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The Jewellery Designer Who Sets Stories in Stone

By Marisa Xin

The founder of the eponymous fine jewellery label Jessica McCormack believes in creating wearable, versatile pieces that last.
 
Courtesy of Net-a-Porter
The founder of the eponymous fine jewellery label Jessica McCormack believes in creating wearable, versatile pieces that last.

Since its inception twelve years ago, the fine jewellery brand Jessica McCormack has remained highly coveted for its heirloom-inspired gems. Worn by the likes of Rosie Huntington-Whitely and Meghan Markle to Victoria Beckham, its popularity with notable figures is only a small aspect of the cult-like admiration the brand draws. For McCormack, the founder of the eponymous label, the design inspirations behind each collection intertwine with rich heritage, referencing traditional stories of culture, from Maori tattoos to Chinese fortune-telling. A composite of contemporary elements and traditional craftsmanship, along with the balance of modern features and vintage-like intricacy is what lends her jewellery an unparalleled, unequivocal style. Just as the label is her namesake, the line between brand and founder is hard to distinguish as her heart and hand are permeated across the collections.

Surrounded by various objets d'art from a young age, the London-based diamond jeweller recalls the influence of her father, who was an auctioneer, and the beginnings of her passion for jewellery design. “He would bring home such special pieces and incredible antiques — he loved things that brought joy, but most of all he loved the stories that objects could tell. He really taught me everything I know about the appreciation of beauty,” says McCormack. “And then when I was a teenager I started buying boxes of jewellery at auctions and just spent time playing around with it all, transforming it into something new, I think that’s where my love for designing began.”

Now, the label has launched a pop-up exclusively with Net-a-Porter which lasts until 28 November, featuring some of its most prominent collections that include “Ball n Chain”, “Tattoo” and “Wings of Desire”. “Her designs seamlessly fit into the modern women’s wardrobe whilst at the same time creating heirlooms for future generations,” says Elizabeth von der Goltz, the global buying director for Net-a-Porter.

Here, T Singapore speaks to McCormack on her design process, her insights into the fine jewellery industry climate, and her future plans for the brand.

Courtesy of Net-a-PorterLeft: Jessica McCormack Ball n Chain short necklace and diamond pendant, Chi Chi rose gold and diamond necklace. Right: Jessica McCormack Chi Chi double row diamond necklace.
Left: Jessica McCormack Ball n Chain short necklace and diamond pendant, Chi Chi rose gold and diamond necklace. Right: Jessica McCormack Chi Chi double row diamond necklace.

Your jewellery pieces are known for its heirloom-inspired designs peppered with a modern twist. How do you balance these polar aspects in the design process?

I want pieces to feel cool and modern, to have a sense of humour to them, to be fun. But I will always root these ideas in traditional craftsmanship, because I respect it so much — and that’s where the balance lies. It feels very unique to us.

What were some of the most intriguing aspects of antique jewellery that you wish you recreate in your own designs? Why? 

What’s most important to me is that I design pieces that my clients will actually wear, that they will keep falling in love with and that become part of their wardrobe. In terms of inspiration — I’m so lucky that I live in London, and that there’s so much culture here. I also watch a lot of films, read a lot of books — we have a library here in our Townhouse that I’m constantly returning to.

Prior to starting your brand, you worked at the jewellery department of Sotheby’s. How do you think your experience has impacted your perception of jewellery or the industry?

It was just such a learning curve for me, and I was around these amazing experts who could impart so much of their knowledge to me. I’m still so glad that I had that opportunity. It’s also where I met my business partner Michael, so it truly shaped the career I would go on to have and that I’m so lucky to enjoy now.

In the current era when jewellery brands are coming up with fine-jewellery options to meet with the fast-changing trends, why do you think it is important to create pieces that are able to be passed down generations?

I think it’s the notion that these pieces are more than just jewellery. They hold stories. And I love the idea that these stories can be passed through generations — they have the ability to live on where we don’t. I also think that, in a world that is obsessed with consuming, creating pieces to last is deeply important. 

Courtesy of Net-a-PorterJessica McCormack Tattoo New York diamond earrings and Tattoo diamond and white gold bracelet.
Jessica McCormack Tattoo New York diamond earrings and Tattoo diamond and white gold bracelet.

How did your relationship with Net-a-Porter begin?

There’s a real synergy between the two brands, and it’s something that’s been in discussion for a long time  — but it was important to wait for the right moment. Elizabeth has such a brilliant vision for the fine jewellery offering on their site — I feel proud to be a part of that with my pop-up. 

Why do you think it is important to expand your brand to e-commerce platforms?

Net-a-Porter are the absolute experts in online shopping, and for my brand to be offered some of that expertise is incredible. Through [them] we have the opportunity to reach a wider audience, and that’s hugely important to us as we know that the desire for Jessica McCormack collections is global. 

As a businesswoman and a mother, do you have any tips for a balanced lifestyle?

It’s all too easy to feel guilty when you’re trying to balance home life and running a business. But I am lucky that I have a great team here at Jessica McCormack who help me to do that. We’re twelve years old now, and over time we’ve brought an amazing group of people together — between us we make sure that our clients get the service they deserve, and that we all manage to give our home lives the attention they deserve too. 

Is there anything you are working on currently? Are there any details on exciting upcoming projects you are able to share?

I’ve collaborated with Emilia Wickstead on a pearl and diamond collection — which is a first for us at Jessica McCormack! I have been so excited about this collection as it’s inspired by me and Emilia’s shared New Zealand heritage — and that feels really meaningful. I also have a collection launching with the artists The Haas Brothers, who have been friends of mine for a long time — which I cannot wait for my clients to have access to. Both of these collections came together during the lockdown, and so they feel even more special because of that.