Mary Kessell

Brooch, made by H.J. Co. Ltd.


Cast silver-gilt web, set with 13 diamonds.

One of five brooches made at the invitation of Graham Hughes by H.J. Co. Ltd. from Kessell’s wax models – one of which won the 1st prize in the De Beer’s British Jewellery Competition in 1961. Graham Hughes described this piece as “so free that it may fall to pieces.” Mary Kessell was a painter, designer and book illustrator who studied at the Central School of Arts and Crafts before working for Shell design studios. She was one of only three women selected for the role of official British war artist at the end of the Second World War. She spent six weeks in Germany, drawing women and children four months after the Allied liberation of the Belsen Concentration Camp in 1945. Later Richard Johnston, Principal of the Central School of Arts and Crafts, invited her and the painter Alan Davie to teach jewellery there; Gerda Flöckinger, who emigrated to Britain from Austria in 1938, was one of her pupils.