What I Know About Style

Sophie Harley

Sophie Harley

August
4

Jeweller Sophie Harley on the James Bond commission and paying restaurant bills with her work

You are a Royal College of Art alumni. Can you describe the craziest project you did?

All the catwalk jewellery I did for Harvey Bertram-Brown [a successful video director]. I made some amazing metal seahorse bustiers which Cat Glover then wore on Prince’s Lovesexy World Tour, plus a gun holster which an investment banker snapped up and now hangs on wall in his French chateaux.

What made you want to become a jeweller?

I remember playing with my grandmother’s gorgeous charm bracelet when I was about five years old. She lived in Turkey as a child and had beautiful boxes of jewellery and gold-embroidered clothing. Relatives built the railway across Turkey. The train carriage interiors were stunning and had amazing chandeliers. I have pictures of them. I also drew a lot as a child – I was the kid who made a Roman mosaic out of sweet wrappers.

What is your most precious item of jewellery and why?

A gold necklace I’ve built up over the years. It includes an aquamarine my mum gave me on my recent wedding day. My engagement ring and wedding ring are also very precious to me. I used to have a lot of jewellery bought directly off me – someone would approach me in a restaurant and would buy a piece which would pay my restaurant bill!

What inspires you?

I have hundreds of sketchbooks from my days of drawing in museums such as the V&A. People and their stories also inspire me. To sum up, storytelling, mythology, philosophy and drawing.

What metal do you prefer working with and why?

Precious metals because they have longevity and you can create intricate jewellery with them. Plus, I trained to work with silver and gold.

What made you choose to be based in Westbourne Studios?

I’ve lived all over London but west London is the area I love. I was born in Hammersmith and I’ve lived in Shepherd’s Bush for around 10 years. I used to work at Cockpit Studios in central London and would drive over the Westway, so I saw Westbourne Studios being built. I had a young daughter so it was a good idea to be based closer to home and I had an amazing feeling about the place. I must have been one of the first people to move in.

Where do you go for an after-work drink?

E&O or A&E as I often call it where I like a lychee martini! I also have a fridge stocked with Champagne in the studio.

You do special commissions. Which commission has been the most rewarding?

The James Bond film commission was the most rewarding for publicity and sales, but I can’t say any one commission is the most rewarding because every commission is so meaningful whether it’s to celebrate a birth, engagement, marriage or one family commissioned a piece while the father was alive but terminally ill.

What is a jewellery no-go for you?

I know in some cultures piercing babies is a rite of passage, but personally I don’t like it, although I didn’t get my ears pierced until 37! Luckily I don’t work with steel which is generally used for naughty piercings, but then you can always hang a charm off it…

Who has been the most exciting person you have worked with?

I’ve worked with Harvey [Bertram-Brown] on some pretty exciting projects and I worked on some crazy installations when I was starting out – it was an exciting time, but I can’t name one particular person. I have a great team and I love working with clients. Some of the clients are celebrities, but they’re not necessarily the most exciting people to work with.

What tip can you give guys to help them choose the perfect piece for their partner?

Bring their partner along. They also need to sure of what their budget is as that will affect what stone to choose. Usually by the time a guy comes in here he has been pointed in the right direction anyway and has an idea of what their partner likes, but I’m happy to tweak and swap things around.

If you weren’t a jeweller what would you be doing?

I would probably be working in art and design although I have done some TV presenting work in the past (in respect of my work).

What’s your guilty pleasure?

If I’ve had a hard day at work I’ll jump in the mini and after going to the bank I’ll swing by Ottolenghi’s and buy some cakes to eat with the team in the studio.

What’s next for Sophie Harley Jewellery?

We are currently upgrading the website which is close to re-launch. Our e-tail shop will continue to grow and I want to continue to build worldwide connections. I want to storm America. I’m also currently working on a beautiful collection of rings inspired by the four seasons.

Sophie Harley, 122 Westbourne Studios, 242 Acklam Road, London, W10; www.sophieharley.com; 020 7430 2070

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