About William Welstead
I have always been obsessed with rocks. As a small boy, visiting the Suffolk beaches, I was an avid collector of Baltic amber, cornelian and pebbles with holes in them. I collected all sorts of rocks, fossils and minerals. My father encouraged me in these endeavours with regular trips to the Geological collection at the Science Museum and a geologists hammer. Even now I rarely miss an opportunity to pick up an interesting stone in the landscape.
I travelled a lot in my twenties and on a trip to Kathmandu in Nepal I started to see some of the local stones of the Himalayas; spinels, tourmalines and aquamarines. I was hooked and wanted to learn more. I studied gemmology in London.
One day I was looking for diamond beads and Fred Leighton, the legendary New York jeweller, introduced me to one of the great Indian diamond dealing families in the Opera House District in Mumbai. I called them and a week later I was on a flight to India. I started to make regular trips to Mumbai and Jaipur to buy characterful Indian cut diamonds and coloured gemstones. I have a particular interest in old cut diamonds and since India was historically the first source for diamonds it was the natural place for me to go.
I work with a fourth generation diamond dealer and his family in India who has a very imaginative and unconventional approach to cutting diamonds and uses techniques long since lost in Europe. Wherever possible I will buy antique diamonds which will often have imperfect proportions but an incredible charm and light about them. I especially seek out Dutch rose cut diamonds from the 17th and 18th centuries and search for these and other gemstones with dealers throughout Europe and Asia. I love visiting the great historic jewellery collections of museums such as the Victoria and Albert in London, the Louvre in Paris or the Schatzkammer in Munich.
I don’t recognise traditional gem hierarchy; I choose stones only for their beauty and charm. Sometimes this will mean a diamond that is asymmetrical, or a sapphire with natural inclusions but of an incredible colour, or a wonderful luminous old moonstone. Sometimes the most beautiful jewel is a simple polished sapphire pebble used as a bead. Every jewel starts with a stone which speaks to me in some way. I only use natural untreated jewels as I consider stones to be a gift from nature. Coloured stones have been part of my jewellery life from the very beginning. I love the jewels of the Maharajahs and Nizams of Mughal India which use Colombian Emeralds, Burmese Rubies, Sapphires, Spinels and natural pearls among other gemstones.
I design simple sculptural settings that allow the beauty of the stone to shine through. I make jewellery to be worn and to become part of the wearer. It gives me great pleasure to see a client wearing one of my rings all of the time. Craftsmanship is very important to me and sometimes a piece will be made more than once before I am satisfied with it. Each piece is hand made in England. My workshop makes a small number of pieces each year which includes a number of bespoke pieces.
I enjoy meeting with clients to work made to order pieces and to show them a world of possibilities away from the conventional norms of commercial diamond engagement rings.