David Thomas (b. 1938)

RING

1965

18 carat gold, set with six brilliant cut diamonds purchased by Graham Hughes

Thomas (b. 1938) is a maker with a strong personal idiom as a goldsmith who works in the European tradition. His impressive sculptural ring is brilliantly constructed from 18 carat fine flat triangular gold sheets fanning out on edge, encrusted and strengthened with gold beads applied with eutectic welding. Thomas trained at Twickenham School of Art before a travelling scholarship took him on a formative trip to Italy and to Sweden, where he worked for the Crown Jewellers. Returning to London, he studied at the Royal College of Art from 1959-61. It was there that Graham Hughes approached him to help cast artists’ wax models for the 1961 Modern Jewellery Exhibition. Thomas was to show his own work at the exhibition, and at the series of worldwide export exhibitions between 1962 and 1968 which were to be an important part of modernising the Company and broadening its membership in its support for its related trades. The Collection holds remarkable examples of his goldsmith’s work from 1961 onwards, including the exquisite Lady’s Badge commissioned by the Company in 1974, which has a granulated wire mounting in gold, and a nautilus cup mounted in tendrils of gold in the grand Renaissance tradition. He was the focus of a Company exhibition in 1974.

Thomas is one of the great perfectionists among jewellers as an independent maker who has always worked directly with clients—first at his gallery shop in Old Church Street, Chelsea, before moving in 1984 to his current shop and workshop in Pimlico.

For another jewel which could only be David Thomas’s work, see the brooch in 18 carat gold and diamonds dating from 1973 in the Collection of the National Museums of Scotland. The brooch has a strong sense of movement, whirring out from an asymmetrical cluster of diamonds and gold beads. It is made from thin gold wires which have been micro-soldered using eutectic welding so as to form minute gold beads at each joint, which add texture and depth as well as strength to the brooch. Graham Hughes’s characterisation of modern jewellery in 1975 defines David Thomas’s work: “Modern British Jewels are fun: gay, personal and uninhibited. They have the same qualities as modern painting and sculpture.”

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