There’s never a dull moment in Sophie Harley’s London Notting Hill studio. To begin with, the atelier sits in a purpose-built block directly beneath the concrete underbelly of the capital’s busy Westway fly-over. Every so often, the constant rumble of traffic and London Underground trains is loud enough to gently jangle the ornate French display cabinets.
It is hardly Bond Street but Harley’s loyal followers don’t seem to mind. These include the actress Eva Green, for whom she created the intricate ‘Algerian Love Knot’ necklace in the 007 films Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace. But most of her work has a more personal ring to it and more so now with her new ‘up-cycling’ service in which existing designs — often inherited but never worn — are remodelled into modern investment pieces.
“It’s a hotbed of emotion in here,” says the designer, who has been in the jewellery business for nearly 20 years. “I’m like a taxi driver or a hairdresser — I get to hear everything and work on some unique commissions.”
For example, the wife who asked for her own wedding and engagement rings to be put on a necklace for her dying husband, or the nun who simply wanted a more stylish cross. And epic yarns about love and romance, of course. For Harley, making new things from old is the most fun part of her job. “I get to play the alchemist and recreate something gorgeous out of something someone had fallen out of love with and yet couldn’t let go of.”
Case in point: a selection of vintage brooches and granny rings that were crafted into the shape of a bumblebee for a new necklace. Harley can also sell any excess gold and silver to her reputable bullion dealer and credit this against the cost of the commission.
Suddenly, there is a knock at the door and there stands an Indian man with a suitcase. It is her faithful stone dealer with — in a very Bond-like scene — a case full of amethysts and pink quartz direct from Jaipur.
Never a dull moment...