An Interview with Jewellery Designer Niamh Patten

“I create jewellery that I like to wear and that I think the strong, confident women of today would like to wear”

Niamh Patten is the real deal when it comes to jewellery design. Freshly returned from one of the most iconic international showcases in the jewellery calendar – Vincenza in Italy, she lets us in on the inspiration behind her stunning new range – New Romantic.

“I have designed three core collections for New Romantic – Earth Angel, Heavy Metal and Privé, with each collection showcasing a different facet of the confident woman who wears it.”

But this isn’t her first rodeo. Niamh is a true jewellery design powerhouse having started her career in her early 20’s, almost three decades ago, although her youthful looks and abounding energy pay no head to this fact.

“I was involved in marketing several different products for a company and one of them was jewellery. I’ve always had an eye and great love for aesthetics of all kinds. Cars, property, clothing, everything really!”

She quickly scaled the ranks to take responsibility for the buying of all jewellery and it was this role that brought her on the first of many fateful trips to Vincenza.

“This incredible show opened my eyes to the size, scope and scale of the jewellery industry. I was living in London at the time and so I took the opportunity to do numerous courses in the Gemological Association and Gem Testing Laboratory. There I studied how to value and grade diamonds in particular. I then began buying loose stones and making a couple of pieces for myself. I got a great reaction to these which resulted in people commissioning jewellery from me. And it all kind of flowed from there.”

Ten years ago she set up the company NP2, a very successful online jewellery business and shop in Ireland but she bravely looked to explore a different passion when the recession took its toll.

“I decided to go back to college and study, which took up a huge amount of my time for many years. This was an invaluable experience but I was still always making jewellery, maybe six pieces over the course of a year. It’s a bit like sculpture really in that you’re creating something very personal and once you have an idea you have to see it through to completion.”

I’m lucky to travel frequently with my husband to some very far flung places where I’ve come across some wonderful stones and inspirations.

I began to realise I really missed my design work and then last January I was approached about a collaboration. This led me to revisit my second home of Vincenzo in Italy and I became totally hooked again, but that particular partnership wasn’t to be. Luckily I was introduced to Julie Ann Fearon and together we’ve brought New Romantic to the market.”

Niamh’s style has remained grounded in quality but New Romantic has presented a different creative outlet for her.

“Traditionally my work was very specific, my strongest skill set is pertaining to diamond set gold jewellery. However I have really stretched myself with the Heavy Metal collection for New Romantic and I’m really excited about it. I want to deliver a product that’s high in quality yet affordable for people. A lot of the pieces I’ve done before have been very high end. I’m really enjoying this challenge and think we are going to be bringing something to the market that we can be really proud of.  We will have a truly comprehensive range of pieces at some very keen prices. We want to offer something for everyone.”

The three different collections from New Romantic showcase an amazing range of styles, materials and price points.

“All materials are sourced from Italy including the best quality sterling silver. Every piece that has been plated has been carried out with the highest sophistication.

Often plating can be worn away after a week of coming in contact with your perfume. At New Romantic we are creating pieces that last and give ongoing joy to the women that wear them.”

“I always insist on the highest standards of materials and craftsmanship. I have some great working relationships with my partners in Italy going back 15 years. That’s very important to me.”

Niamh’s inspirations are drawn from some personal passions.

“One of the big inspirations for some of my jewellery has been yoga. I have some beautiful new pieces coming that feature words such as Namaste, breath, balance, believe. Words that really mean a lot to me. Yoga has been transformational in my life and I think many people will connect with that. The Earth Angel collection in particular is about our connection to the earth”

But you can’t take Niamh far from her love of diamonds.

“The most exciting gemstone for me is the diamond and it’s not commonly known that diamonds come in every colour imaginable. You can cut them to be so lustrous and they are very hard wearing, the hardest material known to man. Green diamonds, blue diamonds, they are just incredible. You could take a 20pt sapphire and take a 20pt blue diamond and when you polish the diamond there is just no comparison to the lustre of the stone and the way it catches the light. That’s why I’ve chosen to work with them in our Earth Angel collection and custom made Prive collection.”

There is one word that Niamh repeats when talking about New Romantic and that is confidence.

“The key element to wearing my jewellery is confidence and being proud of who you are. The best approach to jewellery for me is to be bold, but artistically bold not bling bold. Just own it. Laura Whitmore does this really well in my opinion.”

Niamh isn’t afraid to remind people that not all jewellery design is equal.

“The big point of difference I have is my experience which goes back almost 30 years. When you have that level of experience and expertise you bear witness to a lot of things that have happened in the industry. From new technologies to changing trends. There’s a cyclical element to jewellery just like fashion. Having been involved in the industry for a very long time you see styles come full rotation which is really invaluable experience and context for design work.

There’s a lot of up and comers out there at the moment who are suddenly saying they are jewellery designers. And while I fully support creativity and entrepreneurship, it’s very easy to call yourself a jewellery designer without any credentials. Will they all stand the test of time? I doubt it. To me it’s all about quality materials and you must have the experience to know the difference.”

Of course many of us would be fascinated to know what a typical day in the life of an international jewellery designer is, but Niamh reveals there’s no two days quite the same.

“Truthfully, where most people dream of a night out, I dream of a night in! I do a lot of yoga to keep me sane and energised. Yoga is life changing. I also read a huge amount, I travel a lot and I’m very involved with my children even though they’re grown up. Oh and coffee, it takes me two cups just to wake up in the morning. I can’t do anything without a good night’s sleep and I love listening to music to start my day. Then work takes priority. My evenings are family time with my husband, we love spending as much time together as possible.”

Niamh is without doubt incredibly committed to her family and choosing a favourite piece of jewellery can be like picking your favourite child. But under pressure Niamh pulls out a few of her fondest pieces.

“The Idol Necklace from our Heavy Metal collection is such a strong and versatile piece. Then the incredible blue and pink diamond peacock ring is a personal favourite from the Earth Angel range. And from the Prive collection, well we have a stunning black and white diamond ring in a checkerboard setting with an immense rock crystal resting on top. It’s a real showstopper!”

idol necklace

But Niamh isn’t one for sitting on her laurels.

“I’m actually moving to the States for a year to be closer to my children and I’m really excited to talk about our collections there. It’s such a refined European product and I think it will have great appeal in the US. But of course my heart is in Ireland and I really hope to see Irish women in particular enjoying these pieces.”

Finally we peppered Niamh with some quick fire questions give us an insight into the woman behind the jewellery.

What’s your favourite city in the world? – NYC, I’m flying there in a couple of days with my husband. Our Alsatian Francis is coming too of course.
Favourite book – Wolf Hall without question.
Favourite film – it’s got to be Dirty Dancing, it’s the 30th year revival right now.
Favourite jewellery designers – Repossi, Anoushka, Alexis Bittar, Ileana Makri, Roberto Coin, Damiani and Chimento
Favourite food – fish and seafood, I’m actually not eating red meat at the moment and don’t miss it at all.
Favourite restaurant – Patrick Guilbauds, it’s outrageous but I love it!
Favourite bar – the Peninsula Hotel on 5th Ave in NYC, their roof garden bar is fantastic.
Favourite drink – Amarone, Italian red wine, their jewellery is matched only by their wine!
Find out more about New Romantic and our collections at www.newromanticjewellery.com or contact us now for more information

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