Shaun Leane is in the business of creating objects that can withstand the test of time. “At the beginning of my career I was restoring many historical pieces. This is when I fell in love with jewellery design,” he says. “I have restored some of the most beautiful antique jewels from the art deco, Victorian and Edwardian eras. These pieces were distinctive of their time due to their innovative design and craftsmanship. This inspired me to create timeless pieces which will epitomise the present and be treasured from one generation to another.”
Now head of his eponymous luxury jewellery house, the London-based Leane is known for exquisitely crafted contemporary designs. The four-time UK Jewellery Designer of the Year is also famous for his long-time collaboration with the late fashion designer Alexander McQueen, whom he met while Leane was an apprentice in Hatton Garden and McQueen was studying at Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design.
“I was 14 years into my career and thought I had mastered the craft – this changed when I met Alexander McQueen. Due to our collaboration, I taught myself the skills of a silversmith, using different materials and jewellery tools to create body sculptures and large-scale jewellery pieces for his catwalk shows; all these things were new to me,” he says. “Before we met, I was creating diamond rings and delicate gem-set tiaras. Now, when we design and craft our collections, we continue to practise in fine traditional goldsmithing skills, but we combine those skills with modern technology.”
Leane takes a year on average to develop a collection, only launching a range when he’s satisfied that “every piece is flawless”. He also frequently collaborates with other designers, artists and celebrities, and takes on custom-made projects, including a diamond evening glove for fashion icon Daphne Guinness.
“The project took around four years to design and handcraft. Our challenge was to create a diamond glove that combines an armour-like structure [with] the refined aesthetics and fluidity of an evening glove,” he says. “The glove was a perfect example of what we create .”
With stores throughout Britain, and locations in Europe, Russia, the Middle East and Hong Kong, Leane has had to devote a lot of attention to the business. But he also researches new ideas and trains apprentices as a Freeman of the City of London, which he was named in 2006.
“You will never stop learning a craft, especially when new technologies become available. I enjoy learning new things as this helps me to evolve as a craftsman and designer.” Leane says. “Like life, we are learning every day.”