This Designer’s Goal Is Honoring the Stone

Ming Lampson was sitting in her Notting Hill studio in West London, peering at the Nigerian aquamarines, sapphires from Madagascar, fire opals and other gems sprinkled across sheets of white paper on her desk. “I am trying to honor the stone, thinking, ‘How do I make a home for the gem in the most unique and interesting way possible that still just makes it something I want to wear?’” she said during a recent video call.

Ms. Lampson, 49, was born in Sydney, Australia, and grew up in England. She learned goldsmithing the old-fashioned way, arriving in the Indian gem center of Jaipur in 1994 and spending the next two and a half years working alongside artisans and gem dealers.

After returning to England in 1997, she studied jewelry making at London Guildhall University (now London Metropolitan University) and earned a Diamond Diploma at the Gemmological Association of Great Britain. She also studied at the London campus of the Gemological Institute of America before beginning her own brand, Ming, in 2000.

“I always wanted to work in gold,” she said. “For me, a jewel is a treasure — I never dreamt that I would have a jewelry business.”

Her initial focus as a private jeweler — executing custom commissions — gradually shifted and in 2016 she debuted Oriental Garden, her brand’s first collection, inspired by Asia and its cultural appeal.

Origins, her fourth and most recent collection, was introduced in 2023. The collection’s 25 pieces, she said, reflected her “study of earliest forms of jewelry by primeval ornaments made of pebbles, stones and shells.” For example, the 18-karat yellow gold Pebble Hoop earrings were set with 19.35 carats of moonstones, some of them faceted and others in the polished shape known as cabochon.

“The custom-cutting of these cabochon moonstones took an entire year to complete,” Ms. Lampson said. “But I like challenges. And I knew it was possible.”

The collection was exhibited in October at the Stephen Russell jewelry store in New York, a display organized in collaboration with Vivarium, a project established by the jewelry historian Vivienne Becker to promote independent designers.

Russell Zelenetz, who founded the store with Stephen Feuerman, said they highlighted Ms. Lampson’s work because of “the engineering and techniques used to compose the impressive designs” and because “her principles of making one-of-a-kind pieces are very intriguing.”

Ms. Lampson’s one-of-a-kind gem-centric designs in 18-karat gold, palladium or platinum start at 20,000 pounds (about $25,000), while gold-only pieces are made in limited editions. She primarily sells by appointment at her studio.

Ms. Lampson decided about 10 years ago to step away from production to concentrate on design and gathering gems. “Very rarely will I buy a stone and immediately make the jewel — most of the time I sit looking at my stones, mulling over them for months,” she said.

She now has in-house artisans and other specialists make each piece by hand, using traditional skills as well as technology such as lasers and 3-D printing. Her approach to design now, she said, was “best expressed through geometric simplicity offset by unexpected techniques.”

After many drawings and sketches, she cuts shapes out of paper or card stock to see how the pieces will sit on her neck, hand or ear. For example, she knotted ribbons, silk, leather, aluminum, silver and gold in various widths before finally settling on the design for her 18-karat gold Promise ring.

And the Twist ring, with 8.15 carats of rubies in a channel setting, was crafted to ensure the completed piece had the right feel on the finger. “Once I had the shape in gold,” she said, “I then had all the stones custom cut individually, because nowhere on the ring is the metal even — in width or shape.”

Many of Ms. Lampson’s designs use enamel or ceramic to highlight or frame the gems and the metal. One example is the Sand Castle Drip ring in 18-karat yellow gold and sapphire blue enamel, set with 4.5 carats of blue sapphires.

The actor Fisher Stevens, who recently directed the Netflix documentary series “Beckham,” has collected Ms. Lampson’s work for more than 10 years. “One of my favorite pieces is an emerald ring in the shape of a snake, with two rubies for eyes,” he wrote in an email. “All her jewels are so unique and unusual.”

He also wrote that he was drawn to her designs by “the unexpected nature of the shapes and style of her jewels and the fact that I will never meet anyone with the same piece ever.”

What is it about Ms. Lampson’s creations that gives her joy?

“For me, there are three vital components that must unite in my jewelry: the innovation of the design, the quality of the gemstones and technical perfection,” she said. “I know I have got the jewel right when I achieve those three things, and you can’t have one without the others.”

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