When your name is in the little black book of Hollywood’s finest, you know that you’re doing something out of the ordinary. But though his clientele includes A-listers such as Kate Beckinsale, Ben Affleck, John Travolta and Antonio Banderas, world-renowned jeweller Philip Press remains entirely focused on his craft, and continues to create some of the most exquisite Art Deco-inspired designs around. Little Wed Hen caught up with Philip to discuss his craft, his influences, and what’s on the agenda for Philip Press Platinumsmiths.
On craft and craftmanship
Philip is highly regarded for his skill and craftmanship, and his knowledge of his craft is without peer. Just how did he come to develop these skills? “I learned the trade from my friend’s uncle at the age of 15,” says Philip. “He was a craftsman in the true sense of the word. He made many of his own tools, and made his pieces in the most precise and correct way, just as I do now.”
Over the years, Philip continued to hone his craft, and came to focus on Art Deco-inspired design. “I learned about Art Deco design and old world craftsmanship from a European-trained master,” he says. As part of his apprenticeship, he was taught to always use the very best materials available, something that Philip continues to emphasise in his work today. “I was inspired to create a better platinum alloy that is brighter, more lustrous, and more durable, and to only source the best gemstones.”
But while high-quality materials are a must, they’re not the only requirement when it comes to creating breath-taking jewellery. “Being a skilled designer with a thorough understanding of the bench is essential in order to benefit from these tools,” he says. Indeed, Philip knows only too well that it’s the years of training and experience behind him that is key to the design process. Is this an outlook that’s shared by many today? Unfortunately, Philip believes that this stress on craftmanship is on the wane. ”Unfortunately, this emphasis on art and technical excellence is practised now by only a few.” Are there any individuals in particular who come to mind? Philip points to a master jeweller known as Steven Kretchmer as someone who has long inspired him.
“He was a remarkable man who saw the trade and world much as I do. He came up the hard way, as I did. He practised the craft the way he wanted to, and developed alloys and processes unlike no one else. I called him the ‘alchemist’. He was pure genius. Steven would work his booth at our trade shows in jeans and a t-shirt, and with a pocket knife clipped to the inside of his pocket. He collected knives as I do. Unlike everyone else, Steven didn’t try to impress people with flash–his abilities spoke volumes for him. We also shared the love of motorbikes. Unfortunately, Steven loved to live life on the edge, and we lost him in a fatal crash in 2006. He was 52 years of age.”
On the design process
Philip’s designs are famously intricate, with an immense attention to detail. Indeed, this emphasis on precision and perfection is evident in every element of his designs and his design process: not only does he use his own custom platinum alloy in his work, but he uses computer-aided design technology and lasers to help obtain that immaculate finish he’s known for. However, despite his use of modern technology, Philip’s designs remain firmly Art Deco-inspired. Has the use of modern-day technology influenced his work?
Philip acknowledges that the advent of 3D technology and CAD has allowed for increased accuracy in his jewellery design, and allows for a faster turnaround time, and one that’s more cost effective, too. While Philip believes that modern technology will continue to offer benefits in each of these elements of the design process, it’s impossible to discount the human side of jewellery design. “CAD and 3D printing are tools, just like a hammer or a saw,” he says. “If you don’t know how to use them, or you’re not familiar with what the end result can be, they do you no good. Design is about balance, form and function as much as beauty.”
Philip’s resume speaks for itself. Known for his couture-style designs, he has worked with countless A-list individuals throughout his career. Given that bespoke designs are such a large part of his work, we can’t help but ask what’s involved in the custom design process. “On the custom, couture side, my design process is highly collaborative,” he says. When working with a client, Philip is able to draw on his thirty-some years of experience and his uncanny ability to translate an inchoate idea into one that’s exactly what the client is after.
“We work to interpolate a concept into the piece of their dreams,” he says. Given that each piece is designed to last for many generations, it’s an approach that is essential to the final outcome. “But I must add that my favorite clients are everyday people who truly appreciate craftsmanshipand quality – and are as passionate about quality as much as I am. This is especially true of couples gettingengaged – I become a part of this most exciting time in their lives by creating heirloom rings.”
