Bejeweled

At Home with Ultra-Stylish London Jeweler Tessa Packard

In both her work and her interiors, the designer balances elegance with whimsy.

Tessa Packard jewelry designer
Self-taught jewelry designer Tessa Packard worked as an art dealer before opening her London-based business (portrait by Chris Allerton). Top: A selection of rings from Packard’s Mexicana, No Smoke Without Flowers and Fat Free collections (photo courtesy of Tessa Packard London).

Like many creative talents, jeweler Tessa Packard applies her eye for design to all areas of her life, including her interiors. Packard mixes timeless elegance and irreverent playfulness in her jewelry and took the same approach in designing both her home and her recently opened private showroom, in the heart of London’s elegant Chelsea district.

Packard’s jewelry collections are narrative driven, frequently with tongue-in-cheek twists on popular culture or history. “The one force that governs my creativity — even the simple act of getting dressed in the morning — is juxtaposition, contradiction and a pinch of the fairy tale,” she says.

Her Fat Free line from a few years back was inspired by her childhood love of British pick ’n’ mix candy, or penny sweets. Her Fried Egg earrings, for instance, were inspired by a treat whose vibrant colors are re-created in yellow topaz with a “sugar coating” of pavé white diamonds.

Packard’s most recent collection, Emperor’s New Clothes, takes its name from the Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale. It riffs on the idea of illusion through the use of colorful enamel and exaggerated forms that give the stones in the pieces the appearance of record-breaking high-carat precious gems without the matching price tag.

When it came to designing her showroom’s first-floor drawing room, where she greets clients and hosts frequent evening events, Packard took a Victorian gentleman’s study as her model. “I wanted something rich in leather-bound books, kilims, taxidermy and art — the imagined objects of a modern-day Grand Tour,” she says.

Drawing clients into Packard’s fantasy world of discovery and adventure puts them in a perfect frame of mind for viewing her equally imaginative jewelry, whether it be hand-carved-amber Fire Wasp earrings or one-of-a-kind Fruit Bat earrings, inspired by the flora and fauna of her mother’s native Brazil.

 

Packard designed every aspect of her London showroom, which is modeled on a Victorian gentleman’s study. The space is outfitted with leather-bound books, kilims, taxidermy and art — objects that would be collected on a modern-day Grand Tour. Photo by Katrina Lawson Johnston

This selection of Packard’s jewelry includes, from left, So Foxy earrings, Fire Wasp earrings, Courtesan earrings, an Explorer pendant, Flower Bomb earrings, a Carmen ring and Shinzo earrings. Photo courtesy of Tessa Packard London

Packard considers her jewelry to be miniature sculptures, so she displays her pieces in aged-wooden cabinets. Photo by Katrina Lawson Johnston

Left: A model wears gold, amethyst and hand-carved amber Fire Wasp earrings and a gold Honeycomb ring from Packer’s Predator Prey collection. Right: A selection of earrings from the No Smoke without Flowers collection includes, from top, Courtesan earrings comprising aventurines, tourmalines, emeralds and more; Concubine earrings made of kyanite, black diamonds and tourmaline; and a variation on the first pair of Courtesan earrings using lapis lazuli, tourmalines, smoky quartz, sapphires and black diamonds. Photos courtesy of Tessa Packard London

A model wears Packard’s Fried Egg earrings — composed of white gold, yellow agate, white topaz and diamonds — which are part of her Fat Free collection. Photo courtesy of Tessa Packard London

 

ring and earrings from Tessa Packard's Predator Prey collection
A model wears a Cocktail Sting ring and Honeycomb earrings from Packard’s Predator Prey collection. Photo courtesy of Tessa Packard London

The Victorian cabinet of curiosities, in which were displayed the owner’s worldly treasures, was the inspiration for Packard’s vitrines. The aged-wooden cabinets are “more akin to those found in institutions such as the Natural History Museum than those on Bond Street,” she says. “I see my jewelry as sculpture in miniature and so wanted to display the pieces in a manner that elevated them into treasured curiosities.”

A client may sit in one of Packard’s matching rough-hewn-wood chairs with worn leather cushions, which provide a playful contrast with the room’s overall elegance, to select a jewel from her collections or to discuss a bespoke design.

One of her personal favorites among her past private commissions is a magnificent engagement ring featuring custom-cut diamonds and an interlocking pavé-set diamond ring jacket. While an engagement ring is intended to be worn for life, the jacket makes this one versatile too. The central diamond can be worn alone for day or dressed up as an impressive cocktail ring for evening.

Commissioned by an animal lover on another occasion, Packard created engraved gold earrings in the shape of lions’ heads with manes of custom-cut mandarin garnets. Despite their contemporary design, they have a classic style that is equally suited to jeans or a little black dress.

The designer says she thrives on this juxtaposition of the timeless and the irreverent. It is a theme that continues in her Chelsea home, “a squat Georgian townhouse,” as she describes it, which is just a short walk from the showroom. Here, Victorian prints, rich fabrics and antique taxidermied creatures contrast with contemporary art and such fanciful touches as a unicorn wall trophy and a watermelon-shaped table.

 

Packard decorated her Georgian townhouse in London’s Chelsea district in a similar manner to her showroom. Here, a series of butterfly prints by Brazilian artist Daniel Malva hangs above a fireplace from Jamb. The space also includes a custom kilim sofa and a Berber rug. Photos in this slideshow by Katrina Lawson Johnston

Left: This bedroom features Fornasetti wallpaper and a print by Vanessa Beecroft. Right: A set of animal prints by Nicholas Maréchal hangs above the desk in the home office, which also includes an antique French chair and mounted butterflies from Deyrolle.

A freestanding tub is positioned in front of a Chesney’s fireplace in this bathroom, which features marble floors and accents. The antique wisteria light fixture and side tables were sourced at a flea market. The animal prints are by Nicholas Maréchal.

 

Tessa Packard's living room
This room in Packard’s London home features Fornasetti wallpaper, a Berber rug, a pair of cowhide butterfly chairs and a Georgian fireplace. Artwork includes a set of Enrico Sacchetti fashion lithographs and an Emilie Pugh pen-and-ink drawing. Photo by Katrina Lawson Johnston

“Elegance is boring without playfulness. Whimsy is superficial without the gravitas of timelessness,” says Packard, adding with a smile, “Life would be so miserable without unicorns and watermelon tables.”

Whether on a miniature scale when designing jewelry or on a larger scale when dressing a room, Packard enjoys putting objects together to create interesting and unique narratives. Before starting out as a jewelry designer, in 2013, she worked for a private art dealership in Mayfair that specialized in Impressionist and modern works as well as Brazilian Concretism, which was just beginning to make waves internationally.

Packard made the switch to jewelry with no formal training. Mistakes were inevitable in that first year of business, she admits, but learning on the job has paid dividends in unforeseen ways. “Now, I’m grateful for the lack of institutionalized teaching,” she says. “Like a child, I still think everything and anything is possible.” And the art world continues to provide inspiration for her designs. Pop art, for instance, informed the bright colors and bold shapes of her Fat Free pieces.

Hard at work on her latest collection, Packard has designed a haven for creativity upstairs at her showroom, with her first dedicated painting desk. Surrounded by potted plants, cowhide rugs and colorful touches, the personal treasures on display serve as inspirations for her designs, the decor as a whole providing the perfect environment in which to share her vision with others. Her very personal approach to interior design is the only way to communicate her brand’s DNA, she says. “Everything talks to everything else.”

 

Shop Tessa Packard London on 1stdibs

 

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