British jewellery designer, Stephen Einhorn, has created pieces for Hollywood films and stars such as Charlize Theron, Johnny Depp and Cate Blanchett, but his heart will always be in London.  The Ettinger Journal talks to the designer-entrepreneur about reaching breaking point, his love for engineering, and his sadness at the decimation of manufacturing in the UK.


How did you get into jewellery design?

‘It was sort of an accident, really, since leaving school I’ve always been involved in designing and making things, which eventually led me to run my own very successful company handmaking models for advertising agencies including Saatchi & Saatchi and Publicis. But, I had two small children and the hours were ridiculous – seven days a week, often working until 11pm. It was so stressful and I never saw my children. That’s when I realised I needed to make some changes.'

This started in earnest when my wife and Co-Founder, Jane Best and I, formed Stephen Einhorn. I got back to designing & making my own things again, including jewellery. I initially made four different signet rings; a bird feeder – a sort of bronze birdcage, with the bird food in the perch; some giant nail bar stools and some skull and cross bone tap handles, which were produced for us by Barber Wilson. It was at this point that Paul Smith became aware of my designs, and he bought 300 of the signet rings. From there, I began designing and making for other designers, including A Bathing Ape, dunhill and Jigsaw.

UK design and manufacturing was key to us from the very beginning and we didn’t want to move our production away from the UK, so we invested heavily in re-equipping our workshop (by selling our house). Then, after eight years of designing and making jewellery for other labels, as well as our own retail collection, we decided to focus solely on building the Stephen Einhorn brand.

The themes of your collection are so diverse – Animals, Thames Wood, Rock & Gothic, Skulls – what influences your work?

Personal taste. I go to lots of exhibitions – but it could be anything – the natural world, reading a book, a variety of things really. The technical side of design really interests me, and some of my pieces are very unusual as a result – the Metal Geo’s are riveted together and made using specialist engineering techniques for example. Because my technical background isn’t purely jewellery based, this enables me to use unusual materials, like our 2000 Year Old Thames Wood and employing different construction techniques that I find really inspiring.

We decided not to be driven by seasonal collections as it really doesn’t fit with the way we like to work. We are of course involved in new fashion trends, but we’re more about creating heirlooms and timeless fine jewellery.

 2000 Year Old Thames Wood Collection

    

You are becoming well known for your film-based work – tell us a bit more about this? 

The property master for Tim Burton was aware of our bespoke service, and he needed a high-quality ring for a film he was working on – they’d commissioned someone else and it ended up being a disaster. So, he approached me to do this for him, and that was the ring for Johnny Depp in Dark Shadows. I met an amazing costume designer (multiple Oscar winner Colleen Atwood) on that film, who then commissioned me to make a collar for Charlize Theron, for Snow White and the Huntsman. She came to me with an idea to make the collar out of bugs. She just dropped off a box of beetles as inspiration and said: “here you go – see what you can do!” I sculpted four different sized beetles and cast them in brass and soldered them together to form the collar. The finished piece was quite heavy – weighing in at about seven kilos!

Since then we have designed and made bespoke jewellery pieces for many Hollywood feature films. We’ve built up a really good reputation and are lucky to have Pinewood and places like that over here as there are a lot of films being made in the UK. We currently have two more films in the pipeline – one coming out later this year, and the other, next year.

Charlize Theron wearing the Stag Beetle Collar in the Snow White and the Huntsman

Ring for Johnny Depp in Tim Burton's Dark Shadows 

   

Tell me about your other bespoke work?

Bespoke commissions constitute a very large part of our work, whether it’s for films, actors, musicians or private bespoke customers. I’m just about to start sculpting two golden retrievers curled up together, to be made as an 18ct gold charm. Who else can you go for something so specific?

We do lots of work for famous people, but we pride ourselves on our discretion. However, Kristian Nairn, who plays Hodor in Game of Thrones, is cool about me mentioning his name and commissions us to make lots of different and bold pieces for him. He’s a really lovely guy and extremely tall - he comes in and just dwarfs me!

Why is British craftsmanship and design so important to you?

This is absolutely crucial to us and at the heart of everything that we do. It’s about employment and skill. Over the years that I’ve been designing and making  – which is a really long time – I’ve seen huge changes. There has been a real decimation since 1970’s – lots of skilled industries have been forced out of London and the UK. There used to be lots of light engineering businesses close to where our workshop is and also further down the road in Clerkenwell. In Hackney there was watch making and furniture making. They are virtually nonexistent now, all sorts of creatives have been forced out. It’s really important to us to help keep Britain’s skills alive and thriving.  

We are really high-tech here, as well as having all the old-fashioned hand skills too. We think that you’ve got to embrace new technology and ideas and combine them with all the traditional skills too so as to continuously move forward. It's interesting that our jeweller’s benches and hand tools, are basically the same as they have been for thousands of years, but on a table next to them are high tech 3D printers and 4 axis mills.   

We can’t just be a nation of shopkeepers! We have to actually produce things. It’s so important to our economic survival and growth as a country. That’s why here at Stephen Einhorn we love designing and making fine luxury jewellery by hand in our Islington workshop.

View Stephen Einhorn's website here