Meet the Makers: Richard Chown Jewellery

Richard Chown is one of Greenwich Market’s most in-demand creative traders. A jeweller with a wide-ranging background in fine art, he’s the recent recipient of the 2024 Goldsmiths’ Craft and Design Council Prize for Jewellery Modelling.

A former student of Central Saint Martins and Camberwell College of Arts, Richard brings the sensibility of a fine artist to his creations. His diverse pedigree – in painting, sculpture, silversmithing and blacksmithing – shines through his unorthodox creations. Saint Martins and Camberwell didn’t always share his vision of what jewellery could be, but he was undeterred from blazing his own creative path.

‘I respond well to two things’, Richard says: ‘situations where there are lots of things for me to play with, and when there’s someone telling me not to! They told us not to do sculpture or jewellery … but gave us lots of hammers. I quite liked being given something to fight. I only scraped a pass … which is ironic, because I feel I’m doing quite well now!’

If there was ever any doubt about that, Richard’s success in the 2024 Goldsmiths’ Craft and Design Council Awards has forever silenced it. He’s particularly adept at producing something called ‘sculptured jewellery’. This involves a process in which he sculpts designs of ‘skulls, figures, flowers, facial features’ and other forms in wax, then casts them in precious metals including silver and gold.

But, aside from his own distinctive visions, Richard also specialises in making other people’s personal visions come true. He designs wedding and engagement rings that are, as he puts it, ‘very, very, very bespoke’ – the result of a long and considered process in which he gets to know clients and their needs intimately. His customers fill out a questionnaire, then sit down to talk with him for over an hour, before he’s satisfied he knows them and understands the finished piece they’d love to see. He’s been giving form to the varied fancies of his customer base for over 15 years now, most of them as a trader at Greenwich Market. On a ‘good day’ at the Market, he’ll be commissioned to create three pairs of wedding rings, all subject to his painstaking methods.

Richard taught art for three years at secondary school. He credits his teaching days with learning more about people and what motivates them: ‘there’s a wonderful truthfulness and innocence about children. They’ll tell you what they really like! I got so much out of teaching, because I learnt what people really want – which I had not learnt in art college!’ However, Richard’s heart was always in creative practice, and his move from teacher to trader and artist was, it seems, inevitable.

Now, he feels he can deliver what people really want more skilfully than ever before. A truly special, bespoke piece of jewellery is, he feels, ‘something you always wear, that you might only take off if having an MRI scan’. It’s a ‘privilege, a special thing to be part of’, and something Richard truly relishes. ‘You’re bonding with people, helping them express something unique, and that’s a wonderful thing to be part of’. Greenwich Market is lucky to have an artist of Richard’s calibre amongst its diverse family of creative traders.

Interview by Hugh McNaughtan | Photos by Ed Simmons

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Richard Chown Jewellery