Jeweller Stephen Webster
Stephen Webster leads a double life as regal and racy jeweller, writes P.Ramakrishnan
Designer to the stars and royalty, Stephen Webster creates jewellery collections with split personalities: one espousing glam-rock attitude, the other regal distinction and contrarian reserve. As such, he's the Jekyll and Hyde of high jewellery, a playful practitioner of precious stones, two parts danger, and one part discretion.
The flamboyant designer shares something of the rock star glow. With pierced ears, long tresses, raspy baritone and electric wardrobe (leather pants, velvet jacket included), Webster could easily double for Mick Jagger. His chest cascades with chains and his fingers drip rings that bear racy rock 'n' roll names like "Thorn", "Poison Apple", and "Seven Deadly Sins".
Webster's double life is punctuated by a pair of Elizabeths. One a British monarch, the other Hollywood royalty; "Though I never met her - and my God I would have loved to - Elizabeth Taylor is the first encounter with celebrity for my jewellery," says Webster as we mull over a treasure trove of his blinding jewels at Lane Crawford.
"My style is a bit out there, very flamboyant, and I made this lavender-coloured stone, rose-gold ring," he says. "The colour was an almost exact match to her [Taylor's] magical eyes. She commissioned a bracelet to go with it. This was back in 1984. I never approached her. I've never had to approach any star, they found us."
The second Elizabeth in Webster's universe is Britain's ruling monarch Queen Elizabeth. Webster trades rock for royalty as creative director for Garrard, the crown jewellers. "Working with Garrard has been interesting, educational. My two brands; one is 276 years old, full of heritage, and the backbone of Britain, and the other is so rebellious. I'm really a craftsman, it's about the fine art of jewellery. It's easy to get caught up in the rock 'n' roll element, but I'm into creating beautifully made jewellery and I add my identity and spirit to it." That style and spirit has made Webster a three-time winner of the British Luxury Jeweller of the Year award, and winner of UK Jewellery Brand 2008.
With a background in art school, Webster might have taken the fashion route, but fell in love with the intricate work that goes on behind the scenes of jewellery design. "I could always draw, I thought I'd go into fashion, but at 16, I saw incredibly beautiful signature pieces of jewellery in London and fell in love with them. It was the crown jewels and pieces at Garrard. It's funny how life works that I was asked to join the brand years later."
Webster, the man who counts Cristina Aguilera (as face and long-time model for his brand), Ozzy Osbourne and Madonna as clients, pauses for a second and then polishes off the thought: "I wasn't obsessed with the glitz and glamour - I was obsessed with being the best craftsman I could be. I apply that to everything I do and I think people understand that."