Designers / Industry

Theo Fennell on Writing, Designing, and Resuming His Title as King of Bling


For Theo Fennell, 2022 has been a year to look back and to look forward. In 2021, he bought back his brand from investors, and in 2023 he will celebrate his 40th anniversary in jewelry.

So, it seemed like the ideal time to ask the venerable London jeweler about his newly relocated flagship boutique, his recently published book, and what else he has been working on during what some might call a series of years like no other.

Fennell is likely best known for creating bespoke jewelry and silverware. His work is created for people “who really love and appreciate great artistry and craftsmanship,” Fennell says in an email interview with JCK. Plus, these customers are his kind of people in that they also “get a buzz out of knowing it is really theirs and not one of thousands.”

“I believe that really good jewelry should be intensely personal and suit its wearer and there should be real depth to it rather than just a passing fashion,” Fennell says. “These pieces of jewelry or silverware should be acquired and collected as fine art, not like buying a handbag or a new sound system. They are permanent reminders of your character and style.”

Theo Fennell inside
The interior of the Theo Fennell retail store in London shows off the fine jewelry, bespoke pieces, and home ware the longtime jewelry designer is known for across the globe.

Fennell’s business story has more ups, downs, and turnarounds than an episode of a soap opera. Getting it back has been a highlight of his life, Fennell says.

“This is a company that I have been attached to and in a trade that I love for over 40 years in. It never fails to fascinate me, and I find new ideas and possibilities all the time,” Fennell says. “Given the freedom of ownership, I wanted to return it to its most creative self after quite a few years of buffeting and other owners’ attempts to pull it their way.”

Coming back into the business, Fennell also moved the store to London’s prestigious Chelsea Barracks. Fennell says it is a much more personal space—he describes it like a gallery to view his existing work and to talk about what’s being made next.

“The studio and workshops are integrated and our customers can see the work being created either by being here or, if they are abroad, view it virtually with us as we talk them through it,” Fennell says. “We are also able to render designs far more faithfully nowadays so they can more easily understand where their commission or a new piece is going.”

Fennell says he thinks the pandemic put people in the right mindset for coming to the kind of jewelry he likes to make as well.

Theo Fennell Bangle
Theo Fennell specializes in one-of-a-kind pieces like this black opal koi bangle in 18k white gold with black opal, fire opal, diamonds, and aquamarines in a watery, dreamy koi pattern ($57,800).

“There is a huge groundswell of interest and movement among customers toward really well-made and individual pieces, and lockdown has given people the time to get involved in the process of jewelry and having pieces made,” Fennell says.

“Especially there is a return to viewing great jewelry as an artwork and not just an accessory, which will change the status quo and allow more independent and original designers the chance to shine and their businesses to thrive.”

He personally took time during the coronavirus shutdowns to put pen to paper for the first time, sharing his first book, I Fear for This Boy, a collection of stories from his life from the bumpy beginning to his current success, wearing the crown of the King of Bling, as some call him proudly.

“It was written during lockdown, when I had some spare time each day, as a collection of stories to amuse my family and a few friends. A series of disasters from my earlier days written as cautionary tales and for laughs,” Fennell says.

Theo Fennell snake brooch
Snakes are a frequent theme in Theo Fennell’s jewelry, and this 18k white gold and rainbow snake brooch is a prime example. It features sapphires, rubies, tsavorites, and diamonds ($19,200).

“I found it both rewarding and entertaining to do and, writing them much as I would tell them, easy to do. A friend sent it to a publisher and, hey presto, he published it. If it entertains a few people and shows them what not to do, I will be happy.”

As far as what’s next, Fennell says he hopes to do “a big retrospective and contemporary exhibition soonish,” which he says will publicly feature many of the bespoke pieces of his last four decades in the business for the first time.

“I think it is worth pointing out that we don’t spend millions on advertising or ‘branding’ ourselves, as we like our work to stand for itself and the recommendations of our customers and patrons do most of the rest,” Fennell says.

“We love to remodel and reconceive old pieces for people so that it becomes wearable yet keeps the original materials and the sentimentality,” Fennell says. “We continue to experiment with new materials and techniques and use unusual and little-known stones. We have always been more interested in the beauty rather than the worth.”

Top: Theo Fennell spent the pandemic working on new jewelry as well as writing a book about his life, something that has been a wonder of more than four decades of designing and creating masterful work (photos courtesy of Theo Fennell). 

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Karen Dybis

By: Karen Dybis

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