India Mahon has just had jewellery collection commissioned by Fenwicks in York and London. Catherine Scott reports.
It was her flamboyant grandmother who first instilled in a young India Mahon a love of coloured jewellery.
Growing up in Harrogate, her parents travelled a lot as her father was an artist, so India would spend a lot of time with her grandparents.
“My grandmother, Maebelle, who probably changed her name from Mabel to sound more glamorous, was my inspiration. She was really into amateur dramatics. She used to have jewellery to match every outfit,” she recalls
“I would spend hours sifting through her eclectic mix of Indian hand-embroidered silks and sparkly theatrical costumes. I would adorn myself with my grandmother’s pearls, wander the Yorkshire Dales with my grandfather loaded with jewellery and at least one handbag.”
Although she was a very creative child and studied art to A-level, she was encouraged to follow a more academic path, first following law – ‘which I hated’ – and then English and history of art .
But it wasn’t until she hit 40 that she decided to follow her passion.
“I had worked my way up in a branding and marketing agencies and travelled a lot – I was probably abroad more than I was at home and was doing very well.
“But I suddenly realised that if I didn’t follow my heart and become a jeweller then I probably never would.”
Always having a passion for Indian jewellery, it was while visiting Rajasthan in the 1980s that a specialist jeweller and family friend taught India the art of jewellery-making.
She started by making simple silver earrings and it wasn’t long before she realised this skill was her passion but at that time not her profession. She went on to work in Paris and London and in 2013 she had her lightbulb moment.
It was then she decided to live the dream and set up her own studio and workshop selling handmade, ethical contemporary jewellery in the tiny village of Stow-on-the-Wold in the Cotswolds.
But India was eventually drawn back to her Harrogate roots and in 2018 opened the doors to her luxury boutique in the very fashionable Montpellier Quarter.
“I have always loved the Montpellier Quarter and so when a shop came free I just jumped at the chance. Every day I am invigorated and inspired to grow my business and my brand. I love my job,” says India whose Londoner husband has learnt to love Yorkshire as much as his wife.
Her entire philosophy is focused on the exceptional quality of her ethical precious and semi-precious gemstone jewellery and her personal service.
All her jewellery is made by hand at her studio bench next to her shop. The sourcing and authenticity of the gemstones as well as the recycled gold to make her bespoke collection are all Fair Trade.
“I hand-pick my suppliers who I know are 100 per cent genuinely fanatical about the provenance of the ethically-mined gemstones.”
India offers a custom jewellery design service, working with her clients to create a truly special and personal piece of jewellery.
She also works collaboratively with them to remodel family heirlooms into contemporary everyday jewellery, breathing new life and repurposing precious vintage pieces.
“Clients come to me with gold jewellery they have inherited that has probably been sitting in a drawer and they want it redesigned so they can actually wear it.
“It’s not just about the quality and integrity of my design, it’s the step-by-step journey I take with my clients. Once the jewellery is sculpted, it’s the mutual satisfaction of producing that unique ‘forever favourite’ piece which is so important,” she adds.
“I find that most of my customers are ladies and I make sure that they aren’t rushed. It is an emotional decision buying a piece of jewellery and not one that should be rushed. For me it as much about the experience as anything else.
“I draw my inspiration from gemstones and shapes from my collection of vintage silk textiles. My design trademark is a fusion of east meets west, prime opulence, contemporary simplicity, using vibrant-coloured, authentic gemstones set in precious metals.
“I love the romance, the colour and above all the graceful gesture of these wonderful classic fabrics, my earrings and necklaces offer that same silk-like movement to all who wear them.”
Her work has recently caught the eye of a leading luxury department store. She has been commissioned by Fenwick to create an exclusive Boutique collection for both their London and York stores.
“I was approached by Fenwick’s jewellery and accessories buyer as they were looking to have more local artisan businesses into their regional stores,” says India. “But when she saw my work she said as well as York she wanted to put in straight into the Bond Street store.”
The commission meant that India had just six weeks to design and make the collections, each with more than 25 pieces in.
“The York collection was tricky, as their was a lower price point, starting with a ring at £45 and going up to £500, but Bond Street was much higher and so I could really let my imagination run riot.”
Prices in the London store start at £300 and run to nearly £4000.