Speaking of pieces that will be passed down through generations, does Philip have any thoughts about Kate Middleton’s famous ring? Has it influenced his recent commissions at all? The answer is a vehement “no”. “The recent Royal Wedding hasn’t affected our clients’ tastes at all,” he says. “Interestingly, the only comments I’ve heard were people questioning why William chose to use Diana’s ring as his engagement ring. Most found that quite odd.” Philip doesn’t think much of Prince William’s gossip-rousing decision not to wear a ring, either. “He’s not who I’d describe as a fashion trend-setter! The fact that he chooses not to wear a ring probably won’t influence many to do the same.”
Still, despite his general disinterest in the royals and their jewellery, Philip is quite the proponent of coloured gemstones such as the sapphire in Kate’s ring. “Personally, I love coloured stones, and have always used them in my designs. Be they colored diamonds, or other precious stones, they represent uniqueness, individuality, and in some cases, very good value.”
On design and value
It’s no coincidence that Philip raises value as an important notion in jewellery design. While Philip is adamant that only the best will do, he’s also conscious of his clients and their overall experience in the design and purchasing cycle. “By being a vertically integrated designer, manufacturer and retailer, we are able to control every element of quality and hold down costs – benefits our clients appreciate.”
To this end, he’s been hard at work on designing a new collection to make his designs accessible to individuals around the world. The team at Little Wed Hen knows the secret, and will provide more details in the coming weeks about the collection’s upcoming launch in early July.
On celebrity and copycats
And when Philip mentions clientele, he doesn’t simply mean the everyday individual. Philip, after all, is one of West Hollywood’s most well-regarded jewellers, and his clients include plenty of those whose names are frequently splashed across all of our favourite fashion and celebrity magazines. To this end, Philip’s designs are undoubtedly trendsetters. How does he manage to keep on top of the pressure of being one of Hollywood’s top designers? “It’s true that everyone seems to be following us,” he says. “There was a time when this bothered me, but now I really don’t pay attention.” Because Philip has always pushed the envelope in terms of design, he’s used to the interest. “Fortunately, I truly love what I do,” he says.
However, unlike many high-end, cutting edge designers, one issue that Philip doesn’t have to contend with is cheap counterfeits of his work. He muses that it’s his efforts to balance quality with affordability that have dissuaded others from making cheap copies of his work, meaning that he doesn’t have to worry poor quality knock-offs of his designs. “It’s difficult to replicate and sell our designs for much less than we sell them,” he says. And the ace up Philip’s sleeve is the fact that the quality of his workmanship can’t be matched, a sticking point that has stymied would-be counterfeiters worldwide.
On setting himself apart
So what else sets Philip apart from other designers? Philip muses for a moment, and before deciding thatit’s his sheer breadth of expertise – coupled with an obsession for of what he does. “I’m not only a designer, but I’m also a bench jeweler, a gemologist, and diamond and gemstone wholesaler who has travelled aroundthe world sourcing the best stones and cutters,” he says. “And, I make my own platinum alloy, too.” Indeed, there are few such jewellers around. “But it’s my obsession for making perfect pieces for my clients that is my driving force,” he says. “I love seeing the look in people’s eyes and hearing the gasps when they pick up their finished piece from my workshop – that’s my adrenaline rush.”
In addition to offering this unparalleled expertise, Philip also keeps a watchful eye on every item handcrafted in his shop. “All of the work done under the Philip Press name is undertaken in my shop and under my careful supervision,” he says.
On Philip’s own ring
Given Philip’s emphasis on designing rings that truly speak to his clients, we can’t help but wonder about his own ring. “Is it my design? Um, yes!” Philip goes on to tell us that his ring of choice is “a satin finished platinum band, set with a thin row of black diamonds all the way around. It’s masculine and hip.”
Philip Press and Primo Platinum contact details