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An Interview with William Welestead

-by Caroline Mason

The British jewelry designer William Welstead did not take the most conventional route to discovering his love for precious and unusual stones. Rather than diamonds or emeralds, it was the fossilized shark teeth that he collected with his brother along the English coast that first caught his attention. These early treasure-hunting experiences later evolved into a passion for more exceptional stones during his travels to Nepal and India in the nineties.
Welstead studied gemology in London but he says that it was the dealers of the diamond markets of Bombay and the colored stone market in Jaipur that really fine-tuned his understanding of the stones. When it comes to creating a new piece it is always the stone that informs the design, not the other way around. “I take great care to find amazing stones,” he says. “I don’t want to overwhelm them with design.”
TIINA the STORE is excited to announce that we will be hosting our 3rd trunk show with Welstead on July 1st & 2nd. To celebrate we have asked him a few questions about the inspirations and techniques that go into the creation of his original pieces.

 

What is the creative process like when you're designing a new piece for your line? 
My inspirations come from many different sources. I am especially interested in the evolution of the different cuts of diamonds throughout the ages. I have read widely on the subject and visit many museum collections, auction houses and dealers to see antique jewels. Most recently I went to see the incredible Al Thani collection of Mogul jewels at the Grand Palais in Paris.
I buy rough diamonds in India and try to re-create these shapes with the diamond cutters there. I do some drawing but I generally prefer to communicate my ideas in the workshop by word of mouth. Amongst the pieces in this collection I have made a necklace in 22-carat gold, which I call a rice chain. This was made by shaping a piece of silver to the shape of a grain of rice, having it cast in 22-carat gold, and then experimenting with different lengths and different finishes for the gold.

What does a typical day of work involve?
No two days are the same. It’s about the small details such as the way a certain piece is polished or making the right clasp for a necklace. It is incredibly satisfying when these details are just right. I am always traveling, looking for stones or talking to gem dealers about what they might have for me, viewing auctions, visiting stonecutters and experimenting with new techniques.
How has your signature style evolved over the years?  
If anything my work has become more pared back over the years. I take great care to find amazing stones and I don’t want to overwhelm them with design. There are a few recurring themes: I use a lot of flat stones, which sit close to the skin. I like incredible natural colors and antique stones and favor 22-carat gold or platinum for contrast of color and texture with the stones.
How do you go about sourcing the stones that you used in this collection? Do you have any memorable experiences from traveling for work or inspiration?
I tend not to have pre-conceived ideas of what I am going to buy but some of the stones I see will really jump out at me. I am always amazed at the journeys the stones make from the mine to the finished piece of jewelry. For example, some old Colombian emeralds in India have found there way to Goa with Portuguese dealers in the 17th century. Collecting the stones for this collection has taken me to Bombay, Paris, Munich Geneva and London.
I have had so many unforgettable experiences when traveling: extreme monsoon rains in Bombay, hiking in the Himalayas, an earthquake in Rajasthan, delicious vegetarian lunches with an emerald dealer in Jaipur surrounded by monkeys on the telegraph wires. India is full of color and is an extraordinary combination of progress and tradition that I find very appealing.
What are your favorite things to do in Amagansett and about working with TIINA the STORE?
Amagansett is wonderful. I love the bay at Napeague or going to Montauk. I like the beautiful farm stands selling fruit and vegetables. Eating lobster rolls is always a highlight.
I love hanging out with Tiina at the store and absorbing her Nordic wisdom. Tiina has a very good eye and really knows jewelry so it is a great honor to be working with her. She has a very interesting group of clients and I really enjoy seeing them and meeting new ones.

 

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