The careers, inspirations and meaning behind being a Leopard
In 2015, a group of leading figures from British jewellery – Solange Azagury-Partridge, Theo Fennell, Shaun Leane, Stephen Webster, Susan Farmer and Carol Woolton - formed a collective called the Leopards. Named after the 700-year-old Assay mark stamped on precious-metal items made in London, the Leopards’ collective ambition is to preserve the expertise and design excellence within the jewellery industry, and to nurture and inspire the next generation of jewellery talent.
They held the Inaugural Leopard Awards in 2017 in London, where on the night, four guests won a cushion cut diamond from the Forevermark Black Label Collection to be set into a bespoke piece of jewellery to be designed by one of the Leopards.
Here we discuss the careers and inspirations of the Leopards, why being a Leopard is so important to them and the future of the jewellery industry, and the bespoke pieces featuring a Forevermark Black Label Collection diamond.
With over 30 years of experience, Solange Azagury-Partridge hopes that all her clients feel the love and joy that goes into her designs when they look at or wear them.
When creating a bespoke design, Azagury-Partridge believes it’s always important to get direction from the person you are designing for. For her custom Forevermark Black Label piece, “We worked with the winner to decide which design would suit the diamond best. She wanted to wear the ring everyday so it’s set in one of my written rings, in gold.”
Being a Leopard is so important to Azagury-Partridge as it is a way of celebrating British jewellery.
London is such a creative hub, for all the arts, not least jewellery. As a collective, we felt it was time to celebrate the impact of jewellery emanating from the UK, on the Arts and the world in general.
With over 40 years of experience, Stephen Webster’s brand philosophy is to create “thrilling, beguiling, beautiful and remarkable jewellery, founded upon the finest craftsmanship and distinctive creativity.” This is a philosophy that he infused into his bespoke design featuring the Forevermark Black Label diamond; “during the creative process, we mutually agreed the design was to emulate a classic elegance whilst retaining the Stephen Webster edge.”
Being a Leopard for Webster is so important as it brings British jewellery to the forefront. “We Leopards decided to throw a gala to celebrate our domestic jewels and to mentor young jewellers. I feel so privileged to be amongst some outstanding individuals, giving back to the next generation.”
I always wanted my jewellery to be a bit thought provoking and tell a story.
Founder and creative director of his own jewellery house, Shaune Leane is always creating something new, precious and eternal, with jewellery being so important to him as it captures memories in one’s life, and has an emotional connection to the wearer.
When working on bespoke designs, Leane enjoys creating pieces that are “unique and totally personal to the individual”. With his bespoke piece featuring a Forevermark Black Label diamond, he is celebrating the incomparable beauty of the diamond with a simple stud earring design.
For Leane, being a Leopard is so important as they are nurturing the next generation of jewellers. “I was so lucky to be taught hundreds of years of goldsmithing knowledge through the masters that passed down their wisdom to me and to be able to pass that on to the next generation is an honour.”
To me forever means encapsulating an instant and creating an object that defines that memory through its fine craftsmanship. Through this process we can lend longevity to a treasured moment and create a piece that will last forever.
For Theo Fennell, when people view his work he hopes “there would be genuine visual pleasure in the design of it and appreciation of its craftsmanship – and a fairly visceral feeling that it was made to last down generations.” This is something that he hopes to convey in his design featuring a Forevermark Black Label diamond. Influenced by the vivid personality of the winner, the design is inspired by the Baroque period, creating a beautiful gothic piece of jewellery.
For Fennell, being a Leopard is so important as it strengthens British jewellery and attracts young people to the industry.
The trade in this country has the best places of learning, the best craftspeople and, we believe, the best original designers to be the envy of the world. We felt that together, as well as promoting the brilliance of the trade in Britain, we could attract more talented kids and raise money for The Prince’s Trust.
Pioneers of craftsmanship
The inspiration that Solange Azagury-Partridge, Stephen Webster, Shaune Leane and Theo Fennell provide as part of the Leopards is so important for both the British and global jewellery industry.
It showcases Britain as one of the powerhouses of jewellery design, as well as encouraging young people to pursue their passions for craftsmanship and design; a passion that is shared by De Beers Forevermark, and infused into every De Beers Forevermark diamond masterpiece.
Images courtesy of Solange Azagury-Partridge, Stephen Webster, Shaun Leane and Theo Fennell