Originally from Spain and now based in London, Luis Miguel Howard creates bold versatile jewellery that encompasses delicate design, rich gemstones and elements of movement. Through his extensive love of India, Art Nouveau and the Belle Epoque, Luis became captivated with extravagant designs lined with vibrant precious stones.
Seen upon fashion luminaries such as Poppy Delevingne, Sienna Miller and Kate Moss, Luis Miguel concentrates his designs around colour and long-term wear with unrivalled beauty. We chat with Luis Miguel about being a magpie, working for the Royal Household and why each year is getting better and better.
When did you first fall in love with jewellery?
“I’ve wanted to be a jeweller ever since I can remember. As a child I was fascinated by shiny things; I was, and still am, a complete magpie. The biggest treat allowed to me was to be able to play with the contents of my mother’s jewellery box.”
How did you get into the jewellery industry?
"I came to England to do my degree in Silversmithing, Goldsmithing and Jewellery Design (BA Hons) at the Kent Institute of Art and Design. I was lucky enough to be taught by the same team that Stephen Webster was trained under. It was an amazing course. The most precious things I learnt was an open-minded approach to design and attention to detail. I was taught that for a jewel to be of a high enough standard it has to look good at x10 magnification, a benchmark I still use today.”
How has your childhood influenced you as a designer?
“I grew up in Andalucia, in the South of Spain. I’m the eldest of four children and my mother encouraged us all to follow our passions, whatever they were. My siblings and I have wildly differing careers: my eldest sister is a primary school teacher, my middle sister is a social worker and the youngest is a flamenco dancer. We all live doing what we love and I think that is incredibly special. Growing up in Spain, I was surrounded by colour and that love of colour has never left me, which is very evident in my work. People love dressing up, so for me, jewellery is the ultimate way for women to enhance their beauty. My godmother was another big influence for me; once a year I would tidy and clean her wonderful jewellery collection, which was filled with Cartier and antique Indian jewellery. She was very special - who else lets a twelve-year-old child loose on their priceless jewellery collection?”
"Growing up in Spain I was surrounded by colour and that love of colour has never left me."
What drove you to start your own jewellery line?
“In my mind, there was never any question of not starting my own jewellery line. But I felt it had to be done in an intelligent and considered manner. The idea of what to produce came to me when I was working as a sales associate at a well-known jewellery boutique on Bond Street. I remember looking at what they called their ‘access’ range and thinking it was rather expensive. I knew that I could produce one-off pieces of fine jewellery which I could sell for a fraction of the price of Bond Street jewellers. The jewellery world was very much beginning to focus on the bespoke, unique aspect of jewellery and I pride myself on the fact that I was one of the first independent London designers to do so. And so, my concept was born: unique, bespoke pieces at relatively affordable prices.”
Tell us about the most meaningful piece of jewellery you own.
“It is by far the little gold stars I wear around my neck. The first one I received when my mother died. She had it made when I was born and it is engraved with my initials and date of birth; she never took it off, so a part of her is always with me. My sisters gave me another three for my 30th, with their own initials and birthdays. People were always commenting on them, so I decided to create a range of jewels based on them. The Stars line became my best seller and, so in a way it feels like my mother’s enthusiasm and encouragement for me lives on in my Star pieces.”
"I examine every single piece myself, whether it is a £20000 necklace or a £350 bracelet."
What are your core brand values?
“First and foremost, quality. I examine every single piece myself, whether it is a £20000 necklace or a £350 bracelet. If it falls apart, is not properly polished or it still has sandpaper marks on it, it goes straight back to the workshop. Secondly, value for money. I would hate for a client to feel they have been ripped off. Lastly, durability of the design. I do not want a client to part with a small fortune for a piece that you hope may turn into an heirloom only for the piece to look dated within 10 years.”
Where do you find inspiration for your designs?
“Inspiration can come from anything, but for me it often comes from a small architectural detail or a shape that I’ve seen in a drawing. When I first started, 12 years ago, Fabergé was a big inspiration for the use of very unusual materials. I’ve also looked at Moghul architecture, Audrey Beardsley drawings, Art Nouveau, Charles Rennie Mackintosh, and currently I’m in a real Art Deco phase.”
"As jewels, they are at opposite ends of the spectrum but both stories are equally special to me.”
Are there any clients or commissions you are particularly proud of?
“A high point has to be when one of my best clients, a member of the Royal Household, asked me to reset an important, cushion cut Ceylon sapphire weighing about 18 carats. When I arrived to deliver this beautiful stone, set into a platinum and diamond ring, she opened the door dressed in a magnificent ball gown, covered in magnificent family jewels - tiara, necklace, the works. She was on the way to a State Banquet at Windsor Castle and wanted the ring made by me to finish off her outfit. Seeing my jewel in the company of such precious heirlooms made me feel very special about my work. Equally special was the client who asked me to make a small gold medallion with the name of someone very near to her who had passed away. I had done work for her before and she knew that I could be trusted to deliver something special and I was honoured to be asked. As jewels, they are at opposite ends of the spectrum but both stories are equally special to me.”
When do you do your best work?
“I do my best work at home and I work best late in the day and into the night! I’m a real night owl; I love the feeling of working late and hearing no noise outside. The phone is silent and there are no emails pinging at me for their immediate attention.”
What has been the highest point of your career so far?
“I am so lucky... I feel that each year just gets better and better. Every time I think it can’t get better than this, it does and the last few years just seem to be the flowering of a lot of the things I have worked for: getting into Browns was a coup, followed by Sienna Miller wearing my jewellery on the red carpet; then starting my collaborations with Charlotte Tilbury (the makeup queen, who is also a close friend) a couple of years ago, which culminated in my jewellery being used in her fragrance campaign starring Kate Moss; l sold my most expensive piece ever last year, and of course I was thrilled to be asked to join Jewelstreet - I didn’t have to think twice about it.”
What are your hopes for the future?
“I’m constantly thinking of ways to improve designs, what to come up with next to keep repeat clients satisfied, how to maintain and improve customer service. All I hope to achieve is to be able to carry on doing what I do well, for the rest of my working life.”