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Once Upon a Jeweller - Kiki McDonough

By Kim Parker 3 Minute Read

Meet Kiki McDonough - a second generation jeweller whose collections are born to be worn.

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British jeweller Kiki McDonough has been designing her colourful, hand-crafted jewellery for four decades. Now based in Symons Street in London’s Chelsea, she established her business with a small concession in a friend’s boutique in 1985 and her designs have been worn by Princess Diana, The Duchess of Cornwall, and the Duchess of Cambridge. Here, she discusses how she got her start (despite initially thinking the jewellery industry wasn’t for her), what inspires her and why seeing people wearing her jewels every day is still a huge thrill.

Did you always want to be a jeweller?

I came into jewellery design relatively late in life. My family had had an antique jewellery shop for many years called Harvey & Gore, and when he was retiring my father, who was an expert in Georgian jewellery, asked me if I’d like to be involved. At the time, I couldn’t picture myself wearing all those heavy brooches and earrings with my tie-dyed Biba T-shirts, so I declined, and he eventually sold the business. It was only after I married, around the age of 30, that a friend approached me about designing some modern jewels for his shop near Bond Street and I thought, why not? I wasn’t intimidated by the idea because I’d spent my entire childhood surrounded by my father’s jewellery, so it didn’t feel like a huge leap. Three months later, I’d registered Kiki McDonough Limited and started sketching my own pieces.

How would you describe your first collections?

This was the 1980s, so you can imagine! I spotted an antique crystal brooch in my friend’s shop and got inspired. I designed some earrings with crystal hearts with diamond bows and found a manufacturer who could make them for me. That was it. Those earrings ended up on display in the Victoria & Albert Museum and I worked with that manufacturer for 25 years. We made a great team.

You’re known for your love of colourful gemstones. What inspires that?

They make you feel good. I think a colourful jewel can just brighten your whole look and your mood instantly. It’s why I love creating earrings: so you can wear that mood-lifting colour close to your face. I particularly adore blue and green stones, like peridots. They are enormously flattering, as are soft pink gemstones.

What do you think is the secret to your success?

I think it’s because I design things people really want to wear. My pieces aren’t wild, they’re pretty and fit into your life seamlessly. My Hoop and Drop Earrings, for example, are enormously practical. I designed the hoops first, and then created drops so people could dress them up or down without having to buy a new pair of earrings. They have been phenomenally popular for 20 years.

Do you have a favourite memory from your career?

There have been so many! Seeing the Duchess of York wearing my earrings when she got engaged was amazing. And the day Princess Diana came to one of my first boutiques, in Elizabeth Street, will live with me forever. But really, I love it most when I spot someone in the street wearing my designs. Or a woman might come up to me at a dinner and tell me that she got engaged in my jewellery, or that she just bought something for herself to celebrate a special occasion. Their emotional connection with my jewellery is what has kept me so passionate about designing for all these years. It’s what gets me up in the morning.

Explore the collections of Kiki McDonough here at Mappin & Webb online or visit us in store at one of our showrooms where our jewellery experts will be delighted to help you.

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