It’s a story to make anyone go weak at the knees. A love affair that began in a tiny church, a trail of poetry, a letter that was falling to pieces… oh, and a mysterious stranger with a rare violin. Are you sitting comfortably?
Loquet London was born in 2013 from a desire to “capture people’s stories” in deeply personal fine jewellery. It was launched by Sheherazade Goldsmith and the model Laura Bailey, with a range of ultra-luxe contemporary keepsakes with floating charms.
Now, there’s a new layer to its appeal: a collaboration with designer-jeweller Chantal Conrad, who is a long-time friend of the founders. The new Lumiere collection is a series of 9-14ct gold pendants designed around a miniature lens hidden in the heart of each piece. Looking through the lens reveals a secret message, magnified so that the viewer can see it when they hold it up to the light. And as of this month, clients will be able to choose not only their words – to a partner, child, friend, or even themselves – but also say them in their own handwriting.
“It’s a modern twist on jewellery that contains a secret,” Goldsmith explains. “The fact that the message is something only you know makes it even more precious.”
Jewellery with a hidden component is an enduring romantic idea that has found expression in every great aesthetic culture: from the Mughal tradition of elaborate decoration on the underside of exquisite gem-set jewels to the Renaissance locket with a portrait, a lock of hair or secret scroll, or the extraordinary secret watches of the 19th century. “The locket is an age-old idea, but we worked really hard to make it contemporary – it’s about intrigue and a bit of fun,” says Goldsmith.
What stands out here is that it’s words, not images, that take centre stage. Goldsmith, a poetry and literature “addict”, explains: “Words are the hero. The three of us write letters, and these pieces celebrate a return to that nostalgic idea – a bit like the way we cherish old letters, or even just a Post-It note with a little message on it that only means something to you. Capturing those words places you back in a moment – who you were, what you felt. Someone’s words become the heirloom, and it’s your secret unless you wish to share it.”
Conrad’s own Lumiere preserves the text from an old love letter that was falling apart from re-reading; Bailey’s holds a Nick Cave lyric; while Goldsmith’s is going to capture the sentiments on a “word-tree decoration” that her children made her many years ago. Sentimentality and sophistication are not natural bedfellows, but somehow they’ve created a kind of modern magic with these feminine but bold gem-set pieces, which come in a range of shapes and a choice of chains (including diamond-studded options).
It all began by accident, when Conrad’s husband gave her a Victorian church charm. “It had what looked like a little white stone, and when I went to clean it, I discovered it was actually a miniature lens, and that there were marriage vows hidden inside,” she says. “I wanted to create a collection with the same wonderment I felt in that moment.” She started to pull threads, unravelling “the mysterious world of the miniature”, and joining obscure little societies in Yorkshire obsessed with microphotography. Fate led her to a craftsman who used to restore violins and who had also found a miniature lens, when it fell out of a Stradivarius – and started making them himself.
All the Lumiere components are created in small ateliers around the world – sapphire crystal from Switzerland, the gold chains from Vicenza, diamond setting in India. The result is not only aesthetically striking, but tactile. “We worked for a long time to get the curve exactly right,” Conrad explains. “It’s interesting how people play with them, almost like turning over a pebble – I think maybe there’s a sort of talismanic quality, especially because they’re embedded with something meaningful. Whether that’s a promise to yourself, a mantra, something uplifting – it calms and grounds you.”
Clients provide their message using the online “lens builder” – selecting a font or writing it themselves in a PDF template – or in person in the Belgravia store. But you only have about six lines to play with. “We tell clients to take their time; it’s a decision that’s meant to last,” Conrad says. “We’re hearing beautiful love stories – messages to people’s children, proposals...”
What, you might ask, if they get divorced; can the lens be replaced? The short answer is yes. But let’s not dwell on endings. Because there is something deeply moving about this idea – that little window to the soul.
Long after I bid my goodbyes, my mind is still straying back to the question: what would I say to my little girl if I only had a tiny window in which to say it? And then it clicks: a story she loves to hear on repeat, about what I said when she was placed in my arms: “Can I take you home and love you forever?” I think that fits.