A Review

John Donald












Freshwater Pearl and Diamond Brooch by John Donald

Changes in the presentation of the annual Goldsmiths' Fair are now stretching to the inclusion of tempting extra treats such as daily talks by experts, conversations and interviews with makers showing at the Fair, the chance to talk hallmarking with Assay Office staff, and the cream teas.

Among the stimulating recent add-ons are the Breakfast Talks, held at 9.30 before the Fair opens, and given by a range of personalities.  One of these was John Donald, celebrating the publication of his autobiography, 'Precious Statements', and complementing the display of his work in the large showcase at the entrance of the Hall.  His conversation was with Louisa Guinness, during which Donald spoke eloquently about his work and his career.  

He is now one of the remaining survivors of the generation of jewellery designer-makers whose careers were launched by the pioneering exhibition 'International Exhibition of Modern Jewellery 1890-1961' organised by Graham Hughes at the Hall in that year.  He spoke of his nervous excitement, as a young designer-maker, in taking part, and his recollections of the design of the exhibition setting.  As well as JohnDonald, the exhibition launched Gerda Flockinger and others just starting out at the time.  Donald's subsequent career – he is still working - included several commissions from Princess Margaret and other members of the Royal Family, and a very large number of Badges of Office for masters of Livery companies, heads of institutions and of city companies. These elaborate, heavy enamelled heraldic pendants on ribbons seem to have constituted a regular side of his work.

The display of Donald's jewellery downstairs showed a more familiar aspect of his work, in the delicate, colourful jewellery for which he is best known, and many of the pieces on show were specially commissioned. His style is characterised by a delicate, lacy quality, with diamonds and coloured stones nestling in open frameworks of gold either as wire or textured cast designs, or incorporated into flower motifs.  Sometimes he has developed special themes, such as honeycombs, or bunches of gold cubes, some set with diamonds or coloured stones.

His autobiography, written with Russell Cassleton Elliott and published by McNidder & Grace at £65, is available from Andy Peden Smith on +44(0) 7788 219370.

Other Breakfast Talks starred Geoffrey Munn, Joanna Hardy (ACJ Advisory panel member), Carol Woolton, editor of Vogue, gemmologist Edward Johnson and Hazel Forsyth, who organised last year's Cheapside Hoard exhibition at the Museum of London.  All were booked out, and questions and comments flowed at the end of each.


Muriel Wilson