As a child, Ms. Martin never saw jewelry as a potential career. She grew up in Bristol, a port city in southwest England, and fell in love with art while attending the local state school. Her mother, a teacher, and father, a graphic designer always encouraged her interest, and she planned to become a sculptor. But after just a week in the jewelry studio during her foundation course at Central Saint Martins, she was hooked. “It fits with my artistic side, but the right-brain part of me definitely likes a design challenge too,” she says. “And I love banging metal.”
Between her second and third years of study, she worked as an intern at Cartier in Paris, but turned down the job offer to start her own business. “I thought, ‘I want to be in that world, but I want to create it for the rock boys,'” she laughs. After graduating, she won a seat on a lottery-funded program providing entrepreneurial training to graduates in the creative industries, and was later awarded £30,000, enough to produce her first two collections.
Over the years, she has worked as a consultant for several global luxury jewelery brands, including Louis Vuitton and Chaumet, an activity that has helped keep her business afloat when the pandemic was costly to produce new collections and furnish studios develop. It also helps her maintain a broad perspective on design. “When you do your own thing, you’re in an echo chamber,” she said.
Ms. Martin’s uncompromising approach to her vision does have its drawbacks. In 2013, she largely quit the wholesale business because the cost was too high for her to produce enough gold-inspired pieces for speculative sales. (Though London’s Dover Street Market has been a big supporter since day one, she says.)
Jewelry historian Vivienne Becker wrote in an email: “As an independent designer jeweler, it was not easy for her to hold her own financially, but she organically Grow her business, build a loyal core client base, appeal to media, music and show business collectors. Now it’s all coming together; she’s gaining well-deserved recognition.”
For Mr McGregor, Ms Martin’s aggressive approach to jewelry design is what sets her apart. “Hannah’s work reimagines and turns the word ‘precious’ on its head—it has an otherworldly beauty.”