Charismatic and playfully bold, Solange Azagury-Partridge's baudacious baubles are an intoxicating mix of precious gems, quirky references and unexpected color.
After intoxicating with her fantastically fun, avant-garde mix of high and low gemstones, jeweler Solange Azagury-Partridge continues to bedazzle with her diamond-dusted liquid jewel fragrance, Stoned.
Solange Azagury-Partridge's outspoken jewels resonate with the same exotic purr as her name. In fact, after meeting the London-based, 44-year-old designer, it's clear that little stands between the elegant, shrewd spunk of the creator and her cleverly conceived confections. Audacious and quirkily fun, her thematic collections — such as Kinetic, a tactile series of jewels that spin, rattle and roll, or Cosmic, a range displaying out-of-this-world technique — are exciting chapters in a signature novel oozing with character, intrigue and intelligence. So much so that each new creation leaves you hanging, jaw-ajar, on the edge of your seat. Stoned, her latest endeavor and first signature scent, is an aromatic extension to her extraordinary Zodiac jewelry range. A heady mix of sweet candy, patchouli, bergamot and rose, the divine concoction (created by Lynn Harris of Miller Harris) is infused with diamond dust, "so that when you wear the perfume you are actually bejeweled and stoned," explains Azagury-Partridge.
Like her irreverent creations, Azagury-Partridge is the wise alterna-chick in the fine jewelry playground. Entirely self-taught, she sold word-of-mouth from home until opening her first jewelry-box of a shop in London in 1995. There she caught the attention of Tom Ford, who recruited her as Creative Director of Boucheron, where she injected the venerable jewelry house with her sparkly spirit for three years. Nominated for the London Design Museum's Designer of the Year Award, she received high honors in 2004 when Paris' Musée des Arts Décoratifs acquired several of her works for its permanent jewelry collection.
My definition of luxury:
"Luxury is whatever you want but don't necessarily need. Jewelry is luxury par excellence because it's not sustenance, you don't need it to live or breath, it's just something that you want."
If luxury were...
Elizabeth Taylor. When you think of her you imagine tiger skins and diamonds, all things warm and furry.
It would be under a starlit, moon-filled sky, by the sea with a warm balmy breeze, surrounded by all of the people that I love most.
My bed actually. Being in bed is a total luxury.
My bottle Stoned.
You have said that every woman one day wakes up wanting diamonds. When did that happen to you?
When I got engaged I didn't want a shiny, twinkling diamond so I designed a rough diamond ring instead. I was very anti-diamond for a very long time because for me diamonds were akin to the most popular girl at school: appealing on the surface, but not necessarily profound. Rubies and emeralds seemed more special for their compelling color, but they got a lot less press. I kind of talked myself out of diamonds and then one day, around six or seven years ago, my true feelings finally surfaced and suddenly my love for diamonds popped out and I became enamored.
You have very little formal training in jewelry design. How has your hands-on education influenced your designs?
I always like to try and marry a technique with an idea. I like to challenge myself each time. I don't craft the jewelry myself, but I have a team of wonderful artisans with whom I work. I know very precisely what I want and how I think it should be made. Sometimes, when you don't know how something is made, you can make suggestions that maybe the craftsperson wouldn't necessarily have thought of because they've been taught how to do things in a certain way. Often their expertise finds solutions to my problems. So it is a very big learning process.
You garnered much attention for your self-designed engagement ring. What, in your opinion, makes it so special?
My engagement ring was designed 20 years ago, and it has certainly become the icon of the house. I just love its organic nature and anti-preciousness. I wear it everyday. No one really knows what it is, and so it's my secret, I know it's precious.
Which of your designs mean the most to your personally?
My Kinetics, my Catherine Wheel spinner, my Poison rings, my Crop Circles — I have many favorites. I try not to make things that I don't truly love and adore. There's something very edible about jewelry and stones. You have to get quite close to smell a perfume or to see the details of jewelry. It's quite intimate. That's why black clothing is so easy, because the black makes you invisible and that way you just see the things that are important like your face, your hair and your jewels.
Your work has an interactive dimension that differs from the purely decorative aspect of jewelry design. How did you develop that approach?
I feel that jewelry has to mean something to the wearer; it has to have some personal symbolism. For me they are a bit like ladies' toys. I have endless hours of fun just looking at my jewelry and I hope that it's the same for other people. These spinning rings that I love are very tactile. They're almost like worry beads, something that you can play with. I love doing rings and bracelets because they're displayed on the one part of the body that you can personally enjoy. Earrings and necklaces are there for other people to see.
Do you see your collection as chapters within a signature compendium, or are they created as individualistic identities?
It's all part of an evolutionary process. It's just like the rough diamond that I began with; it's about the evolution of the stone, of my designs, and of myself. They represent things that interest me as I go along in my life. There's no grand master plan. I'm already working on next year's collection, which, strangely enough, is going to be diamonds.
How did you find the experience of creating a signature scent?
The day that I thought of the word 'stoned' for the fragrance, the whole idea of the diamond dust and the bottle design just synthesized in one moment. I just wanted it to be very womanly. When I get an idea it generally just comes all at once, fully-formed. The diamond dust explains the word stoned as well, because by wearing it you become stoned and bejeweled. I'm quite difficult when it comes to scents. I wanted it to compel me as much as the perfumes that I already wear — Chanel No. 5 and Guerlain's Shalimar. When the point arrived when I was able to wear Stoned everyday, for weeks on end, I knew that the scent was done.
You created a chandelier for Swarovski in 2005. Can we look forward to other interior designs from you in the future?
While I don't have any projects in the pipeline, I've done some interior designs and furniture for clients, and a velvet-covered safe for Habitat. It's always nice to have the opportunity to express myself in other disciplines.
If you could design anything, what would it be?
Something big, like a building. It would just be the perfect living space. In fact, I know, I've designed it already. I just need a plot of land.
Which designers, artists, creators, past and present have influenced you most?
As far as artists are concerned I quite like Goya, the Pre-Raphaelites, Da Vinci, and Luciano Fontana. In terms of jewelry design I think René Lalique was a total genius. I think Suzanne Belperron was incredibly clever. I remember when I was working in the jewelry gallery I used to love anytime we had something of hers. She did non-precious mixed with precious. And of course, I think Cartier of the 20s and 30s was gorgeous.