Drawing inspiration from ancient jewels such as those found during the times of the Roman Empire, Polly Gasston is a designer with a distinctive creative vision. After taking a break from the workbench for 30 years, Polly returned to it in 2007 after falling in love with the work of ancient goldsmiths and 22kt gold.
She was inspired to create her own eponymous jewellery line of one-off treasures that can never be replicated, and such is her talent that she has been commissioned to make pieces for the World Gold Council. We chat with Polly Gasston about her unique journey.
Have you always wanted to be a jewellery designer?
“I have known since I was a little girl that I wanted to be a jeweller. My favourite pastime as a small girl was to go through my mother’s jewellery box so she and my father never questioned my decision to go to art school after A-Levels.”
What drove you to start Poppy Gasston Goldsmith?
“I left the bench for 30 years - my life took a different course - and I didn’t come back to it until 2007. By then I had travelled extensively and discovered the work of the very ancient goldsmiths who used only pure gold and semi-precious stones. I immediately identified with this, fell in love all over again with 22kt gold, and decided I could recreate some of the ancient wonders that I’d been privileged to see. I am the only English goldsmith in this country who works exclusively in 22kt gold. I make every single piece myself so while I can copy something I’ve done previously, I can never completely duplicate it because each piece comes out differently. Each piece is, therefore, unique and a one-off treasure.”
"I immediately identified with this, fell in love all over again with 22kt gold, and decided I could recreate some of the ancient wonders that I’d been privileged to see."
How did you get into the jewellery industry?
“After my A-Levels, I attended Sir John Cass School of Art in London for 4 years. I had wonderful teachers who completely encouraged and supported my style of work which, back then, was greatly influenced by jewellers like Faberge and Dorrie Nosier (of whose work my mother had one or two pieces). My style and my materials have changed drastically over the years, but that’s where it all began.”
How has your childhood influenced you as a designer?
“I grew up in Kenya. My mother and my grandmother had several pieces of heirloom jewellery between them and I was always allowed to play dress up with it because they knew I would always be very careful with it. This formed my idea of being a jeweller and I never wavered from that.”
"I value honestly. My jewellery reflects this in the purity - the honesty - of the metal I use, which is 22kt gold, only."
Values are really important us at JewelStreet. What are your core brand values?
“I value honestly. My jewellery reflects this in the purity - the honesty - of the metal I use, which is 22kt gold only. I use unrefined, natural stones whenever I can, and when I say that my jewellery is ‘ultimately wearable’, it’s true; I like to sell work that my clients can buy, put on, and forget to take off because it’s comfortable and beautiful and practical and contemporary.”
What inspires your designs?
“I only work in my very small workshop, no one works with me, and I surround myself with images of pieces that I have seen and love. I get my inspiration from visiting museums, reading books and brain storming with my sister who works with me and helps with the designing. I make all my jewellery myself, and have my stones set by a setter who now makes my hollow beads for the New Antiquities Collection, launched this year.”
How do you want someone to feel when they wear a piece of Polly Gasston Goldsmith jewellery?
“I want my clients to heave a little sigh of pleasure every time they look at the piece of my work that they’re wearing.”
What’s the most meaningful piece of jewellery you’ve ever received?
“My mother gave me a ring she had inherited from her mother. It has the most beautiful sugarloaf amethyst in it, set diamond wise, and I often set my stones this way because it has always struck me as the most interesting and unusual way to show the stone off to its best advantage.”
"One client told me he had cut out our advertisement from Country Life and carried it in his wallet for 4 years, waiting for the day he would be back in England and could get me to set stones he had collected."
Are there any clients you are particularly proud of?
“One client told me he had cut out our advertisement from Country Life and carried it in his wallet for 4 years, waiting for the day he would be back in England and could get me to set stones he had collected in his travels around the world. It was a wonderful commission! Another client sent me a photograph of herself on an ice breaker ship in the Arctic, wearing a ring I had made for her.”
What has been the highest point of your career as a designer so far?
“My commission from the World Gold Council to make a wreath to be exhibited in their exhibition Gold: Power and Allure. It was a wonderful thing to make and fulfilled a lifelong dream for me.”
What drives you to continue creating jewellery?
“I have some wonderful repeat customers who buy from me regularly and who tell others about me, but there are so many more pieces I want to make, and so many people out there who don’t even know I exist!”