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Romilly Saumarez Smith & Lucie Gledhill, Jewellery Makers

November 15, 2013
by the gentle author

Romilly Saumarez Smith & Lucie Gledhill

Sequestered in a cavernous old house in Stepney, two women work together to make jewellery under the name of Savage & Chong, combining their mothers’ maiden names to create a new identity for themselves. “We chose the names because they sound good together and it’s a bit of both of us.” revealed Lucie modestly, yet I discovered that the nature of their work reflects their different life histories in complex and unexpected ways.

“I used  to make jewellery but I was no longer able to do it when I became paralysed,” confided Romilly with startling candour, “Yet, after a four or five year break, I was persuaded I should try to find someone I could work with closely and make jewellery again.”

We were sitting in an eighteenth century panelled room, painted in tones of red sandstone, as the Winter sunlight streamed in at a low angle and I realised I had entered a private world in which these two women pursued their activities with a quiet intensity, forged from a unique working relationship.

“We met two years ago,” continued Lucie helpfully, explaining how she began by remaking pieces of jewellery that Romilly had made as a way to advance their shared understanding.“What was exciting was that when Lucie made something and showed it to me, it felt like I had made it,” interposed Romilly, widening her eyes in wonder at this revelation. “We do things in the same way,” admitted Lucie simply, confirming the intimate rapport they discovered as jewellery makers and, consequently, as human beings.

“I still go through the process of making it in my head,” outlined Romilly, justifying her title as a jewellery maker,“Because I’ve done it myself, I understand a lot of techniques – but Lucie has refined my work and made it better.”

Lucie trained as a jewellery maker and graduated from the Royal College of Art in 2009, whereas, for Romilly, the journey was more circuitous. “I never trained as a jeweller, I spent most of my life as a bookbinder, so I didn’t have any formal idea of how things should be done, I made it up,” Romilly confessed to me, “I was bookbinder for twenty-five years, then I started using metal as bosses and clasps, and I really enjoyed it. I learnt to solder and made a pair of copper earrings, and I was so excited, I decided to take a sabbatical from bookbinding – but once I started making jewellery, I didn’t want to go back.”

“We’ve set ourselves rules,” announced Lucie, introducing the jewellery they have created as Savage & Chong, “everything we do is handmade and everything we do is made here. Everything is silver or gold and it is not plated or cast.”

There is a subtle undemonstrative beauty to this work, which plays upon varied tones of silver and gold enhanced by oxidising or heat-treatment – while the forms evoke both the natural world, of seedpods and shells, and the paraphernalia of textiles, threads, buttons and lace bobbins. Rather than jewellery for display, these are pieces designed to give enduring pleasure to the wearer, discreet keepsakes to cherish.

Neither Lucie or Romilly would have made this work alone, it is the outcome of their combined sensibilities, abilities, judgement and experience. “I felt a great determination not to give up my life which I loved, and I still do,” Romilly assured me. Yet, in winning back her art, she has boldly ventured into a new creative territory with Lucie and it gives their work a distinctive quality that is unique and compelling.

Woven Ring

Lucie Gledhill

Buttoned-up ring

Cluster pendant

Tattoo Ring

Romilly Saumarez Smith

Portraits copyright © Lucinda Douglas Menzies

8 Responses leave one →
  1. November 15, 2013

    Such beautiful photographs. And such delicate sensitive jewelry.
    Thank you.

  2. November 15, 2013

    A fantastic duo and beautiful items. You can buy some of them here at Wilton’s Music Hall too!

  3. John Campbell permalink
    November 15, 2013

    Wonderful portraits!

  4. Cherub permalink
    November 16, 2013

    The woven ring is very beautiful.

  5. Richard Savage permalink
    November 17, 2013

    Thank you so much for this excellent appreciation of an extraordinary duo. Romilly is my sister and I am so proud of her.

  6. Mara Cantele permalink
    November 18, 2013

    What a fortunate and harmonious partnership! The jewellery has a wonderfully ancient or timeless feel about it – refined but uniquely handicrafted. Stunning , simple pieces – quite treasurable! The photographic portraits are lovely, too.

  7. February 4, 2015

    I was one of Romilly’s students many years ago and I can never thank her enough for teaching me the meaning of beauty and simplicity. Her jewellery is as beautiful as her books. Romilly was one of those inspiring teachers and looking at theses photos gives me such joy. Thank you Romilly for creating such beauty.

  8. Graham Stevens permalink
    March 17, 2015

    I was not unfortunately a bookbinding student of Romilly’s, but of Edgar Mansfield for a period of 6 years. I gave up bookbinding when I was 33, and now at I am trying to bind books again.

    I am trying to bind books with very little obvious design or decoration features. Currently I am using Sun Evrard’s Simplified Binding, but keep running into technical problems. I am interested to learn something more about Romill’s use of the hollow back in segments, with backed joints and an open joint.

    Can you give me an hour of your time? Graham Stevens

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