Acclaimed Designer Lily Gabriella on Diamonds and What Inspires Her Work

By Sotheby's
Lily Gabriella is a London-based jewellery designer whose work is inspired by her passion for art and architecture. Ahead of her collaboration with Sotheby's Diamonds we spoke to her about what inspires her designs.
Lily Gabriella wearing white and grey diamond Damali earrings with hand cut green tsavorites from her own collection
Lily Gabriella wearing white and grey diamond Damali earrings with hand cut green tsavorites from her own collection

How did you get into jewellery designing?

I was lucky enough to grow up surrounded by beautiful jewels. My family are huge appreciators of art and design and both my mother and grandmother have a wonderful selection from some incredible designers. When I was young, I absolutely loved to dress up in my grandmother’s jewellery; there was an antique tiara of hers that was my particular favourite!

I always knew I wanted to do something creative, so studying art history and studio art, focusing on architecture/sculpture, which has now shaped my designs, was a natural decision.

You trained as a sculptor. Does that education feed into and influence your jewellery design practice?

Yes hugely; I actually designed the Spira ring for my final university project - to me jewellery is a mini piece of sculpture that you can hold in your hands and carry with you. I believe the front of a jewel should be as beautiful and considered as the back – as a 3D piece of sculpture would be.

Honeycomb Ring centring a Fancy Intense Yellow pear-shaped diamond weighing 6.12 carats

How do you begin to conceive a project? Do you start at the drawing board, or elsewhere?

It begins organically, often seeing a loose stone, or seeing an exhibition that I love. I would then think about the concept for a while before sitting down and sketching out ideas in my studio. I love the V&A Jewellery room and the stones room in the Natural History Museum. My studio is filled with objects and books that I love that also inspire me.

You have talked about travelling extensively and experiencing rich cultures from around the world, as well as maintaining a base and design studio in London. What is your biggest influence?

I love going back to Brazil for its vibrancy, colour, nature and of course the delicious food, but I’m inspired by art and architecture from around the world, and different cultures. I love seeing buildings from different periods of time, my favourite being art deco.

Who is the person that you have in your mind when you are designing a piece?

I always design pieces that I would love to wear myself but I do a lot of bespoke work so always have the client in mind – jewellery is of course an extension of someone’s style and personality, so it needs to reflect them, their lifestyle, and often the occasion. People with a strong sense of personal style excite me when designing jewellery. My mother has also had a huge influence on my personal style and I’m often inspired by her.

Is there a figure from history — or the present day — that inspires you the most?

Alber Elbaz – I was lucky enough to do an internship with him whilst studying at university at his studio in Paris, which was a wonderful experience. He’s full of life and watching him during his creative process was fascinating and inspiring.

Your collaboration with Sotheby’s Diamonds is a very contemporary take on timeless classic pieces — and with a strong emphasis on exquisite colour. What excites you most about working with these remarkable diamonds?

It is a privilege to work with such rare and precious diamonds; seeing such an awe-inspiring spectrum of natural colours is incredibly exciting. I love using colour; it is hugely important to me. Seeing such a precious form of colour in my designs is a dream come true.

Your work often uses traditional fine gems incorporated into bold designs and colour schemes, with very striking results. Do you believe in breaking the rules when it comes to design?

I don’t believe there should be rules in design! I love to use both complementing and contrasting colours in a single piece – it is interesting to be able to use unusual materials alongside the finest gemstones and diamonds. I enjoy creating statement yet timeless jewellery; pieces that are elegant but impactful and particularly the challenge of creating something new, experimenting with design.

Solar Cuff centring a 21.15ct oval-cut diamond

Which of your designs from this collection are you most proud of?

I couldn’t possibly single one out! I appreciate and admire the extraordinary craftsmanship that has gone in to each piece. I love being part of the whole process - seeing the designs come to life from a sketch into a finished piece of art/sculpture that you can wear!

Aside from this collection, are you working on any upcoming projects or commissions that you can share with us?

Yes! We are working on lots of exciting projects with my own brand LGFJ. I have some new collection pieces launching this year and I am also working on some very exciting private commissions.

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