People In Fashion: All that glitters

Jewellery supremo Lesley Craze began with nothing more than 10 weeks' training and a passion for precious metals. Imogen Fox reports

Although you wouldn't think it to look at her - she certainly isn't dripping with gold and jewels - Lesley Craze has a passion for jewellery. It is not mass-produced scraps of yellow metal that inspire her, nor even weighty antique pieces. What Craze really loves is contemporary jewellery made to fresh, innovative designs. Such work is displayed in her very own jewellery gallery which Craze has run in Clerkenwell Green, London, for 10 years.

Inside the Lesley Craze Gallery, the work of more than 120 jewellery designers, both new and more established, is displayed inside various glass geometric shapes around the room. In one cabinet are rings designed by artist jeweller and Craze regular Wendy Ramshaw (whose pieces are also currently on show in an exhibition at the V&A). Ramshaw's rings sit regally atop their own specially designed perspex and brass stands. "Lesley's gallery has a friendly atmosphere, she is very lively and outgoing and she always gives her clients good attention," comments Ramshaw as to why she shows at Craze.

At the other end of the gallery is the "Craze Two" non-precious section, where most of the pieces are one-off originals, but all are for sale. As Craze proudly points out, "we have work here from pounds 10 to pounds 10,000."

Lesley Craze's involvement in the jewellery world came relatively late in life. Born in Cardiff in 1935, Craze was set upon a career in acting. At 18, after two years studying at drama college, Craze moved to London "with pounds 10 in my pocket". In between working "quite a lot and quite nicely" in the theatre, Craze suffered the usual actress jobs, including a stint as an usherette in a Leicester Square cinema ("I saw The Robe about 250 times") and work as a barmaid in the French House in Soho. Chance led Craze into her next career as a schoolteacher, by which time she had married and started a family. "I did some part time work in a school in Islington, taking over each class in turn to give the teachers a break. I was really thrown in at the deep end." Craze turned out to be a natural, and so she decided to return to college to retrain as a teacher. By the late Seventies, she was working full time as a remedial teacher at a child guidance clinic in London, a job which, though "fantastic", was incredibly demanding.

Everything changed when she met Sarah Jones, a jeweller selling at Camden Lock Market, from whom she had bought a snakeskin bangle for her daughter. Craze visited the silversmith's workshop in Old Street and was completely seduced by a "little garret at the top of 110 stairs". This romantic setting, coupled with a broken promise of secondment from her teaching career, made Craze's mind up. After ten weeks of apprenticeship with Jones, the silversmith decided that she had taught Craze as much theory as she could and encouraged her to have her own workbench built and to start putting into practice what she had learned.

For a few years Craze continued teaching part time whilst she set herself up with a market stall selling her own simple designs - first in Camden Passage and later in the crafts market at Covent Garden, where she developed a still loyal customer base. In 1984 she opened her first gallery exhibiting - amongst others - her own jewellery. Four years later the Lesley Craze Gallery opened at its present site.

Today Craze no longer has the time to produce her own designs, because the running of the Gallery, which now includes a textile Hanging Gallery, takes up most of her time. "Silversmithing is dirty, mucky work, it's not romantic as I'd thought, it gives you cuts and funny fingers," she explains, flashing her middle finger with a lump at the top put there by the silversmithing tools.

Craze firmly believes that a piece of jewellery should enhance the wearer, and it must be completely wearable otherwise it's not jewellery, it's sculpture. Her own jewellery box is, perhaps surprisingly, not over-stocked. On one hand she wears a twisted, delicate looking yellow gold ring. "I call this my birds nest ring, you can't find where it's joined, it's by Professor Hiramatsu, I met him in Japan when I was curating an exhibition there." On her other hand Lesley Craze shows me a Joel Degan titanium ring with a rod of gold set through it. It's incredibly lightweight, so Craze often suggests them as wedding rings for men not used to wearing jewellery. Curiously, the ring is full of dents. "This is one of the hardest metals known to man and look at all that marking!" Craze exclaims. "When I walk on the beach, I pick up stones and I have a ritual where I have to throw one up four times and catch it before I'm allowed to keep it. Joel can't believe it, he wants to polish it up for me, but I won't let him. I just love it like this!"

