When South African jeweller, Kevin Friedman, was paging through a magazine and saw Queen Elizabeth wearing his jewellery, he says that he was literally freaked out!
Kevin Friedman is the seventh generation from a distinguished line of South African jewellers. A true artist in his own right, Kevin is a multi-international award-winning jeweller, artist, and jewellery historian. With a unique design perspective, Kevin Friedman believes that jewellery exists to give pleasure to both the wearer and the observer. Known for pushing boundaries, his jewellery collections have featured the inclusion of various alternative materials, from wood and old ship parts to computer components, and collectable antiques, all of which are set beautifully amongst precious metals and exquisite gemstones.
Congratulations on having one of your pieces commission for Queen Elizabeth. What was your first reaction when you saw your piece being worn by Queen Elizabeth – and did you recognise it was your work immediately?
I thought ‘that’s pretty; it’s not something predictable that she usually wears; that looks like something I would make; hold on it has my signature line; no I’m just imagining it move on….. so I started reading the article and I was like YES that’s MINE!!!!
What was the brief and how did it influence the inspiration behind the piece it was commissioned?
I was briefed it was for an elderly spouse of a statesman that the parliament wants to give an appreciation gift and I must design a piece of jewellery possibly a brooch and as brooches are one of my favorite jewellery items I dove straight in and ‘googled’ the national products of Botswana and it was listed as cattle, millet and diamonds. I thought it through and just drew a ripe grain head on its leaves, they asked me to colour it in and forgot about it.
How do you design for someone if you don’t know who they are?
Jewellery for me is a very intimate object so my design process is very interactive and I work very closely with the person either wearing or commissioning the treasure; I always request some photos of the person to be able to zone into their individual style! That being said my client is a very confident woman so if I’m designing for stock or a competition I always try to keep it strong and show my passion.
What materials did you use, and how long was the design and manufacturing process?
I used recycled gold and the diamonds were all custom cut to fit the drawing in the exact proportions. The design process was a few days but then I was given 3 weeks to manufacture the piece once it was approved.
Are we allowed to ask what it cost to make – and how much its value has increased since being worn by Queen Elizabeth?
Price is all relative, I was compensated for the design and manufacturing process I was happy and they were happy. The reality is that provenance really is the true value of a piece of jewellery and with the history of this piece as a presentation from the heart of Botswana to the love of the Queen and her family would increase the value of the item more than 100-300 times.
What other celebrities have you seen wearing your work?
I have been very fortunate over the years to dress people like Jerry Hall and Joan Collins to Charlize Theron and have collaborated with amazing people like Carolyn Steyn; the Zulu Queen and Elana Afrika.
What trends are you seeing in jewellery design that you think are relevant?
I actually think that we are living in really interesting times there seem to be new discoveries of gemstones or new uses for old gemstones so the boundaries of design are much wider. With the international increase in crime a whole new category of ‘safe Johannesburg jewellery’ has emerged which opens the opportunities of design.
Is there anyone specific who you would like to see wearing your work?
My heart always sings when I see someone wearing my creations because they are all part of my journey and if someone is wearing it, it is a valuable facet of their lives.
Is there anyone you would rather not see wearing your work? 🙂
It’s really important for me that the person wearing my treasures are comfortable in them so if the piece is wearing them then I would rather not have them intimidated by the designs.
Final question what are your favourite things to do in Jozi when you want to unwind?
Its a bit crazy but I’m involved with 67Blankets for Nelson Mandela day which has introduced me to a group of the kindest most generous people in the world so when I have some free time I love joining up with a crochet group and chat and help create a blanket of love.