Gilian Packard was one of the jeweller/designers at the vanguard of redefining jewellery design and craftsmanship during the 1960s. Following the post-war austerity years of the mid-20th century, Packard contributed to the exhibitions at the now famous 1961 International Exhibition of Modern Jewellery 1980-1961, curated by Graham Hughes and the Worshipful Company of Goldsmiths, in Goldsmiths Hall London, while still a student. The exhibition set out to promote new design in what had become a rather stagnant industry, creating pieces of modern design for the modern world.
Born in Newcastle-Upon-Tyne in 1938, the unusual spelling of Gilian's name with one ‘l’ she attributes to her fathers spelling mistake when registering her birth. She went on to study at Kingston School of Art, Central School of Arts and Crafts and the Royal College of Art. Rather than setting up her own shop in London she chose to disseminate her pieces to jewellers throughout the UK, preferring the broader reach this gave her jewellery; and working to specific commissions for loyal clients. Though she had a workshop of craftspeople, she kept a keen eye on everything and had a hand in the process throughout.
There is something undoubtably other-worldly or celestial about Packard’s designs, famous for using rough geodes, like many of her contemporaries, she shunned the use of traditionally luxurious or expensive gemstones, using diamonds only as a secondary accompaniment to highlight the principal stones. This stunning amethyst brooch (illustrated above) could easily have landed here from a Martian land, or perhaps have been brought back by Neil Armstrong and his crew from that first lunar landing in 1969. Made in 1971, it was a modern piece, for the modern woman. Colour was important to Packard’s work, as was form, texture and geometry. Her pieces remain to this day extremely tactile and very wearable. In this brooch, even the gold seems to take its form from the texture of the amethyst geode.
In 1969 she was made chair of the British Brach of the World Council for Applied Arts, travelling the world to promote British craftsmanship, and in 1971 she was made the first female Freeman of The Worshipful Company of Goldsmiths in recognition for her work.
Despite her bold and beautiful design aesthetic, Packard herself wore very little jewellery, just her wedding band and emerald engagement ring. Her work features in many public and private collections, including her interlocking engagement ring, which can be found on permanent exhibition at the Victoria & Albert Museum, London.
Lyon & Turnbull's team of jewellery specialists’ - including gemmologists Ruth Davis and Charlotte Peel - extensive knowledge and experience of the current market provides the essential combination for the successful sales of both modern and antique jewellery; from fine Edwardian and Victorian pearls, through classic diamonds, sapphires, rubies and emeralds from the houses of Cartier, Boucheron, Bulgari and Tiffany, all the way to the outrageously decadent designs of Grima and the understated, elegant works of Jensen.
RUTH DAVIS | HEAD OF JEWELLERY & SILVER, SCOTLAND