Lesley Craze Gallery, 33-35a Clerkenwell Green, London EC1. Tel: 0171 608 0393

Suggested Topics
world cup 2014
Mick Jagger performing at Glastonbury
Life and Style
beautyBelgian fan lands L'Oreal campaign after being spotted at World Cup
Poor teachers should be fearful of not getting pay rises or losing their job if they fail to perform, Steve Fairclough, headteacher of Abbotsholme School, suggested
voicesChris Sloggett explains why it has become an impossible career path
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookA wonderful selection of salads, starters and mains featuring venison, grouse and other game
Arts and Entertainment
Chocolat author Joanne Harris has spoken about the financial struggles most authors face
Arts and Entertainment
Characters in the new series are based on real people, say its creators, unlike Arya and Clegane the Dog in ‘Game of Thrones’
tv'The Last Kingdom' is based on historical events
Arts and Entertainment
filmSir Ian McKellen will play retired detective in new film
Life and Style
Justin Bieber performing in Paris earlier this year
Arts and Entertainment
Martin Freeman and Lauren O'Neil in Jamie Lloyd's Richard III
theatreReview: The monarch's malign magnetism and diabolic effrontery aren’t felt
Arts and Entertainment
'Molecular Man +1+1+1' by Jonathan Borofsky at Yorkshire Sculpture park
Glamour magazine hosts a yoga class with Yogalosophy author Mandy Ingber on June 10, 2013 in New York City.
newsFather Padraig O'Baoill said the exercise was 'unsavoury' in a weekly parish newsletter
people'She is unstoppable', says Jean Paul Gaultier at Paris show
Alexis Sanchez and apparently his barber Carlos Moles in Barcelona today
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Marketing Manager

    £36000 - £38000 per annum: Charter Selection: Charter Selection are working wi...

    Accounts Assistant, Hammersmith

    £25000 per annum: Charter Selection: Exciting sports company with a strong bra...

    Financial Accountant-IFRS-Gloucester-£300/day

    £250 - £295 per day + competitive: Orgtel: Financial Accountant - IFRS - Glouc...

    Technical Support Engineer - Central London - £30,000

    £28000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Support Engineer - Central London...

    Day In a Page

    The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

    The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

    A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

    The German people demand an end to the fighting
    New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

    New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

    For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
    Can scientists save the world's sea life from

    Can scientists save our sea life?

    By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
    Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

    Richard III review

    Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice
    Hollywood targets Asian audiences as US films enjoy record-breaking run at Chinese box office

    Hollywood targets Asian audiences

    The world's second biggest movie market is fast becoming the Hollywood studios' most crucial
    Grindr founder Joel Simkhai: 'I've found love on my dating app - and my mum keeps trying to hook me up!'

    Grindr founder Joel Simkhai: 'I've found love on my dating app'

    Five years on from its launch and Grindr is the world's most popular dating app for gay men. Its founder Joel Simkhai answers his critics, describes his isolation as a child
    Autocorrect has its uses but it can go rogue with embarrassing results - so is it time to ditch it?

    Is it time to ditch autocorrect?

    Matthew J X Malady persuaded friends to message manually instead, but failed to factor in fat fingers and drunk texting
    10 best girls' summer dresses

    Frock chick: 10 best girls' summer dresses

    Get them ready for the holidays with these cool and pretty options 
    Westminster’s dark secret: Adultery, homosexuality, sadomasochism and abuse of children were all seemingly lumped together

    Westminster’s dark secret

    Adultery, homosexuality, sadomasochism and abuse of children were all seemingly lumped together
    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Dulce et decorum est - a life cut short for a poet whose work achieved immortality

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

    Dulce et decorum est: a life cut short for a poet whose work achieved immortality
    Google tells popular music website to censor album cover art in 'sexually explicit content' ban

    Naked censorship?

    The strange case of Google, the music website and the nudity take-down requests
    Howzat! 8 best cricket bats

    Howzat! 8 best cricket bats

    As England take on India at Trent Bridge, here is our pick of the high-performing bats to help you up your run-count this summer 
    Brazil vs Germany World Cup 2014 comment: David Luiz falls from leader figure to symbol of national humiliation

    David Luiz falls from leader figure to symbol of national humiliation

    Captain appears to give up as shocking 7-1 World Cup semi-final defeat threatens ramifications in Brazil