March 08, 2021

Kenneth Jay Lane

By Amanda Wrigley
kenneth jay lane jewellery bracelets

It is years since I was first drawn to the colourful, quirky jewellery designs of the late Kenneth Jay Lane. For me his name brings to mind images of turquoise and corals, elephants and giraffes, or pieces inspired by Indian Royal gems in ruby and emerald glass. A piece of KJL in your collection is a piece to treasure that brings joy, that brings attention whenever worn. Admiration from friends or secretly worn by your teenage children, or possibly snaffled away into their jewellery box, never to be seen again! I first found vintage pieces at Antique fairs but was soon to be overjoyed to find KJL was still very much in production and based in New York and I couldn't get there quick enough. A trip to the KJL mecca in New York was to visit my heaven, and perhaps a feeling that many feel when the walk into The Hirst Collection. How to choose? Luckily I wasn't too limited, buying for our store and I was allowed to peruse through drawers of designs originally created in the sixties. Perhaps finding a metal carcass and choosing which colour stones to place in and bring it to life! Heaven! This was in the early 2000s and Ken Lane himself was there too, amused at my walking out with 2 bagfuls of goodies. I'm so glad I got to meet the man himself before his passing and that these fabulous pieces are still made and bring a smile to any face that sees them. They certainly attract attention in the shop, the shelf where they live got the nickname 'the animal bracelet shelf' and most visitors know it well. and if a piece has been sold and is missing, I'm sure to be asked where it is. 

And so it was that just a couple of weeks before lockdown in March I ordered a lot of KJL jewellery. It was ready to be dispatched when my shop was closed and I didn't know what the future held for our shop. Investing in jewellery at that moment didn't seem to be the greatest idea. I wavered. I asked to reminded of my order with photographs. and then I looked at those photographs, how could I turn away such fabulousness? So I didn't turn them away, they came to me in the midst of gloom and yes they did what it said on the tin. They brought joy. I smiled at my pretties, possibly stroked them, and spent the following year in my often locked shop trying them out for size. Layering them with other pretties and seeing how they can be worn, what they go with. I got to know them all rather better than ever before and we had fun in out lockdown dress up way, without actually going on a single night out. You can often see a piece of KJL in many of my photos on instagram @thehirstcollection and almost sadly a few of them got sold too, spreading that joy far and wide, even just by looking at the photos and videos. If you have a piece of KJl that you love, do send me a photo of you and it having a moment! 

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