Elena Bowes

New York-London design & culture writer of a certain vintage looking for meaning and wholeness in life

Q&A with Hip Jeweller Jessica McCormack

December 14th, 2020
Mayfair, London

Anyone who read my earlier Xmas shopping blog  knows how much I rely on those nearest and dearest  for help. The friend  who really stands out, who should charge me a fee for all her expert advice is my dear friend Isabel Ettedgui, owner of  Connolly in London. Isy has been my guiding light in several major decisions – like whether to buy a house or not. Where I  saw a confusing rabbit warren of a tear down, she saw potential.
Elena, did you say it’s a freehold, with a garage and a mews on Chester Square?
Then she suggested the designer I should work with –
Colin Orchard would be perfect- not only is he super talented, but he’s nice and fun. You’ll love working with him.
Isy was right on all counts.  And finally, and to the subject of this blog- when I told Isy that Stretch and I were looking for engagement rings, but hadn’t seen anything that didn’t scream- first-time bride boring and predictable, she suggested I visit jeweller Jessica McCormack’s townhouse in Mayfair across the street from the Connaught. Once again, I struck gold, or rather gold and sapphire, thanks to Isy.
Oops, forgot to mention that I’m starting a new interview series- interviewing people who inspire me. First up is Jessica McCormack. She is talented, imaginative, down to earth and modern. She makes jewellery that you can wear all the time, even in your pj’s. Hello lockdown tier 3!
Jewellery brings me a lot of joy and happiness, says Jessica.

I couldn’t agree more. During these difficult months, just fiddling with my ring- which needs a clean, soft toothbrush and a dab of dishwashing liquid, since you asked- cheers me up.

Even if you aren’t shopping for something sparkly, you should visit Jessica’s chic townhouse of a shop. It’s packed with contemporary art, quirky antiques, over-stuffed bookshelves, a player piano, family photos  and a secret garden. The jewels are almost an afterthought.

Not only is Jessica’s personally curated five-story townhouse uber covetable, but she is often around, a warm Kiwi, dressed in jeans with lots of piercings and rings on multiple fingers.

Watch this weird and wonderful video about her most recent collaboration with LA furniture designers the Haas Brothers.
Here’s my interview with Jessica:
Tell us some of your #lockdownstylingpart2 ideas? With COVID-19- what’s in, what’s out? 

As much as I’ve been in t-shirts, sweaters, and jeans every day for the most part of this year, I don’t think I’m tired of dressing like that yet. For me it works, and I have always loved the idea that diamonds can dress up a casual outfit. At the moment I feel even more focussed on creating jewellery that’s easy to wear and works with real lifestyles. Next year we’ll dress up though, and I can’t lie – I’m looking forward to that too! 

Let’s go back to the beginning- As a child growing up in New Zealand were you a tomboy climbing trees who also loved trying on your mother’s clasped earrings? 

I was definitely an active, outdoorsy child – I think a lot of New Zealand kids are like that, because there’s so much incredible nature to enjoy. But my obsession with jewellery did start in my teens, so I think you’d call that balanced! From quite an early age I was buying up boxes of old jewellery at auctions with my dad and playing around with it – seeing what I could create. 

Your father owned an auction house. Can you tell us about his influence on your chosen career? 

My father was a huge influence, I think. Growing up I was surrounded by so many special pieces and incredible antiques that he brought home. He loved things that brought joy, and the stories that objects could tell.

Was Rihanna your first customer?

She was one of them! She was definitely my first really high-profile client. I look back on that as a bit of a turning point for the brand! 

Any tips you can give other designers thinking of setting up their own business?

 Learn from others! I can’t think of anything more important than surrounding yourself with experts, in whatever capacity, from as early on in your career as you can. 

What is your most popular piece?

 Our Gypset earrings, they seem to work for everyone. They’re so versatile, you can layer them, stack them, buy them separately, mix and match them, sleep in them…!! I never take mine off.

(Seems Charlene likes them too)

And your personal favourite? 

It’s too difficult to choose. Usually my favourite is whichever piece is newest, I’m fickle like that! At the moment it’s a pair of earrings from my collection with the Haas Brothers, ask me next week though and it will be something different!

 How would you describe your personal style in a sentence or two?

Relaxed, comfortable… heavy on the diamonds!

 Your jewellery boxes are nearly as desireable as your jewellery. How did the idea of using vintage boxes with the prettiest images come to you? 

It felt like a natural next step after the jewellery. We have these pieces that are so special to us, so emotional, so valued.. It made sense to create something equally special that could hold them. The Heirloom jewellery boxes look after your jewellery, and at the same time stand alone as beautiful objects.

What’s next?

 There’s so much to come next year, new collections, new launches, and some brand developments that I can’t wait to share with every-body. I’m excited for what’s to come, and – like everyone else I think – ready for a fresh start! 

December, 2020