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“I like the scale of jewellery, I like the fineness. And I like diamonds, diamonds really do make everything else look better.”
David Thomas was born in Middlesex in 1938, the son of academic parents who nonetheless encouraged and supported him in pursuit of his artistic ambitions. He attended Twickenham School of Art and after leaving went to live in Stockholm where he worked for W.A. Bolin, the Swedish Crown Jewellers and then the silversmith Sven Arne Gillgren. He won a scholarship to study at the Royal College of Art back in the UK, earning himself the title of Royal Scholar by the end of his first year. He registered his maker’s mark ‘D.A.T’ with the London Assay Office in 1959 and after graduating in 1961, went on to set up his own studio.
That same year Thomas was one of the innovative young jewellers selected to exhibit his work at the ground breaking ‘International Exhibition of Modern Jewellery 1890 – 1961’ at Goldsmiths’ Hall in London. His jewellery was typically asymmetric and three dimensional in form with splintered and confronting shapes; he frequently used rough textured finishes on his gold and a mix of unusual gemstones, sometimes left in their natural rough state. However, the arresting designs were never allowed to compromise the integrity of a jewel and craftsmanship remained of paramount importance to Thomas throughout his career. His jewels were hand crafted down to the smallest element and detail which made the work labour intensive and time consuming to create. Prior to beginning work on the piece itself, Thomas would meticulously hand paint a technical drawing of the design giving exact dimensions to work to.
These abstract jewels were an exciting alternative to the traditional jewellery of the time and Thomas, along with contemporaries such as Andrew Grima and John Donald, soon gained international recognition. Like the Art Nouveau and Arts and Crafts jewellers had done at the turn of the 20th Century, so these new modernist jewellers sought to challenge the perceived notion of ‘fine jewellery’ and redefine what it could look like, what materials could be used and what could be deemed ‘precious’ and ‘valuable’. By the middle of the 1960s Thomas was exhibiting his work internationally in Australia, Zurich, America and Japan. However, much of his work was made to commission by an ever-growing collection of private clients who appreciated both his creative vision and his technical expertise.
Today his jewellery can be found in private and public collections such as the necklaces which form part of the Victoria and Albert Museum collection and the Goldsmiths’ Hall collection and which are both quintessential examples of his style. He has a workshop in Pimlico in London where he continues to work, alongside his daughter Jessie, to whom he is passing his considerable talents.