BUSINESS OF FASHION   July 21st 2017

Can ‘The Leopards’ Become the Oscars of Jewellery?

In today’s News Bites, how six of the most influential names in fine jewellery have joined forces to create a star-studded awards ceremony that will support The Prince's Trust and put their craft at the heart of the cultural zeitgeist.

Welcome to News Bites, BoF's regular feature of the stories that get the industry talking.

The inaugural Leopards Awards for Excellence in Jewellery is to take place in London on November 15.

The driving force behind the event, which is in aid of The Prince's Trust, is a group of the most influential names in fine jewellery: Stephen Webster, Solange Azagury-Partridge, Theo Fennell, Shaun Leane, Carol Woolton and Susan Farmer, collectively known as "The Leopards."

The group's goal is to draw global attention to fine jewellery’s influence in fashion, art and culture. “We want to celebrate the glamour, the power, beauty, craft, the way it’s expressed and the way the world sees it,” jeweller Azagury-Partridge tells BoF. “There are plenty of awards for the jewellery industry, but they’re inward-looking — there’s nothing outward-looking.”

“It’s very unusual, because usually awards are about celebrating the industry,” adds Stephen Webster, chairman of Garrard. “But think of the Met Ball: that’s a celebration of fashion and in some way, we want to have that spirit.”

What we want is the same thing when people say, 'Oh they won an Oscar.' 'They won a Leopard.'

Certainly, the event promises to be high on glamour, and not just thanks to celebrity guests. The Leopards will be held at London’s Goldsmiths' Hall — the home of the British jewellery industry for 700 years.

Award categories will include Best Jewellery Moment in Film, Jewellery Icon and a Vogue-sponsored award for Best Jewellery Wearer of the Year. Awards for jewellery designers are deliberately absent. “We’re taking ourselves out of the equation.” says Carol Woolton, jewellery editor of British Vogue.

Launching alongside the awards is The Leopards' Princes Trust Mentoring Programme, in which four young jewellery designers will get the chance to train in the workshops of Fennell, Webster, Azagury-Partridge and Leane. Entrants must submit designs inspired by London, and the winning entries will be produced under the guidance of the Leopards and sold at their stores, with proceeds donated to The Prince’s Trust.

“We want to teach people to be involved with jewellery that stands the test of time and last forever,” explains Fennell. “We want kids to be excited by it, and not feel like it’s just a job where they’re going into a production line.”

The long-term intention is to build an international platform to honour fine jewellery. “What we want is the same thing when people say, 'Oh they won an Oscar,'” says Woolton. “'They won a Leopard.' We want it to be in the vernacular. We want to get jewellery onto the front pages.” — Megan Doyle