By Michelle Graff
michelle.graff@nationaljeweler.com
Why didn’t I just get one when I was there?

But, no matter now; I’ll have a chance to redeem myself in a couple of weeks when the British designer returns to Las Vegas, exhibiting again in Stephen Webster’s Rock Vault at Couture.

Prior to the show madness, Belfield took the time to chat with me via Skype about her favorite gemstones, refining her collection for her second Couture show, other designers she admires and why she finds Las Vegas to be an otherworldly place.

Q: The word I would use to describe your jewelry is organic.
Imogen Belfield: It’s absolutely organic. That’s the core of the collection. Even in terms of the development … the process involved in creating the collection is organic.

Q: Can you tell me more about what goes into making your jewelry?
IB: Everything is made in house, in London. All the materials are sourced locally. It’s very much about utilizing local craftsmen in terms of the processes. I do a lot of mold-making, carving, sculpting in alginate--it’s actually what dentists make to use molds--and wax as well. A lot of carving techniques go into these metals.

I do lots of casting, soldering, annealing, interesting takes on stone setting. I might take a gemstone that might be anything from black diamond to topaz and I'll set it in a not conventional way--a weird or precarious angle, upside down, back to front–in a way that has a synthesis with the very organic nature of my jewelry.

 

[caption id="attachment_2287" align="alignleft" width="391"]Imogen-Belfield-necklace An Imogen Belfield necklace[/caption]


Q: Please tell me more about your background as a sculptor.
IB: From the age of about 13, that’s when I specialized in art. Everything I created was big, big sculptures cast in plaster or made using paper-mâché and big steel frame structures. I went to art school for a year when I was 18 in Cornwall, in southwest England. (Sculptors) Henry Moore, Barbara Hepforth, they were based there during their careers. As an area it’s got an amazing kind of artistic heritage. For me it was an amazing place to be and that’s where my sculpting took a turn into metal work. From the large metal work forms, (I saw) how that could connect to fashion and jewelry.

(After that) I trained for three years in London, did my BA in jewelry design.

Q: Have you personally always been a lover and wearer of jewelry?
IB: I absolutely was lucky enough to be sort of influenced by beautiful objects from my grandparents and handed down pieces, when they were still alive and since they passed as well. For me I was never able to wear a piece (just as it was given to me). If I was given a brooch I wanted to string it onto a gritty, chunky chain. I have this real love of dressing up whether it’s in clothes or jewelry. I was always looking at different ways in which you could take something so traditional and turn it into something new.

I also was very influenced by my dad. He’s got a big passion for antique silver. It’s that appreciation for something that can last so many generations [from] an era when things were less disposable than they are now.

Q: Is that why you like jewelry, because of its permanent nature?
IB: I think that’s also why I chose jewelry over fashion. There’s something about something that’s made out of molten metal. It will last ages, it will last years. If you look even back to Pompeii these are these beautiful brass coins and beautiful jewelry that survived; knowing it (jewelry) will still exist. It won’t be easily destroyed.

Q: Who are the jewelry designers you admire?
IB: I am a big fan of Shaun Leane. I love his work. Kara Ross, I love her collection, love her use of the big gemstones, and also Alexis Bittar. He’s been really, really clever with his use of gemstones but there’s still an element of fashion jewelry about him because of the scale and because of his use of resin and color. He’s got some work … in London. I love checking him out and seeing his latest work.

[caption id="attachment_2289" align="alignright" width="377"]Imogen-Belfield-ring One of Belfield's rings[/caption]

Q: What materials you are working in now?
IB: I love working in palladium. I also work a lot in 22-karat gold because it’s got a lovely softness and I much prefer the color, (plus) silver, rose gold and then I’ve done some sort of big sculptural fashion pieces, one of which I am going to bring to the (Couture) show. It’s made in bronze and copper chain, 22-karat gold but the vast majority is all hand-sculpted bronze. It’s going to be half the weight of my entire luggage.

I am also working in precious stones as well--black diamonds and smoky quartz. I love the smoky kind of brown, gold-colored tones. They set off my jewelry well. They also retain that rich, organic, nuggety look.

Q: Last year was your first trip to Las Vegas. What did you think?
IB: It’s wild. It certainly left an impression. It’s like being transported to another planet because you are surrounded by desert you feel like you are in this fantasy-land bubble and you just have to immerse yourself and just go with it and embrace it.

Q: What will be new from you at the Couture show this year?
IB: It’s still going to be what I call the English Rock Garden in Vegas. It's still going to have the organic look but with more use of gemstones, like the smoky quartz and the black diamonds. It’s going to be (more gemstone intense).

I guess that’s something I learned from last year. The press really took to the jewelry because it’s so photogenic and it’s so bold. Buyers loved it also, but they wanted to see something like that but perhaps a little finer for their market. It’s still going to have the same style but with the introduction of more precious stones and slightly finer.

Q: By slightly finer do you more delicate or incorporating more precious materials?
IB: More delicate but also with the introduction of more gemstones. It’s still going be rock-esque but more delicate bracelets with sort of finer nuggets and drop earrings and maybe a few … chain headpieces as well.

Q: What will be the retail price points at this year’s show?
IB: My main line will be the same, retail starts at around $150 up to around $3,000. The fine collection will be the next tier above that, $300 entry point up to around $5,000. I don’t want to lose my customers, even though I know it’s important to find a new audience as well. I don’t know want to alienate them.

[caption id="attachment_2288" align="aligncenter" width="345"]Imogen-Belfield-earrings These earrings are among the new pieces Belfield will bring to Couture this year.[/caption]

Q: How many doors are in you in the United States right now?
IB: I’ve got two main stockers, Flat 128 in New York. The other stockist is Reinhold Jewelers in Puerto Rico.

Q: Do you have a goal for the show?
IB: Definitely. I really feel like last year, it was the introduction. I feel like it’s so important to show your brand for a second year. It shows you’re serious, you’re not going anywhere. For me it’s meeting with my existing stockists and hopefully following up on all the amazing contacts I made last year. I have my wish list, I have stockists in my mind I would love to work with.


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