For the series Downton Abbey, Andrew was commissioned to produce many jewels for the main characters, and this inspired him to create a talk based on Downton and the changing styles of the time portrayed. Jewellery and Fashion are often seen as two entirely separate and distinct fields of design, but this is very far from the case. In his talk Andrew guides you through the extraordinary periods and events between 1890 and 1929, where the great fashion houses collaborated with the finest of jewellers to produce works of art of outstanding quality and glittering opulence. Along with this he discusses the clients and patrons who commissioned the jewels and how they were worn with the sumptuous gowns.
Andrew Prince has had a passion for the jewellery since he was a small child. In fact his enthusiasm can be traced back to the time when, at the age of three, he swallowed his one of his mother’s pearl earrings having found her jewel box hidden from him in a cupboard. The very first piece of jewellery he created was a ring made of copper wire pulled from the back of a television. He presented it to his grandmother (it turned her finger green and gave her a rash). He then created a necklace for his mother using beads taken off her wedding dress (she was not at all happy).
In August 1980, two weeks after his 16th birthday, Andrew started work in London’s Bond Street, working for The Antiques Roadshow expert Ian Harris. Under his guidance, Andrew developed an appreciation for jewels that were valued for their quality of design and craftsmanship, rather than for how much the stones in the piece were worth. He then joined the renowned contemporary jeweller Elizabeth Gage and worked with her on the design and production side. Through her and her private collection, Andrew was able to see and handle rare and extraordinary stones with names such as Sphene, Andalusite, Spinel and Dioptase, many of which are far rarer than diamonds. Elizabeth Gage was to have an enormous influence on Andrew’s sense of what was possible within the realm of jewellery design.
Andrew’s taste for fine ‘costume jewellery’ can be traced back to an antique market, where he came across a late Victorian brooch set with what he initially thought were emeralds and diamonds. They were, in fact, crystal and green glass set in silver and gold. He realised that beautiful jewellery didn’t require expensive stones, and that it was the elegance of the design and the quality of the workmanship that truly mattered. Private commissions then started to trickle in. The trickle turned into a flood, as celebrities such as Michael Jackson (a large crystal and pearl shoulder jewel) and Shirley Bassey (necklaces) were seen wearing Andrew’s creations.
In 2002, the V&A commissioned a collection of jewels to accompany the resplendent Tiaras, Past and Present exhibition which became one of their most popular exhibits. The exposure gained by the show then led to Andrew’s jewellery appearing in film. In 2005, he was asked to make tiaras and jewellery for Mrs Henderson Presents starring Judy Dench. In 2009, pieces were commissioned for The Young Victoria starring Emily Blunt and Miranda Richardson. In 2012, he was chosen by the creators of Downton Abbey to supply a large collection of jewellery for the third series. The characters played by Maggie Smith, Shirley Maclaine, Elizabeth McGovern and Michelle Dockery were all adorned with elegant tiaras, combs, earrings and necklaces designed and created by Andrew Prince.
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