5 Minutes with... Private Jeweller, John Lloyd Morgan

When did you first become interested in jewellery and how did you get your first job in the jewellery industry?

I first became interested in jewellery when I left university and was in a very unhappy job in the Commodity Markets. I was in hospital having my wisdom teeth dealt with and my wise mum said "Well, you obviously aren't fascinated in the rubber market (which I was in), what are you going to do?" I mumbled through my sore mouth that I was quite keen on stones and so phone calls were made and meetings organised and I was given my first job at Collingwood in Conduit Street in 1979. I was given no formal training as such but just sat and watched the masters. And had the huge pleasure of handling fabulous jewellery and dealing with the very top of English society and their jewels.


Why did you set up your own business?

After working for a number of different jewellery houses in the West End, I ended up as Head of Jewellery at Asprey's, after it had been bought by Prince Jeffri of Brunei from the Asprey family. A crazy and exciting time but I realised that I wasn't a corporate player and just wanted to look after clients and their needs - whatever they might be. So, in 2000 I started out of my own. And I had started going to India for holidays and was falling in love with Indian colours and craftsmanship and had lots of designs that had been bubbling away made up in workshops there. Always colourful, rarely using diamonds, but using edible looking, semi-precious stones in rich matt gold settings. Jewellery which makes you smile and need not be kept in a safe.


What is a Freeman of the Goldsmiths’ Company?

Being a Freeman of the Goldsmiths' Company is a huge privilege. The Company was founded in 1327 and supports the jewellery industry and the craftsmen and women within that industry. It has a huge charity side and pursues a number of educational projects. It controls the hallmarking of every piece of gold, silver, platinum and now palladium manufactured in the UK. And so much more.


How do you go about designing a piece of jewellery?

Designing a piece of jewellery should be fun. If someone is brave enough to commission you to make a unique piece, then, like an architect, a lot of talk has to be done before anything is made. The commissioner has to know roughly what they want and, perhaps, more usefully, what they DON'T want. The designer has to gauge what would suit the commissioner, the budget, the preference for which stones should be used - if any, the style of the commissioner. There is a lot of hand-holding and a lot of prompting. But above all it should be fun. And often when a client says they want "something different", they often come back to something fairly safe and traditional. I don't believe in jewellery being "in fashion" for a couple of years.


What sort of old jewellery have you redesigned to become more wearable?

Re-designing an older piece into something more contemporary is a two edged sword. It can feel criminal to break up a piece - especially if it is beautifully made - but there is absolutely no point in having a whole load of Granny's jewellery sitting in a safe. Making up new pieces can be expensive in London and I often suggest that it can make more sense to sell Granny's brooch and start again. I once was given a box of incredible old pieces - only metal with all the stones removed. The diamonds had gone into making a huge tiara ages ago and the new daughter-in-law was given this box of metal to deal with, which was a daunting task (she also got the tiara!). But slowly, we revived each piece, putting in a fabulous citrine here or a wonderful synthetic sapphire there and always using imitation diamonds which we cut specially to look like old-cut diamonds and over time, the client made up the most fabulous collection of fun, wearable jewels. The original metal work was of such a quality and the original diamonds had been taken out so carefully that it was just a question of choosing inexpensive, wearable stones to pop into the holes. 


How do you work with your workshops in India when you can’t visit them?

Covid has been tough for so many people and none more so than workshops in India. Designers from abroad, like me, haven't been able to get there and they have had a very tough time with their own pandemic as well as with no visitors. I find it hopeless to try and work together on Zoom. You have to feel and almost smell the stones! So, it's been tough and I don't have as many new pieces as I would like in the collection but, of course, not everyone knows the whole collection so it can appear new to them. 


April 2023

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