Theo Fennell: The Ultimate Precious Metal Wizard
Elegant, theatrical, indulgent — his fanciful flair in craftsmanship is the ultimate in luxury jewelry and silverware.
Imagine having a gorgeous dream. You’re running through a field of sparkling jewels dotted with buttercups of the purest gold. Sparkling bumble bees dance in the air around you, trailing all the colors of the rainbow from their wings. Now wake up and see your dream sitting on your nightstand in the shape of a ring you can slip on and wear with delight. This is the upscale, whimsical world of Theo Fennell.
Born for Conquest
Fennell was born in exotic Egypt to a military family and it isn’t surprising that one of his heroes is Lord Nelson who gallantly saved Britain from Napoleon’s invasion. Perhaps this was a foreshadowing of a soon-to-be master jeweler defending traditional British jewelry smithing from extinction. Fennell, although having been raised in an army atmosphere, emerged from childhood with an innate propensity for whimsy which would serve him very well later in life.
Schooled at Eton College, one of the most famous schools in the world, Fennell then chose art as a course of study, moving to London to attend Byam Shaw School of Art. It was here at age 20 he was struck by a thunderbolt named Louise; who charmed him at first glance. Even after an awkward first date his charm was compelling and she later became his wife of over 40 years.
After leaving college Fennell trained with Edward Barnard, a Dickensian silversmith in Hatton Garden. He was enraptured by the silver tableware and never gave a thought to the jewelry until he saw it being made. In an interview with The Scotsman from 2011 he explains, “I became so fascinated with it because of the techniques and how, in a comparatively short space of time, a drawing can become a three-dimensional, glowing, beautiful object. I found it endlessly fascinating.”
Whimsy for Sale
Fully inspired and ready to wield his own imagination, Fennell set up his own shop in 1982 in the Chelsea area of London. Word soon spread about the quirky genius combined with expert craftsmanship Fennell offered, and shops in Harrods, Selfridges, and Harvey Nichols came on the scene in record time. Whimsical yet practical products like solid silver jar lids, ketchup holders and French fry forks had universal appeal, complimenting the elegance of his jeweled cuff links and necklaces. No one else offered such an eclectic yet real world collection.
Design-Led, Not Trend-Fed
By putting the creative process in the center of his business philosophy, Fennell excelled in his industry becoming a leader in modern British design, combining classical pieces with at times provocative styling. Fennell’s workshop remains one of the few doing their own mounting, engraving, settings and smithing. What tradesperson wouldn’t want to work in such an ideal environment?
Loyalty and Dedication
Funny you should ask. Some of Fennell’s craftsmen have been with him for over 30 years. Dedication to his craft inspires not only loyalty but his whimsy is surely rubbing off as well. Fennell’s design mantra is exulting the quirky but not at the expense of the craftsmanship. To keep this mantra moving into the next generation he nurtures young talent by taking on apprentices, teaching the secrets of magical jewelry-making and keeping British craft alive.
Like Moths to a Flame
It wasn’t long before everyone from Hollywood celebs to rock stars were dripping with Fennell’s creations. Proponents of Fennell’s whimsy have included P Diddy, Elizabeth Hurley, and Ozzy Osbourne, who bought wife Sharon a diamond bauble to apologize for being naughty. Lady Gaga arrived at an Elton John soiree loaded down with Fennell masterpieces and Cheryl Cole celebrated the Pride of Britain Awards wearing one of his white gold diamond bracelets.
Not Broken? Don’t Fix It
There was a low point that inadvertently solidified Fennell’s business philosophy was correct. In 2008, the company Board of Directors ousted Fennell without warning. Thinking they could do better, they ended up losing millions of dollars the next year. Fennell returned shortly thereafter to bring his business back to its profitable glory.
The Future Is a Golden Bumble Bee
Fennell remains a creative force in British design, still upholding the proud traditions of jewelers past in his own inimitable way. No one knows what the future will bring. We can only be certain of flawlessly-crafted fantasy you can slip onto your fingers and toes; necks and wrists.Fennell’s pieces are the gift of a delightful genius, intent on originality and magic. He makes us want to peek into the workshop and watch as it unfolds.It is a wonderful wizardry, to be sure.
View more of Fennell’s dazzling creations at www.theoFennell.com.