Imagine having British landmarks, from a 15th-century Devonshire castle to the neo-futuristic icon of London, sized down so much that you can wear them on your fingers. Jeweller Simone Ng of Simone Jewels and architect–academic–television presenter Jason Pomeroy of Pomeroy Studio did just that with the magnificent six-piece capsule collection, Jewels of Architecture, which combined their respective areas of expertise to create a series of rings that explore the evolution of British architecture with a personal touch.
Pomeroy’s first foray into working on jewellery follows the tradition of Zaha Hadid, who designed The Lamellae Collection for Georg Jensen, and Frank Gehry, who collaborated twice with Tiffany & Co. The eight-month process merged the distinct architectural details of six noted British buildings with gemstones in pristine 8–18.56-ct sugarloaf cabochons, which were so hard to come by that Ng picked faceted gemstones and polished them.
The medieval Pomeroy Castle, a nod to Pomeroy’s family ancestry, is represented by peridot and pearl, both of which allude to the etymology of the surname, derived from Old French for ‘apple king;’ A hidden staircase in the castle ruins finds its way into the secret compartment underneath the cabochon in the Pomeroy Castle Ring. The fan-vault Gothic chapel of King’s College at Cambridge, Pomeroy’s alma mater, is replicated in the shanks of the King’s College Chapel Ring, topped with aquamarine in the same shade that the university’s sportsmen don.
The Renaissance spiral Tulip Stairs in Inigo Jones’s Queen’s House is replicated in the Queen’s House Ring, with a blue tanzanite alluding to the blue-grey wrought iron railings. St Paul’s Cathedral, where Pomeroy recalls falling in love with the profession of architecture at age 8, has its iconic Baroque dome miniaturised into the secret compartment of the St Paul’s Cathedral Ring, and its pink zircon captures the soft warm hues of the cathedral’s interior.
The Palace of Westminster Ring recreates the Neo-Gothic building’s Octagon Hall, and red garnet reflects the deep russet colour the building emanates at sunrise and sunset. 30 St Mary Axe or the Gherkin (the black sheep of the family, Pomeroy calls it) has its triangular panes of glass and dark purplish exterior recreated in the last ring of the collection, by way of fractal geometry and amethyst.
We caught up with the two design geniuses to learn more about their collaboration.
Jason, what convinced you to take on this project, since it’s something you hadn’t tried before?
Pomeroy: Simone’s (jewellery) pieces have always been about heritage, she was taken by the idea of British architecture, so I guess I represent a British architect who can tell a story about it, and I guess that helped narrow down the scope (of the project), because which buildings do you pick? So to say, buildings that have touched my life, (there have been) 6 in particular, and to discuss the evolution of British architecture through different eras was a further way of honing that frame of reference.
What was the most difficult part of this collaboration for both of you?
Ng: We come from different backgrounds and training, Jason has a process-driven style, but for me it’s quite organic. It was a refreshing experience for me because seeing how he works and merging our strengths could be something powerful.
Pomeroy: I design buildings and cities for a living, and working at a different scale is a challenge but also refreshing. I haven’t gotten to where I am today without having a process, so I guess that can be seen as a straightjacket or as inching the design forward. That element of rigour is, I’m sure, kind of frustrating at times, but probably for the greater good of the end product. An architect will ask questions with a religious fanaticism, to constantly push the boundaries and enhance the final design; if you can’t do that you’re not a designer at all.
Simone, why did you create only rings for this collection, instead of including, say, necklaces or earrings?
Ng: From my experience rings are always the easiest to wear. Not everyone has (ear piercings) and when we create something so special and detailed, on earrings you can’t see it yourself. So this piece is not only for others to admire, but also for yourself to see. And you can’t go wrong with rings — everyone has fingers.
How did the six buildings get translated into each ring?
Pomeroy: What we didn’t want to do was to create a “Disneyfication” of architecture — we didn’t want to do something so literal; it’s about reinterpretation and abstraction. Like abstract art, everyone brings their own self into the painting and they can complete the story for themselves. I think we’re both storytellers to a certain extent and that allows us to provide the essence of the architecture but provide enough of the resonance to allow the individual to say, “I can relate to that, I can see that that is St Paul’s Cathedral but I’ll complete the story in my head.” And that means we have a greater amount of artistic license.
What did you learn from this collaboration that you will apply to your own professions?
Ng: One thing I’ve learnt is, the way I look at buildings now is so different from before, and as Jason explained, his process is quite structured, so just seeing and learning the way he works, there are some (techniques) that I can adapt to improve in the way I do things. For example, when it comes to picking stones, he has a series of questions he would ask — why this stone, how is it relevant — and for me it would be more of what my customer likes, what colours would be more appealing for this design, will this stone have investment value.
Pomeroy: I’d say this process we’ve been through is reinforcing a process of design that I’ve seen work on the macro scale of a city or building and can also work on a micro scale, which is refreshing, and to know that I’ve been exposed to a different medium is also refreshing. I profess to be no expert jeweller, but I’ve had rare insight into how wonderful picking stones is, looking at the lustre, looking at the minutiae of how they can be pieced together to create objects of delight. And ultimately every designer wants to delight an audience, whether it’s delighting by cityscape, building, interior or landscape, and similarly on the minute scale of wearing something on your finger, it’s still about delight.