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Pretty things

24 Jan

When I think about Douglas, I think about metal. Metal was his material of choice and was his first go-to for making his ideas real. Metal is really versatile, you can bend it, mould it, melt it, cut and shape it, stamp it, stick it to other things, and more. Both the workshop and our house seemed filled with metal (notoriously he once filled a squirrel hole in our loft with it), and nothing to me seems more like Douglas than a collection like this:metal-things

This is a gathering of some of his jewellery from over the years, Douglas at play. Let’s take a closer look.

pure-fabricationsThese are prototypes of what I think are brooch pins Douglas made for a company named something like Pure Fabrication. I’m fairly sure they don’t exist any more, but I like the fun and energy of these, showing Douglas on a whimsical day.


These are a pair of earrings and a cufflink that Douglas made for Jasper Conran in the early 1990s. Glass beads stitched to a fabric backing. Douglas sometimes incorporated beads into other designs, like these sketches of buckles here:


And a couple of real-life incorporations:


Then there is this, that he made for Betty Jackson:

Bette Jackson necklace.jpgThis necklace is made from aluminium wire twisted to look like spaghetti, and they came with matching bracelets and brooches. I know, because I made a lot of the twisted wire sections, sitting in the workshop learning how to shape the metal into twists that were tight but not too tight. Some of them were sprayed with gold, and others were left silver. I wear this one a lot, and get a lot of comments about it still. Not all of his jewellery is wearable, however. Take a look at this:

armour-braceletI really love this bracelet. I like it’s semi-organic shapes, it’s post-apocalyptic armour chic. However the thing is so enormously heavy that it is impossible to wear for more than  a few minutes before you want to throw it across the room. This was a common problem with Douglas’s jewellery ideas, not all of them were practical. However, he did make me some lighter, very pretty and wearable pieces like these:

torque-and-bracelet-rachelThe silver needs a bit of a clean, but I wore them a lot. He also made me some pendants. Here are two of them:


All of these items are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the jewellery that Douglas made throughout his life. We know he did work for Bruce Oldfield, but we don’t know what, we also know that he made a necklace worn by Cher, as well as lots of individual buckles for high-end shoe maker John Lobb, and we are sure there was more. When Mum and I were going through Douglas’s things at Christmas, we found this:

liberty-box And inside:


Looking at them, we are pretty sure they are Douglas’s designs, with several key giveaways – the organic shapes, the coloured coating on the metal, the different metal blobs stuck onto a contrasting background, the impractical size and weight… perhaps someone from Liberty’s will know more about them.


Hello Douglas!

12 Nov

I’ve been watching The Crown this week, as a gloriously trashy antidote to real news, and it made me go hunting for these:


These are prototype earrings that Douglas made in the 1980s, for a very particular client. They are just practice ones, and as you can see, they are both for the same side – the actual pair would have mirrored each other. I loved them on sight and, quite frankly, snaffled them when I found them in a drawer at Douglas’s workshop. I still wear them, although the hooks are bent and damaged, and they are very flattering. But, who were they made for originally? Here’s a clue:


diana-press-releaseThis is a copy of the press release sent out by the fashion designers David and Elizabeth Emanuel who made Princess Diana’s wedding dress, and as you can see, towards the bottom, a familiar name. Douglas was friendly with the Emanuels at the time, and made a small gold horseshoe that was sewn into the bodice of the dress for good luck, as well as the earrings above, which were part of her going-away outfit. The press release shows the Emanuel drawings of the different elements of the wedding dress:




As part of the design process, Douglas went to the palace to meet Charles and Diana before the wedding. When we asked what they were like many years later, he was brief: Charles? Nice. Diana? Young. He was also fairly dismissive of the final design of the horseshoe; he wanted something different but Diana insisted on the evenly-spaced diamond studs, which he thought were ordinary-looking (about the worst insult Douglas could ever give). However, a royal commission is a royal commission, and he made the horseshoe to her specifications (he later used the remaining Welsh gold in a ring that he gave to my mother), and was allowed freer rein with the earrings, which are much more his style. His favourite story about the whole thing, though, is about an encounter that happened some months later.

He was in Asprey’s, an exclusive jewellers in London, probably trying to drum up business (his principle method of selling his jewellery products was usually to go into shops unannounced and try to talk to a manager, literally taking prototypes out of bag to show them). He was standing in the shop when a group of bodyguards marched in and demanded that everyone make way for an important guest. Douglas, all 5’2″ of him, found himself pressed against the wall with his face practically touching the shoulder of the tall bodyguard in front of him. Douglas took instant offence at the bodyguard’s rudeness and would probably have started to kick up a fuss if the guest had not walked in at that moment: Princess Diana. Being tall, he later explained, she was able to see over the shoulder of the bodyguard and looked straight at Douglas. ‘Hello Douglas!’ she said, recognising him. ‘My, how that bodyguard jumped away from me!’ he chuckled afterwards, always happy when some rude idiot got his comeuppance.

I would love to talk to the Emanuels more about that time, as it would be great to find out more about what other work they did together, how they met or why they thought that Douglas was the man for this job, but, as with so many of the people involved in Douglas’s work, they are hard to get hold of and so far I have only had a polite email brush-off from David’s assistant (Elizabeth’s has not yet replied). Any suggestions welcome!