Jewellery

Meet Minka’s designer Lucy Crowther

The British designer on rings that pack a punch and the eternal allure of a cushion-cut gemstone

By Kim Parker

A London-based jewellery brand founded by gemologist Lucy Crowther, Minka is known for its hand-picked and high quality stones which feature in striking and colourful designs. Here, we get the lowdown…

Lucy Crowther

How did you get into jewellery design? Was it something you always wanted to pursue?

Growing up, I was desperate to be a photographer. I struggled a bit in school with dyslexia but was always very visual and creative. Photography was my passion. I loved exploring a subject through the lens of a camera and used to spend hours in the school dark room learning about the craft. Years later, I worked as an assistant for [the fashion stylist] Sebastian Kaufmann, who would ask me to source the jewellery for his photo shoots, so that’s when my interest in jewellery first took root. Sebastian was part of a little creative group with Georgina Grey and Mary Fellowes, who were all so kind and helped me to hone my creative vision. I assisted all of them, trying to work out what career path I should follow.

I ended up doing silversmith training in Argentina, and whilst I was there, I met a friend who was also a jeweller and spontaneously decided to follow her to India to go and work at the famous Gem Palace. I was 22 years old. I spent two years working for Munnu Kasliwal, one of the brothers who runs the Gem Palace, splitting my time between his offices in Jaipur and New York. It was an incredible experience. That’s when my ideas about being a jeweller finally blossomed and I put my first little collection together.

Minka 18ct yellow gold diamond blue topaz Mermaid ring

What did you learn from working at the Gem Palace?

I got to see every stage of the jewellery creation process, because they had all the facilities on site. Everything from stone cutting to sizing to designing. Jaipur is one of the world’s great gemstone-cutting capitals and it was an eye-opening experience just being there. There was also an amazing attitude and energy – everything seemed possible. Being a young creative person with mad ideas wasn’t frowned upon, it was welcomed. You could go into a meeting with an idea, and a few days later it would be in progress.

After India, I came back to the UK to do gemmology training at Gem-A [the Gemmological Association of Great Britain] and began working for a gemstone dealer, which was a real education. He would put a stone on the table in front of me and ask me to identify it, tell him the weight of it, and relay its cost per carat. At first that was terrifying, but it got easier with time. Learning about a stone is one thing, but understanding its colour, clarity, cut and why it should cost what it does was the best training possible.

Minka 14ct yellow gold green amethyst Athena hoops

Where did the name Minka come from?

It’s an amalgamation of my two middle names, Minnie and Katrina, which were also the names of my grandmother and great-grandmother. They both loved jewellery, so it felt right to carry on in their footsteps. The name came to me as I was working with the stone dealer, because downstairs in the same building we had a goldsmith and a gem setter. It felt like it had been written in the stars.

How would you describe your aesthetic?

Bold. Colourful. There’s nothing dainty about my jewellery – I like simple designs that allow the gemstone to do all the talking. I’m drawn to colourful gems, especially tourmalines, and I love deep, rich hues which feel a bit mysterious and seem to change, depending on the light.

Aside from that, one of my signatures is a cushion-cut stone. Each one is different, so they require a bespoke setting, which makes them feel a bit special. And they show off the lovely colour of a gemstone without any sharp lines or corners, which is really appealing to me.

Where does your inspiration come from?

Before lockdown, it was mostly from travelling, from being out in the world and seeing things. One of my favourite collections, Athena, was inspired by my first trip to Greece three or four years ago. I found Athens particularly inspiring. It’s a really creative city. I spent my days just wandering around, eating delicious food, and soaking up all the architecture. The light was magical, too. There was something very romantic about seeing all of the temples we had learnt about in school, in real life. I knew it was going to be the basis of a new collection, and devised the amphitheatre setting of the Athena ring, which gives a lovely platform to show off a beautiful gemstone. I’d love to go back to Greece some day.

Minka 18ct yellow gold 2.50ct green Tourmaline ring

A lot of your work is bespoke. What’s the appeal of working on one-off pieces?

It’s a lot of fun. It’s an honour to listen to someone’s story, then design something special that’s going to accompany them on their life’s journey. And hopefully be passed on for generations to come. There are a lot of engagement rings, of course; I’ve noticed more and more clients wanting to be involved with the design process, which is lovely. Often, one partner will come and choose a beautiful gemstone and then the couple will come and design the ring together, which can take up to five or six weeks. Instagram has been amazing for my business – people will follow us for a while, then start a conversation about my work and then later they become clients.

This year, I’ve had quite a lot of women buying pieces for themselves, which is wonderful. It’s been a crazy couple of years, so why not treat yourself to something lovely? I’ve also had clients approach me to rework their existing jewellery and create something more modern. I really enjoy giving a new life to a piece that’s been unworn for years, and transforming it into something that’s going to be adored every day.

Minka Athena rings

What’s coming up next for you?

I’ve got a treasure box full of beautiful stones that I’d love to set into some amazing rings for people. There’s a hot pink, almost Barbie-coloured tourmaline, a honey-toned sapphire, an emerald cabochon, an octagon-cut sapphire, and an incredible watery blue tourmaline. I’m always so desperate to see a beautiful stone get the setting it deserves.

Other than that, I’ve got some new hoop earrings launching. And I’m working on a design of another ring which is inspired by a piece my granny owned many years ago – a bi-coloured silver and gold ring, which is half set with diamonds and half set with sapphires. You can I want to modernise it, perhaps use some coloured sapphires, and make it into something that you can wear one way or another. It will be a great statement piece. It will be quite a challenge to achieve, but I’ve never been afraid of that.