Stephen Webster was only 16 when he ventured into the world of precious metal, gems and jewellery crafting. Today, his eponymous London-based brand has over 100 points of sale worldwide. Looking back on his journey, he says he can now indulge in his own creativity, a transition that he describes as moving “from being told what to make, to making things the way I wanted them”.
But make no mistake, Webster’s distinctive eye for design shone through even early on in his jewellery-making career and the bold, edgy, conversational pieces he has created over the decades are testament to this. While the founder and creative director is a classically trained master jeweller and goldsmith, there is nothing traditional about his designs.
One of the pieces in the Magnipheasant collection, for example, is a striking necklace that beautifully emulates the pheasant’s distinctive feathers. Named Feathers Collar, it is made from 18-carat white gold, garnets, citrine, blue topazes, amethysts, peridots, rhodolite and iolites — enhanced by black diamond pavé.
Another popular collection is the Jitterbug, featuring fantasy creatures birthed from Webster’s imagination and brought to life with a blaze of coloured gems and enamels. An assortment of mainly statement rings showcases these colourful creatures best — perched on the finger of the wearer, ready to take flight.
While noticeable in a large number of Webster’s designs — the Dynamite collection’s affinity for asymmetry, and David Bowie references in the Lady Stardust line — not all of his creations ooze edginess or a rock ‘n’ roll vibe.
The Love Me, Love Me Not collection, for instance, is inspired by the age-old romantic notion of predicting one’s feelings by plucking the petals of a flower. Flower-themed bejewelled cocktail rings, bangles, necklaces and earrings make up this collection in a figurative representation of nature’s ultimate game of chance.
Meanwhile, Culture Voyage pays homage to the iconic architecture and culture of grand tour destinations across the globe, as seen through the eyes of the designer and depicted in the elaborate China Girl Lotus Flower Ring and Africa Cuff.
Stephen Webster’s latest Fish Tales collection offers yet another peek into the designer’s creative mind. This time around, he drew from his life-long fascination with the sea and underwater world to come up with 26 figurative charms in 18-carat yellow gold. Each depicts a sea creature entangled with a letter of the alphabet, such as “F for Flying Fish”, “S for Seahorse” and “W for Whale”.
As part of this collection, Webster also penned a book that introduces the sea creatures that adorn each pendant in a heartwarming and sometime humorous way. While no two Stephen Webster collections are the same, storytelling is a recurring theme and one of their strengths.
“I can’t remember a time when I haven’t regularly gazed below the waterline of a pond, river, sea, rock pool or, indeed, a puddle. I have always found life under the surface of a body of water more interesting than that [above it]. I hope the collection and the book go some way towards [deciphering] the mystery and magic of an aquatic life,” he says. It is no coincidence that the charitable causes that the brand supports are water and ocean-related too. For instance, 10% of the proceeds from the sale of its handcrafted £145 (RM778) sterling silver straw, named The Last Straw, is donated to Plastic Oceans International.
There is a lot more to the brand’s creations than meets the eye. Seeing that precious metal and gems form the cornerstone of its DNA, the brand takes great pride in its use of Fairtrade gold and conflict-free diamonds. Around 2011, Webster, who at the time was also the creative director of Garrard, journeyed to Peru in search of ethically mined gold.
Since 2016, the pieces of fine jewellery crafted by Stephen Webster have also carried Positive Luxury’s prestigious Butterfly Mark, an acknowledgement of the brand’s commitment to sustainability and ethical production.
“This is important to us because we care about our environment, the people who work in our industry and the products we create for our clients. Companies that do not adhere to these basic principles in the long run will find themselves unsustainable. Fish Tales comprises two elements: gold — 70% of which is recycled, and the remaining 30% is from vetted bullion dealers — and diamonds, from suppliers who adhere to the Kimberley Process,” explains Webster, showing that his statement pieces go beyond being stunning adornments to being, quite literally, statement makers of important matters concerning the industry.
Although predominantly famed for its jewellery, the brand that boasts an A-list clientele — the first being Elizabeth Taylor, and the list having since grown to include Madonna, Kate Moss, Christina Aguilera, Johnny Depp, Cameron Diaz and Charlize Theron — has also produced dining and kitchenware, namely the Cock & Bull Carving Set, a bespoke Beasts Knife Set and, more recently, the Tequila Lore Set of barware in a fully customisable Tanner Krolle leather case.
Given the brand’s long and diverse list of stunning creations, one cannot help but wonder what else it has in store. “Yes, we are working on something new. We never stop. Watch this space!” says the 60-year-old with the enthusiasm of one who is already excitedly working on his next masterpiece.
This article first appeared on May 6, 2019 in The Edge Malaysia.