Beauty by Design: Polly Wales
The eponymous jewellery designer talks finding beauty in the unexpected
There aren’t many brave enough to gamble with diamonds - but for Polly Wales, the British-born jewellery designer known for her rough luxe aesthetic, a Russian roulette style of setting stones has become something of a signature. Mindful of both people and planet, her designs are handmade in-house by trained artisans, using ethically sourced stones and an unconventional casting method to imbue every piece with a timelessness far less transient than seasonal fashion.
Having launched her eponymous label back in 2010, the British born jewellery designer was quick to corner the market with a unique ‘cast-not-set’ approach; manipulating diamonds, rubies and sapphires into wax, then casting them into 18-carat gold for an unpredictable finish. Her unorthodox process ensures every piece is a one-off - a treasure to be marvelled as further eccentricities emerge through the metal over time. “I wanted to make jewellery that feels more approachable, more human,” she explains. “When I put on a piece of jewellery that is classically perfect it never feels like it fits with my skin, my life and how I live in myself.”
Wales grew up in London and spent most of her childhood in the garden, digging up clay and moulding it into unique forms. She went on to study sculpture at University, then Jewellery Design at London College of Art. Unlike her peers, Wales found herself breaking away from traditional methods, enjoying the risk and volatility of lost wax casting. “Trying to work around restrictions and create more complex forms is really challenging and inspiring to me,” she tells us. “Working directly with wax and stones, rather than in gold, or on paper allows for directness and spontaneity, which makes the process more gestural and fluid, like painting.”
To me it’s important to make jewellery that ages well. We strive to maintain a classic quality to our work - a timelessness that makes it less transient than fashion.
Wales settled in Gloucestershire with her husband and two children not long after establishing her line. But, itching for adventure, she uprooted and moved to LA just over three years ago - securing a studio in Downtown’s Jewellery District. “Looking back, I can see it was a crazy thing to do but the move has given me so much creative freedom,” she observes. “I really couldn’t have comprehended the difference in the work I’m making now. It feels like an explosion of colour and scale and energy. The sunshine pours out of it and it feels playful and vibrant and very alive.”
For Wales, it’s all about the evolution, exploring the unknown and trying new things – but despite this drive for innovation, there’s a timelessness to her designs. “To me it’s important to make jewellery that ages well,” she says. “We strive to maintain a classic quality to our work - a timelessness that makes it less transient than fashion.”
Wales is fearless and instinctive to her core, yet she’s more cautious when it comes to clothes. “I have a ‘fantasy wardrobe’ that’s made up of my secret untapped style potential,” she says. “It’s full of Peruvian embroidered skirts and sequin rainbow jumpsuits, giant mohair sweaters and the most fabulous collection of jewellery. In reality, I’m at the bench making and designing most days, so my mohair ain’t too big and my jumpsuits don’t have sequins.” Something’s gotta give…