How would you distil your life into seven moments? That’s the question jewellery designer Annoushka Ducas has been asking her clients of late. Not for a memoir nor a biopic, but for a project she unveiled in September: “My Life In Seven Charms”. Call it an 18ct-gold biography.
Since she launched her eponymous jewellery line in 2009, Ducas’s intricate charms have become central to the brand’s identity. She calls them “conversation pieces”, designed to represent something personal – a moment, memory or milestone. Her latest project adds a new layer to this philosophy: the option to commission seven bespoke pieces representative of a significant aspect of the wearer’s life. Why seven? “It’s lucky,” says Ducas. “I love odd numbers.”
Ducas ponders why she and others find charms – often perfectly formed miniatures – so captivating. She attributes her own obsession to the tiny figurines she was given by her mother as a child, but historians have traced our use of them back to the Stone Age when fragments of shell and bone were strung across leather cords. “Is it that when we’re growing up we relate to miniatures because they relate to our size? Or is it about being able to create something as absolutely perfect as it could be and hold it in your fingertips? I think there’s something immensely alluring about that.”
The most important thing for Ducas is that her pieces look “as close to the real thing” as possible. In her septet of charms, the yellow diamond submarine – a reference to the first song she can remember dancing to with her mother – has a spinning propeller and rose-cut diamond windows that reveal a locket space. Her love of skiing, meanwhile, takes the form of a gondola finished with pavé-set rubies, working doors and a set of white-gold skis. And the charm tribute to her husband – a diamond-studded “SEX” attached to a pair of legs – is fitted with shoes that waggle cheekily. (She had planned to honour him as a “perfect gold rock”, but he wasn’t keen: “Bugger off,” he said. “Obviously I want to be sex on legs!”)
What Ducas has become brilliant at is pinpointing what her clients want, often before they’ve articulated it themselves. Her plans to craft a bowl of noodles are a case in point. “For me, it’s obvious that the chopsticks and bowl, with the little wontons in it, should all be on one bail, so that the chopsticks – which in my head will be made of ebony with gold caps – will clink together,” she explains. Another request for “Rhubarb the dog” prompted not a four-legged miniature but a vision of its namesake vegetable speckled with pink pavé sapphires and green tsavorites. Ducas’s own love of dogs is translated as an engraved gold and diamond paw charm.
To inaugurate the project, Ducas has recorded a podcast where a notable guest is interviewed each week about their own set of charms. The idea was to choose women with “different stories to tell”, from Anne Glenconner, Princess Margaret’s former lady-in-waiting, to Caroline Issa, chief executive of Tank magazine. “It’s like Desert Island Discs,” says Ducas, whose guests will include interiors guru Kit Kemp and HTSI contributor Lucia van der Post. Among the charms in Issa’s collection are a ruby pomegranate – a nod to her Iranian heritage – and the aforementioned noodles (a favourite meal). “The process of distilling key moments is almost as enjoyable as seeing what Annoushka designs,” says Issa.
Ultimately, Ducas wants to create heirlooms that reveal something about their owners. She hopes that her children – immortalised in her series as four pearl peas in a gem-encrusted pod – will be able to share the charms with their own offspring. As is typical of Ducas’s elaborate world, each commission, available as a bracelet or necklace, is presented in a hand-bound book with a personal scrapbook detailing every sketch, watercolour and point of inspiration. “Everything about charms is to do with the narrative that they tell, the memory that they give, who they belonged to and when they wore them,” she says. “Perhaps that’s what makes them so appealing.”
A set of 18ct-gold charms with semi-precious stones costs approximately £35,000, although prices vary depending on the design and quantity of charms. Prices on application.
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