Jessie Thomas interview: meet the London jeweller who makes affordable luxury
Chelsea-based goldsmith is carving out a glittering career with her dainty wearable designs
Affordability is not a word often associated with fine jewellery, but London-based jeweller Jessie Thomas creates dazzling 18ct gold confections set with diamonds and pearls that won’t break the bank. Her delicate designs strike the perfect balance between soft minimalism and crisp elegance, always feminine and intended to be worn all day, every day.
A trained goldsmith, Thomas learned her craft from her father, David Thomas, a master jeweller who trained under Georg Jensen and the Swedish Crown Jewellers. Today, father and daughter share an atelier in London’s Chelsea, working on their own separate collections but supporting each other’s practise.
“I think even after all that learning, formal training and an apprenticeship, there is still so much more to know ten years on, even 30 years on!” Thomas says over the phone from the studio. “All designs are my own, but dad often helps me with tips and tricks. He is amazing at making his own tools which is really unusual and very handy because some techniques require a very precise approach.”
Even more unusual is that Thomas crafts every single one of her pieces by hand. She uses an independent setter, also based in London, for intricate workmanship, but apart from this outsourcing and the guidance she gets from her father, she is completely autonomous, which is something of a rarity these days.
“Jewellery-making as opposed to jewellery design was a traditionally a very male dominated job,” she says. “Now there are many more female goldsmiths, but still not as many as you might think. It depends on what you are crafting but in the main, it is a pretty physically challenging job. I have one very strong hand and it’s missing most of its skin right now, but I love how meditative it is. You need to stay extremely concentrated which I enjoy.”
Thomas, who also makes ambitious bespoke pieces, works on small ready-to-wear collections that are generally made-to-order. It’s a versatile approach that suits the limitations of her solo output but one that nonetheless adds an air of exclusivity to even small, modestly priced purchases, such as her signature Six Diamond Scallop Stud, a little organic cluster of half a dozen sparkles surrounded by a cloud-like contour of 18ct gold, priced very reasonably at £725 each.
“People are selling gold-plated earrings - not even 14ct gold - for £700, which isn’t right. Don’t get me started on crazy price points!” she says laughing, though it’s clear that affordability is very much part of her brand’s DNA. But gold and diamonds are expensive materials to invest in as a young jeweller. What drew her to these materials in the first place?
She has a straightforward answer: “I just think that yellow gold, diamonds and pearls go with everything. They light up the face and enhance the skin. I love green and gold together too, so emeralds and tourmalines are a big thing for me. In terms of the making practice, 18ct is just wonderful to work with. It’s not too soft, but soft enough to know how it is going to behave.
“I have always used recycled gold and I work with just one diamond dealer that my father has worked with for over 30 years. He gets the most beautiful stones which are ethically sourced from Botswana. He’s obsessed with cutting so they are perfectly rendered. I now work with old mine cuts too. Environmentally speaking, these are far more friendly but you do run the risk of not knowing their provenance, so I think it’s important to have a balanced approach when it comes sustainability.”
Her father’s style is undeniably very different to hers: he specialises in high jewellery with avant-garde flair, opulent with a hint of 1960s rebellion. Are there any subtle similarities between their two aesthetics that may not be obvious to others?
“My dad’s work for Georg Jensen has very much influenced my work,” she says. “It’s really about a dedication to form, a kind of simplicity that's hard to place. The best way to explain my approach is to say that the handmade element is always present but only whispered. Jewellery should be luxurious but made for everyday, so that your collection seamlessly blends with your busy lifestyle. That’s how I like to wear my pieces, anyway.”
And frankly, who wouldn’t feel confident wearing one of her gorgeously effulgent and tactile creations?