Heart of Darkness

Jeweler Hannah Martin channels vagabonds and villains in her latest collection. By Christene Barberich
hannahmartin_portrait2It's no longer just your boyfriend's big cozy parka you ladies will be pilfering. Designer Hannah Martin has created an entire line of jewels ingeniously intended for sharing and swapping as well as stealing.
Martin, who studied at London's Central St Martins, has more of a penchant for old-world, big-ticket statement jewels than any fragile, girlish charms of late. Designing against the current, Martin instead channels a dangerous quality into her fine pieces, turning them into what seem like beautiful badges of honor as opposed to simple talismans. Sterling spiked cufflinks, gleaming polished shackle cuffs, gem-studded rings, and weapon-worthy knuckle dusters all turn up as signatures…and those pearls for guys? Adorned with a perilous spike, they're definitely tough enough.
We spoke with the young London-based designer to find out how she draws the beauty from her fine and wicked works of art.
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When did you start designing?
When I got to art school in 1999. Before that I did design, but didn't actually realize I was doing it.
Did you study jewelry specifically?
Yes, at Central St Martins [in London]. I actually didn't even know jewelry was an option until I did my foundation course. We did a 3-day module on jewelry, and I fell in love.
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Your pieces reveal a real paradox of street smarts and high-style…was that approach intentional?
The idea came during a period working for Cartier. I was spending my days designing these incredible pieces of fine jewelry for women and my nights hanging out with friends in Paris watching beautiful boys play rock 'n' roll in grimy bars. It suddenly seemed clear to me that I should combine the two parts of my life.
People that are into jewelry have such an emotional reaction to it…why do you think that is?
The materials and their potential are endless, and it's exciting to know that you are creating something that someone will treasure forever. Jewelry is timeless—and each piece builds its own history and stories over time, becoming incredibly personal to its wearer. It feels amazing to know you are providing the beginning of this.
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Name some influences…
Designers Rick Owens, Hedi Slimane, and Stefano Pilati, 1930s Cartier and gangster films of the same period; musicians are endless, from Mick Jagger and Bowie to Marianne Faithful and Meg White. Nick Cave is one of the coolest men alive.
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Tell us about the current collection&hellip
It's all about pirate gold and ill-gotten treasure for men with dark secrets. Jewelry for the wild and untamed! It was inspired by villains and vagabonds, the dark-hearted, the fierce and glamorous! The huge shackle bangle with orange sapphires is the anchor of the collection and personifies what I do. It's heavy, yet elegant with dark connotations, based on the shackles used in old prisons of the 1900s.
What materials do you like working with best?
Gold is my passion. It's beautiful to work with.
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Okay, tell us your current theme song, in the studio or otherwise…
Right now I'd say 'Get It On' by Grinderman, a song called 'Angelina/Zooma Zooma' from the Casino soundtrack, no idea who it's by, or 'Just Like We Breakdown' by Hot Chip.
For information and availability, go to www.hannah-martin.com. Various pieces are also available online at www.ninaandlola.com.
Jeweler Hannah Martin channels vagabonds and villains in her latest collection.
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