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Jewelry Expert

Award winning Jewellery design in the heart of historical York. Here at House of Powell anything is possible. James has over 20 years in the industry and with new state-of-the-art computer aided design and manufacturing equipment in house he can design your perfect piece of jewellery. From beautiful bespoke commission pieces to remodelling your old, tired, broken or unworn jewellery and turning them into stunning, wearable creations for future generations to treasure.

The Story So Far…

James started his jewellery journey at the young age of fourteen. His next door neighbour at the time was a pawn broker and knowing he was good at art and design, set him the challenge of making some jewellery from a bag of scrap and broken pieces. Along with a tools and materials catalogue and with the enticing offer to sell the pieces in his shop, James set to and did exactly that.

This initial foray into the world of jewellery sparked a deeper interest and James enrolled on the Jewellery and Silversmithing evening class at York College. Knowing then that this was potentially a future career, and with techniques and finished pieces under his belt, GCSE work experience was around the corner so he enquired in one of the working jewellers in York city centre to see if they would be willing for him to do two weeks work experience. They fortunately agreed to do it and also offered him a Saturday job. This was very exciting, and James jumped at the chance.

At TCJ Designs, under the very talented tutelage of owner Carl Johnson, he worked at the bench every Saturday and throughout the school holidays, honing skills and learning the craft, repairing customers jewellery and helping to make bespoke custom pieces.

On finishing his A-levels at Bootham School, James applied for university and was offered a place at the prestigious London Institute Central St Martins College of Art and Design on the BA Jewellery Design course. So off to London he went. With the skills and knowledge he had acquired through working at the bench, the design aspect of the industry was more intriguing and over the following two years he refined the necessary skills.

After two years in the ‘Big Smoke’ James returned to York where he took up his old job with TCJ Designs remaining there for eight years. In 2007 he entered the ‘Tanzanite Foundation, Celebration of Life International Design Awards’ competing against jewellery designers and manufacturers from over 20 countries. He won the ‘Rising Star’ category with his Hummingbird necklace. Beautifully created by the team at TCJ the necklace was sent off to America for the awards ceremony, a lavish evening hosted at the world-famous New York Public Library, which the whole team attended.

Four years later James won the Lonmin Design Innovation Award as an ‘established designer’ with his ‘Persephone’ hairpiece: an elaborate interchangeable design in platinum. Inspired by the ancient Greek Goddess Persephone, the main section featured a comb on the reverse to pin into the hair. The other two sections, one a summer piece featuring flowers carved from rock crystal and tzavorite, and the second representing the sparseness of winter with diamonds, clip on top of the main section of the hairpiece to create three individually outstanding and striking looks.

When James entered the same competition the following year, he was , in place of an award, offered a designer’s position by one of the judges – Stephen Webster. After a year based in London working for both Stephen Webster and Garrards, giving him a fantastic insight into how big fine jewellery brands operate, it was back to Yorkshire once more!

The return to Yorkshire led him to start work at Townsend Fine Jewellers in Wetherby. Initially starting back at the bench in their on-site workshop he soon took over the designing and the CAD (computer aided design) design of the bespoke custom jewellery for their clients and new stock pieces for their two showrooms, in Wetherby and in Wakefield. 

In 2018 he entered a design into the Goldsmith’s Company Craft and Design Awards under his own business, House of Powell, which won the Gold Award in the CAD Presentation Category for his ‘Splash Ring’. This complex design featured moving parts and rippling rings of diamonds and enamel.

Continuing the previous year’s success, James won the gold award in the 2019 Goldsmiths Awards, again in the CAD Presentation Category. This year’s brief was to design a piece of jewellery with more than one purpose or function. James designed his ‘Birds of Paradise (Ear)Ring’; a bright anodized aluminium and 18ct white and yellow gold pave set ring representing a Bird of Paradise, which can be unlocked and split in two, to reveal hidden earring fittings in the tail that can be worn up or down the ear.

In early 2019, Townsends closed its doors on the retail side of the business. This gave James the opportunity to focus on his solo business venture, House of Powell Fine Jewellery. While this seemed like a relatively easy task, it quickly became apparent that premises were required amongst other things! A fortuitous conversation with his old school, and close friend Lotte, owner and curator of Lotte Inch Gallery, they decided to combine forces and set up a new creative home for both businesses. With a perfect spot available next door to Lotte’s original Gallery they set about the creation of Fourteen Bootham. Some considerable work and a lot of painting saw this space transformed from a rather rundown, tired looking storage space into the bright and airy creative hub it is now.

This new home is where James now designs beautiful bespoke commission pieces and  remodels customers old, tired, broken or unworn jewellery, turning them into stunning, wearable creations for future generations to treasure.

With the launch of his first solo, full collection, ‘Black and Gold’ there are pieces available to suit all budgets and tastes. James has taken inspiration for the collection from a variety of sources from architecture to nature, oriental design to rock and roll. The striking designs use the most modern techniques with 3d printed precious black resin teamed with luxurious 18ct yellow gold plated sterling silver. The majority of the pieces are also available for order in silver, 9 and 18ct white, yellow and rose gold. 

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