jewellery designers. Her smooth, sculptural pieces are imbued with a subtle androgyny, an elegant edge and unexpected masculine details, such as upturned spiky rubies or bespoke hexagonal cut emeralds. Weighty and desirable, her jewellery attracts a doggedly loyal following of men and women who reject ostentatious ‘bling’, and aspire to a quieter luxury, forged through a strong, independent brand who value craftsmanship and quality.
Hannah was the first ever jewellery designer we featured on The Cut, and we’ve tried hard to avoid the blog becoming a love letter to her ever since… After rummaging through the treasures on display (books books books, more books, photos of rock stars and piles of golden jewels), we sat down to discuss her inspirations, re-invigorating old designs and leaving your muse behind like a dumped boyfriend.
What are you working on at the moment?
I’m currently designing a new collection; I love having a completely blank canvas. The initial part of the design process is the best – researching, reading, sitting in the St Martins library, pulling images (not literally) from books and letting one idea lead on to another. My designs are always created with a character in mind, and so creating and forming that character is like meeting and falling in love…the first rush of getting to know someone is really exciting and I obsess about them constantly.
How do you think your collections have evolved?
My fingerprint will always run through every collection, and my love of linear, graphic structure and shape, Monumentalist architecture and a mild obsession with water towers seeps into every design to varying degrees. The characters and stories I use as inspiration will share some of these references, which means there is a thread pulling them together, despite being from completely different points in time. By the same token, the character will make a piece feel and look different even if the shapes and lines are recurring.
I’m currently putting a character to bed (The Man Who Knows Everything – timeless delirium and shamanistic twists of intense colour and light) and that feels good, saying goodbye. We’ve finally broken up.
Do you ever feel pigeon-holed in terms of style? The press likes to put designers in boxes…
Yes, sometimes, but new designs and collections are more a rebellion against my own ideas and how people see them…after I’ve been immersed in a character for a while I feel the need to develop and present new thoughts and ideas, a bit like an actor who’s been playing the same role for months and needs to show another side of themself. You might not look for an opposing aesthetic but it often comes out anyway as a need to change and move on with something new.
You do a lot of bespoke work, including engagement rings, which must be hard to put your mark to when it’s just a plain solitaire?
There’s always a way to make even a simple piece your own. As I design each piece that goes through the door it will always have the HM aesthetic, even if it’s a solitaire ring – details like a knife edge band or a particular shape of claw setting. My work is very sculptural and I always think in 3D, every view of the piece is considered, so there’s always something to look at from any angle.
What’s coming next?
I’ve recently revisited some of my early collections, some from when I was still at St Martins, and it’s really interesting to work on them with my present perspective and ideas. I’ve designed series of ‘Heritage’ pieces as new additions to existing collections; like revisiting an old relationship, the spark is still there…
This week’s Cool Jewel is by new London based jewellery brand Ruifier. Made in two different designs, ‘Sunrise’ and ‘Sunset’, these interlocking rings feature different colour tourmalines set in 18ct gold, and cleverly lace together when stacked.
This week’s Cool Jewel is one of my favourite ever vintage Cartier pieces, although I’m not actually sure if this is the ring or bracelet version. Dated 1939, this is a masterclass in channel setting, with incredible baguettes of dark citrine perfectly cut and aligned in 18k gold, alongside bespoke cut bullet amethysts.
I have tried on a ring version (at the International Art and Antiques fair in London) with bullet cut turquoise and channel set amethysts, available to see on my Instagram page. Also amazing…
For more Cool Jewels, our edit of the most exquisite and mind-blowingly beautiful jewellery, have a look here.