In his half-century as a working jeweller John Donald has been feted as an idealist, a pioneering designer, and as a craftsman. Part of a select group who revolutionised jewellery design in the early 1960s, he went on to establish a successful business and an international reputation. His work captures the late twentieth century ideals of glamour and modernity. Born in 1928 John Donald attended art college as a compromise between sport and university. He studied graphic design at Farnham, and in 1952 he was offered the chance to enrol in the Metalwork Department of the Royal College of Art. This change of direction was essentially a pragmatic one, as he was keen to experience London. But he soon discovered an affinity for working with metal that would shape the rest of his life.
At college John Donald shared digs in Chelsea with fellow metalwork students Robert Welch and Gerald Benney. All three friends would later become famous for their silver and jewellery designs. However it was several years before he could establish himself as a jeweller. He entered five pieces in the seminal International Exhibition of Modern Jewellery 1890-1961, held at Goldsmiths’ Hall, and by 1964 he could number Princess Margaret and the Queen Mother among his patrons.
John Donald’s designs perfectly caught the mood of freedom and excitement which swept Britain during the 1960s. Using simple materials such as gold rod and uncut crystal, he created expressive, abstract pieces free from the conventions of shape and style which had constrained earlier jewels. He was one of a small group of craftsmen whose radical entries to the International Exhibition ushered in a new era of modern jewellery.
We are delighted to be offering several exciting pieces by John Donald in our forthcoming auction of Select Jewellery & Watches taking place live online on Thursday 22nd October.