London-based jewellery designer Amy Burton grew up around some of the most iconic designs in jewellery history, as the daughter of Stephen and Janie Burton, who own Hancocksvintage jewellery boutique in Mayfair’s Burlington Arcade. She joined the family business buying and selling antique pieces, but always had her own designs at the back of her mind.
After studying diamond grading and gemmology at London’s Gemmological Association, she later decided to put these ideas to paper and enrolled on a jewellery design course at the Gemological Institute of America.
In late 2016 she launched her eponymous fine jewellery brand; a strikingly contemporary collection vastly unlike the antique treasures usually found in her family’s boutique. She works closely with her brother Guy to source stones for her statement designs – from the chaotic gold cages of her signature Disorient collection, inspired by a Venetian gate, to the one-of-a-kind nature of the Unum range – all of which are handmade by British craftsmen.
With insider access to some of the most significant and unique jewels spanning all eras, Burton shares the pieces that have made it into her own jewellery box.
ALB mourning pendant
I’ve always been fascinated by mourning jewellery. It’s a bit of a dark concept which many people find uncomfortable but I think of it like a talisman. I find it sad when a jewel that has been made to remember someone ends up on the second-hand market, and that person once so beloved has been forgotten. I liked the idea of finding a piece for myself, but it had to be something I felt connected to. I never thought I’d find anything like this!
I found it by pure fluke at a trade show in Miami. There are about 800 or 900 stands and one day I wandered onto a stand that I’d never been to before and was rummaging through shoe-boxes full of jewellery when I saw this – the prettiest piece of mourning jewellery I had ever seen. When I turned it over it had my initials, ALB, on it. I couldn’t believe it!
I didn’t want the dealer to see how excited I was because I didn’t want them to put the price up, so I played it cool and then did a little happy dance on my own back at my stand. I love how ornate it is, with a beautiful enamel chain. It has a name on it, Alfred, and the date 5th February 1910. I assume it was made for a husband who was lost. I like the fact that it’s being loved again. I even ended up using the ALB script off it as the logo for my own jewellery brand.
Van Cleef & Arpels ballerina brooches
I adore the Van Cleef & Arpels Ballerina collection from the 1940s, it’s an iconic part of jewellery history. I fell in love with it when I was learning my trade, and my dad gave me the miniature ruby ballerina a long time ago. About four years ago we found the sapphire one at another trade event, and I’m hoping that if we come across the emerald and diamond versions at the right price I’ll be able to complete my little collection.
I don’t really wear brooches, so I had a fitting made in order to wear them as a pendant. I wear them one at a time and swap between them. We didn’t want to take the pins off – with vintage pieces you never want to alter them from their original state because that would affect the value, but there are always ways to wear pieces without ruining their integrity.
It’s quite unusual to find one of the large ballerinas from the 1940s – they’re very collectable, whenever they come up at auction the prices they reach are crazy. So when my dad gave me the little ruby one it was a very precious moment, to think that I have a little part of such an important collection. Whenever I wear one at trade shows people will ask how much for it, but they are absolutely not for sale.
Dinh Van gold and diamond ring
Dinh Van is a designer that I always love buying – he worked for Cartier in the 1950s, before launching his own line, and his Cartier pieces are really collectable. This ring is from the 1980s, when he worked for himself, my father and I found it about six years ago and I became completely besotted. It didn’t stay in stock for long!
His style fits with my aesthetic – I’m quite sculptural and geometric, and he is the same, very simplistic, so I’ve always been drawn to him. This ring just spoke to me and I wore it almost every day until I got engaged, but I still wear it a lot.
It has two substantial sized diamonds but because it’s an interesting design it doesn’t look too extravagant to wear every day. People wouldn’t necessarily look at it and think they are diamonds – they might think it’s fashion jewellery – so I wear it quite comfortably for all occasions.
Antique diamond heart pendant
This was my 18th birthday gift from my mum and dad. Apparently my dad had been saving it for a few years – as soon as he saw it he wanted to buy it for me but he thought I might lose it, so he saved it for a suitable occasion, and my 18th birthday turned out to be it.
It’s a gorgeous Victorian piece from the turn of the century with a glass back and is a very sentimental jewel for me. My dad started off dealing in antique pieces in the markets so for me this is representative of his roots in the jewellery trade – although obviously he wasn’t dealing in things like this at the beginning!
When I was younger I only wore it on special occasions, but as I became more comfortable wearing jewellery I started to wear it more. I think diamonds go with everything. It has become one of my go-to pendants, I’ll wear it with jeans and a shirt as an everyday piece. I think my parents love that I still wear it now.
Amy Burton Fine Jewellery Disorient earrings
I’ve been on the waiting list for these and I finally got them a month or so ago – we had to make sure that shop had every piece in the range before I was allowed to take anything so I had to wait for the second or third round of production. I’m so pleased I finally have them!
I chose these as my first personal piece because you really can wear them with and to everything; you can dress them up or down. The Disorient range is my signature collection that I’ll continue to grow and develop. I don’t think I’ll ever stop making it. I constantly see stones and think the only thing I’d want to do with that is make it into a Disorient pendant. So these hoops felt like the right piece so have.