NAJ News

Meeting The Creatives: Shaun Leane

05 May 2020

Meet the Creatives Header Master

Belinda Morris talks to designer Shaun Leane to discover his jewellery story.


Belinda: How did your jewellery life start out? Was there anything else you ever wanted to do?

Shaun: From a young age, I knew I wanted to work within fashion. Before I left school aged 15, the careers officer suggested that I undertake a foundation course in jewellery design until I was old enough to go to fashion college.

I attended Kingsway Princeton College and began a Foundation Course in Jewellery Design and Making. It was here I particularly fell in love with the process of crafting – it was the first time in my education I felt I had found something that gained my devoted attention. The beauty in seeing something I’d designed and envisaged then being formed and crafted by my own hands was so rewarding. Then my journey began and even at college I wanted to explore different possibilities of design and technique to push the boundaries of my designs.

After this, I began my career as a traditional goldsmith and so the traditional jewellery making process is something that l am naturally passionate about and still take great pleasure in to this day. I worked with two masters – Brian Joslin and Richard Bullock – who taught me everything I could ever possibly need to know about goldsmithing. One taught me technique and attention to detail, and the other one taught me speed. I had the best of both worlds and remained working there for 13 years. I learnt every element of the craft, down to working on diamond solitaires and tiaras. I also restored some of the most beautiful antique jewels, from Art Deco to Art Nouveau, Victorian to Edwardian. 

If I didn’t work in the jewellery industry, my plan B would have been to work in television. I have been fortunate enough to have done some television work through the medium of jewellery, like the Cheapside Hoard on BBC4. Who knows what’s to come next – watch this space!

Shaun Leane yellow gold vermeil and diamonds Crossover earrings-NAJImage: Yellow gold vermeil and diamonds Crossover Earrings (left), Silver Hooks (right)

Belinda: When did you start making and selling jewellery commercially? Was it direct to the consumer – ie bespoke work – or to the trade?

Shaun: Whilst I was working as a goldsmith, in 1992 I met Alexander McQueen who asked me to make jewellery for his catwalk show. After a series of collaborations with McQueen, a London department store called me and said they wanted to have my work in their Jewellery Room.  They couldn’t believe when I said I didn’t have a collection – so that was it! In 1999 I created my first range named ‘Signature’; the inspiration was based on the first catwalk piece I did for McQueen which has remained our signature since.

That same year I started the House of Shaun Leane to create one-of-a kind designs that will inspire future generations of goldsmiths. Our aspiration is to create something new, precious and eternal. We believe in designing beautiful objets d’art with longevity, and at the same time, distinctive and with a sense of timeless elegance.

As of 2020, my designs and collections are sold online and at major retailers in the UK, Europe, Middle East and the US. We also have a flourishing bespoke business in which I have clients from British royalty through to an array of celebrities.

Shaun-Leane-IRERE PORCUPINE QUILL EAR CUFFS-NAJImage: Shaun Leane with Porcupine Quill Ear Cuffs

Belinda: What was the inspiration for what you were making? Do you have a muse?

Shaun: My original inspiration was the strength and fragility of nature. The tusk was one of the first pieces I made for McQueen that is still apparent in my current collections. This silhouette resembles a beautiful part of nature – an elegant line that portrays the statement of power and protection.

When I first began my first collection, the woman I had in mind was that of a romantic warrior. She is feminine, elegant, sensitive but yet strong, confident and daring.

Shaun-Leane-JAWBONE-NAJImage: Shaun Leane Jaw Bone collection

Belinda: What is your design/business ethos today?

Shaun: I design with an intention to tap into human emotion. When somebody looks at or wears my work, I hope for it to trigger a part of them, an emotion, a memory or a feeling of confidence, love and joy. For me, that is the beauty of jewellery – it’s a constant memory of the journey. Coming from a goldsmithing background, we celebrate our heritage of using traditional jewellery techniques, while constantly pushing the boundaries of luxury jewellery design.

I love the idea that jewellery will remain and be treasured forever. There is something very romantic about that, the stories and sentiment behind a piece; to know that it has been greatly treasured and loved through generations.

683 Shaun Leane white gold and rose gold Interlocking Duo ring with diamondsjpgImage: White gold and rose gold Interlocking Duo ring with diamonds

Belinda: What would you do differently (if anything!) if you were starting out now?

Shaun: If I were to start again, I would take advantage of the intern process that wasn’t available when I began and would embrace it. To be an intern and work across different companies within a sector is an incredible learning opportunity. Be it fashion or jewellery, my interns learn so much about how to run a business across all different elements. It is such valuable experience that can shape someone’s career and business.


Belinda: What are the key lessons that you have learned? What advice can you give to jewellery designer-makers starting out…

Shaun: On a creative level, Lee [Alexander McQueen] always taught me that if you have a skill and apply it to any medium then you can create beauty. From [being] a classically trained goldsmith he challenged me to think outside the box and apply my skills to a different medium to create the pieces we did. He gave me a creative platform on which there were no boundaries, allowing me to use my craft as a vehicle to express my ideas and to grow to be the designer I am today.

On a business level, the advice I would give to new jewellery designer-makers starting out would be to explore, embrace and learn from the intern possibilities. In addition to this, I would recommend doing a small part-time business course, as sometimes a creative can be blinded by the light of creativity and underestimate the importance of business knowledge.

Shaun Leane Sabre BraceletImage: Shaun Leane Serpents Trace Bracelet

Belinda: Covid-19 aside, how important is on-line and social media for your business?

Shaun: Online and social media are the fastest-growing channels of our business. Both are crucial to our House, as it’s a global window to our work.  Social media is a channel that I enjoy, as it allows us to bring our collectors on the journey where we showcase the inspirations, the making and the final product of our collections.


Belinda: And how are you keeping busy during lockdown?

Shaun: I have always been an artist of evolution and reinvention in my work. These challenging times are allowing me to have space without noise – to focus on projects and collections I have wanted to tap into for a while. I can truly say I am still designing my best work despite the situation we are facing.


Image: Shaun Leane Coil Corset

Find out more about Shaun Leane


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Source: The National Association of Jewellers