Your News: My new jewel in the crown

Goldsmith Matt Powell at work in his studio at Crown Jewellers in Bourne

Goldsmith Matt Powell at work in his studio at Crown Jewellers in Bourne

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Jae De Wylde of Morton is the bestselling author of The Thinking Tank and Sleeping People Lie. This month, Jae loses a diamond from her engagement ring but turns that misfortune into something to treasure thanks to the work of Matt Powell at Crown Jewellers in Bourne...

‘Let us not be too particular; it is better to have old second hand diamonds than none at all’ - Mark Twain.

It was a wet winter’s afternoon when Martin, my husband, drove me away from my latest book signing. It had been a great day and I had thoroughly enjoyed meeting lots of folks, chatting and having the pleasure of signing copies of my novels for them. As I bundled my cardigan around me, I felt something catch on the wool. And there it was: the mournful hollow where my solitaire engagement ring had once boasted a sparkling diamond.

Yes – I do know that I was very lucky to have that diamond in the first place, and that it really was just an object – a small matter in the greater scheme of things. But Martin, being a romantic sort of chap, had proposed to me at the top of the Empire State Building and we had gone and bought the ring there and then – in a shop opposite Tiffany’s as that was the closest we could come to affording something in a pale blue Tiffany’s box; wonderful memories of a moment in time. But there it was – gone. Everyone searched in vain but smaller than the proverbial needle in a haystack, the diamond was not to be found. And worse still, it was considerably underinsured. So that was that – or so I thought.

‘Why not use the stones from the ring you’re allergic to?’ said Martin one day. He had bought me a white gold ring for my 50th birthday when we were living in the Middle East, only to discover that it quite literally burnt my skin. ‘Great idea,’ I replied. We grabbed the ring, together with my grandmother’s wedding ring and the sad husk of my engagement ring and set off into town. We had several times admired some of the designer pieces in the window of Crown Jewellers and decided to make that our first port of call. We needed to look no further and there it was that Matt Powell transformed my sad loss into a truly meaningful treasure.

So how was it that at 22 years of age, Matt had the ability at his fingertips to design and create something so special from the motley gathering of jewellery I placed in his hands? I decided to go and find out what makes this talented goldsmith tick and whether jewellery had always been an inevitable part of his life:

‘Yes, of course Crown Jewellers is the family business,’ began Matt, ‘but I had no idea I wanted to be a goldsmith until about five months before I started my apprenticeship. Up until then I had my mind totally set on joining the RAF as aircrew or as an engineer. I’ve always been hands-on in everything I do and I have a passion for creating things so designing and making is all I have ever really considered doing in the trade. I enjoy talking to customers about their jewellery but I can’t imagine just being a retailer. There are plenty of retailers out there but a jeweller in the real sense of the word is something quite rare. I was traditionally trained as an apprentice, in an elite jewellers’ up in Scotland very close to Glasgow. Being an apprentice is, in my opinion, the only real way to learn this trade – hands on sat behind the bench dealing with customers’ pieces, and if you mess up you soon know about it! Especially from the master goldsmith sat next to you! I’ve had pieces that I have worked on for many hours smashed in front of my face for being 0.2mm wrong. This soon teaches you accuracy.’

But surely, if Matt’s passion is to create fine pieces, would he not rather be an artist, exhibiting his work for sale rather than making to specific order? ‘It’s hard to say which I prefer,’ admitted Matt, ‘and I’m rarely one to sit on the fence. In one respect, I love creating things from my own designs. I know exactly what I want from a piece, and to see that piece going from a quick sketch on paper to a finished item is something I will never tire of. Especially since a lot of my designs are things most people will have never seen. I like to create modern unique pieces, but traditionally made with the highest of finishes and infinitely wearable. My main style is using strong, bold coloured gemstones accentuated with diamonds. On the other hand, to be able to sit down with a customer, to delve inside their own imagination and prise from that a piece of jewellery they have only dreamt of is fantastic. I have customers coming to me from around the country with an idea in their heads never expecting it to become reality but within usually about eight weeks it’s there on their hands or around their necks; it’s very rewarding.’

I tried to coax an amusing anecdote from Matt, but to his credit he kept schtum and answered coyly, ‘I can’t think of one that would be suitable to go into print!’ Instead I asked which designs have in particular given him pleasure to create and smiled when he offered my own as an example. ‘The ring I made for you (and I’m not just saying this!),’ said Matt, ‘took a massive amount of accuracy to make and is a real testament to what I can produce. I’d never made a channel set ring before so to make one with graduating baguettes down the shoulders was a real challenge and the accuracy needed – a graduation of .35mm over 26mm – with hand tools is not easy! And the whole story around it and the element of 22ct gold I added from your grandmother’s ring just made this piece a definite one to remember. The second piece that stands out is my John Dyer pendant.’ Matt added, ‘To be given the opportunity to work with a stone cut from one of the best cutters to have lived is a great experience and it was an honour to be able to produce this for the shop. Not only is the stone cut by John, but also, all the stones are set by Tony Tigg, a former crown jeweller, who set the stones for Princess Diana and now the Duchess of Cambridge’s ring. So that is a definite favourite as it’s a combination of two of the world’s best plus me! 

Although the links with John Dyer are relatively recent, he has already put an image of Matt’s work on his website as a part of the John Dyer Design Gallery. Matt now has two of his stones in stock and plans to continue adding more. ‘I talk to customers extensively about John Dyer’s work as I admire it greatly,’ said Matt. ‘The way it’s done follows my own ethos of creating something totally different yet executed very accurately and with great skill. John has produced a couple of videos available on youtube , which highlight the difference between a well cut and badly cut gemstone – a very useful tool when talking to a customer about his work. His website is also very useful and great for customers to be able to see the wide variety of pieces he produces. We are able to obtain any of these pieces for customers as this superb craftsman has agreed to let us stock John Dyer cut stones.’

So how ambitious is this jeweller from Bourne? I asked. Unsurprisingly, Matt has plenty of ideas for the future: ‘Ambition is something I tend not to lack in,’ said Matt. ‘There’s a quote by Michelangelo – “The greater danger for most of us lies not in setting our aim too high and falling short; but in setting our aim too low, and achieving our mark” – it pretty much sums up how I feel.

“I am, for a jeweller, still quite young at 22, but this is a good thing as I have time to grow as a goldsmith and really try to set myself apart on a big level.  

“I am no fan of CAD CAM jewellery (computer aided design and manufacture), which is getting very widespread these days. My main goal currently is to open up a series of boutiques that will all carry the Crown Jewellers’ name and to continue to stand for highly accurate well-made pieces created totally by hand.’

If Matt’s ability to realise his own dreams is anything like his ability to realise those of his customers, there is little doubt that we shall see the glittering windows of those boutiques in the very near future. Let’s hope Martin has started saving for my 60th!

Fancy a little of Matt’s sparkle? Pop into Crown Jewellers on North Street in Bourne to share your ideas with Matt or visit www.crown-jewellers.co.uk for further details. View Matt’s piece on John Dyer’s website at www.johndyergems.com.