John Donald never planned to become a jeweler, but conquered this conservative world with his rebellious jewelry in a matter of days. With him, the favorite jeweler of the British royal family, a new era in the history of design began.
Jeweler by coincidence
John Donald, the most famous goldsmith of the second half of the 20th century, a revolutionary in the field of metalworking and a trendsetter, became a jeweler quite by accident. His father was a professional golfer, his mother predicted a great fate for his son. He studied for a while at Farnham Art College and planned to become a graphic designer. But in 1952 he was offered to transfer to the metalworking department of the Royal College of Art in London, where there was a constant shortage of students.
He liked the new specialty, he quickly made like-minded friends, graduated from college with honors and … started developing men’s glasses and suitcases – for the sake of money.
In 1960, at an exhibition at Goldsmiths Hall, he presented to the public five of his experimental gold brooches with unconventional surface treatments. It was a stunning success. Four years later, Princess Margaret was among his regular clients.
How did John Donald win their hearts?
Since the Goldsmiths Hall sensation, he has been hailed as the man who literally changed jewelry design. A regular visitor to the Museum of Natural History, he was one of the first to use “natural” crystals in combination with precious metals, bringing back the fashion for baroque pearls. At the beginning of his career, his budget was very limited, and this is what gave rise to the recognizable style of the designer.
He managed to get hold of some gold “rods” and “tubes” of small diameter and began to experiment by cutting them at different angles. This is how his iconic geometric brooches, assembled from small cubes and prisms, appeared. In search of new forms, the jeweler poured molten gold into cold water – this is how gold “beads” and “bowls” appeared, which he soldered to each other to get an unusual texture. At the same time, he always said that the material is secondary. Design is always at the forefront. Motives John Donald preferred bold, expressive, abstract – in the spirit of the times.
Surprisingly, the experimenter John Donald worked hard to create emblems, badges and medals – for example, for the caretakers of the Goldsmiths Hall gallery.
John Donald is not alone in his love for “natural”, raw materials.
John Donald traveled extensively, both as a tourist and as a businessman. He absorbed the beauty of the countries he visited. For example, a three-week stay in Kuwait in 1971 literally saved him from bankruptcy during the next crisis. However, he also loved the fruits of the Victorian era – heavy, dramatic brooches with amethysts.