Jessica McCormack’s Victorian townhouse looks like a tasteful private residence in London’s posh Mayfair district, but this address happens to be home to some of the most elegant and versatile jewelry in the city—or indeed any other. “I love the idea of people coming into a home where they are inclined to slow down and think about selecting a piece that has meaning to them,” McCormack says.
Any visitor to her house-cum-showroom would be tempted to take a cup of tea in the book-filled living room, relax in the rear garden, or ponder a profusion of curiosities and artworks by such luminaries as Ryan McGinley, Louise Bourgeois, and the Haas brothers. “The jewelry will outlive us all,” she says, “even our children and grandchildren, and I like to think of it as part of someone’s life, marking an event or occasion.”
Although McCormack’s pieces are certainly significant enough to commemorate life’s milestones, they are also sufficiently unpretentious and can be worn with jeans and a T-shirt. One necklace, for example, displays its 20 carats of important round diamonds in simple, softly shaped gold settings reminiscent of the Georgian era—a treatment that lends the stones a quiet sparkle compared to the icy effect produced by today’s standard prongs. McCormack, a 33-year-old New Zealander, came to appreciate vintage techniques while working in Sotheby’s London jewelry department. The craftsmanship of estate pieces convinced her to imbue her own designs with such period touches as the combination of platinum and yellow gold and the use of darkened gold, both of which were popular in the Victorian era.
Her career at Sotheby’s came to an end six years ago, when she left her position to open a small studio in Clerkenwell. She soon attracted the attention of the stylish international set—including Rachel Slack, a member of the Oppenheimer diamond dynasty, who went on to invest in McCormack’s business, and Michael Rosenfeld, a third-generation diamond dealer who also invested. McCormack has a flair for transforming the austere beauty of diamonds into something enchanting and mysterious, and she has access to some exceptional stones. McCormack uses old-mine cuts, which have fewer facets than modern cuts and so give off a softer glow, as well as more opaque stones, such as off-color diamonds, which she uses to lend subtle charm to, say, a large diamond ring. A playful sensibility informs many of her creations: A gold bracelet and ring, for instance, resemble grosgrain ribbon, while a daisy-shaped ring’s petals wrap around the finger, and diamond-studded earrings sweep up the ears like wings. Prices range from about $3,000 for a simple ring to more than $1 million for a multi-strand diamond necklace.
Today, bespoke commissions account for nearly half of McCormack’s work. Many clients, she says, are men purchasing gifts, and she goes to great lengths to personalize their experiences. She sometimes unveils a newly created commission by concealing it in the large, 1940s-era safe-deposit box on the main floor of the townhouse and giving the recipient of the gift a key to retrieve it. Discovery, after all, is the raison d’être of the boutique, which is the only retail location where McCormack’s designs are sold. “We live in a time when everything is available everywhere,” she says, “but I want the house to be a destination for people visiting in London—the only place in the world where they’ll find my jewelry.”
Jessica McCormack, +44.207.4919.999, www.jessicamccormack.com