Perfectly capturing the mood of freedom and excitement which swept Britain during the 1960s, John Donald designed 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.
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.
As a struggling designer, he worked with more affordable gold rods, experimenting with melting gold in water. His different techniques for making contemporary gold jewellery, was both geometric in motif, and organic, fluid-like in texture. His jewellery pieces are known to be three-dimensional, decorative designs of yellow gold, openwork patterns, and occasionally set with gemstones.
Donald's techniques and gemstone choices, nuanced his fascination with light, and its play on different textures of gold. His experimentation was joined by a string of fellow jewellery contemporaries, such as Andrew Grima. After WWII, these artists shook up tradition and brought creativity back to the forefront of their field. As Donald states, in the 1960s there was a "hunger for new designs". These ‘artist jewellers’ were imbued with a freedom to pursue themes through diverse new forms in design not influenced by the past, dispensing with tradition motifs for abstract often asymmetrical and geometric designs, using unusual colours. As a result, his contrasting and dramatic pieces were favoured by critics and fashionable women alike, including H.R.H. Princess Margaret and the Queen Mother.
Encompassing the late twentieth century ideals of glamour and modernity, John Donald went on to establish a successful business and an international reputation. Constantly travelling overseas throughout his career, he was one of the first jewellery designers to become inspired by the mecca of colours and light of the Middle East, prompting him to work with bolder colours. In turn, his international business soared even further throughout the 1970s
John Donald's designs and craftsmanship can be seen in the collections of the V&A Museum, the Schmuckmuseum in Pforzheim, the National Museum of Scotland, and the Worshipful Company of Goldsmiths. His jewellery pieces are owned by various Royal Families, heads of industry, and other design collectors.
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.