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Touted as one of the largest Gothic cathedrals in Northern Europe, England’s York Minster is also distinguished by its stained glass windows; one of which is 76-feet tall and is considered one of the largest stained glass windows in the world. England is also home to featured jewelry designer Shaun Leane.

When I read about Leane’s 15-year collaboration with the late fashion designer Alexander McQueen, whereby Leane created extraordinary, full-body ornaments for runway models, I expected his designer jewelry to be unapologetically subversive in tone.

While there is a definite edge to his pendant necklaces, gemstone rings and pearl lariat necklaces fashioned in the likenesses of sabers, eagle skulls, and tusks his pieces are surprisingly feminine with palpable overtones of angst and romance. The pieces are a seamless, beautiful fusion of decadence and refinement.

Though he harbors a longing to be an archaeologist, Leane created his first object, a knife, at the age of 15. An admirer of fashion, architecture and the vintage jewelry eras, Leane takes each as a source of inspiration building his prolific collections cultivated from sterling silver, gold vermeil, and 18-karat white and yellow gold with accents of diamonds, pearls, citrine or colorful enamel.

“I worked in antique restoration and reproduction when I realized my ability to design. I have a tremendous amount of respect for the distinctive designs of the Art Nouveau, Art Deco, Victorian and Georgian periods.

What I enjoy doing is taking elements of those period styles and making them modern. Collaborating with Alexander McQueen contributed a lot to my inclination for breaking some of the design boundaries in jewelry,” he explains. “It gave me a base to think outside the box and push those boundaries.”

Nature is also a huge influence on his melodious aesthetic. Twisting branches with delicate leaves are the central design of his Blackthorn Collection; his silver and enamel interpretation of the Copperhead, Boa, Viper, and King snakes are highlighted in Leane’s men’s jewelry lineSerpent; and the buoyant, beautiful white and red cherry blossom flower is the singular inspiration behind his Cherry Blossom Collection.

Leane’s bridal and wedding jewelry include non-traditional white gold engagement and wedding rings, as well as an evocative pierced heart necklace from his Hook My Heart Collection.

In my opinion, the Hook My Heart pendant necklaces, as well as the 18-karat gold and enamelThorned Heart Locket, is a more grown up version of this universal symbol as the design’s implication of love’s powerful hold is more commanding. Here again Leane’s collections of fine and fashion jewelry are a masterful hybrid of chic and edgy femininity. 

“Organic forms are central to my design approach. They are beautiful and fragile yet there are hidden elements of strength and danger.

To me jewelry is something very personal; it should be a reminder of a special time in our lives so that when it is worn we re-live that emotion.”

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