London-based jewelry designer Mabel Hasell has learned to expect the unexpected. She uses lost wax casting to set gemstones into jewelry with unpredictable and intriguing results. Mabel creates a piece of jewelry in wax, placing stones where she’d like them to set. Of course, you’ve heard what they say about the best-laid plans. Molten metal is introduced to replace the wax and take the shape of the jewel. As it melts the wax, the metal flows in and surrounds each gem, carrying each gently like debris on a river surface. The resulting jewel is a surprise to Mabel herself. Because this is a process Mabel cannot control, her jewels cannot be replicated – each is one of a kind and many are exclusive to Boticca. Find out why Mabel works in this unusual way and find out which gemstones she loves most.
I grew up on a farm in a small country village in Devon. This environment gave me the opportunity to explore and be creative from a young age. My love of art led me to study fine art at college locally before moving to London in 2006, where I did a degree in jewelry at Middlesex University.
At art college I started making sculptures from materials and objects I found while walking around the farm. For example, finding an obscure rusty piece of metal lying in an old barn inspired me to cover it in colorful ribbon and material. I liked the idea of transforming old scrap into something beautiful. I’ve always been fascinated with color and collected an array of different shaped and colored stones. Not only did I love collecting and transforming objects, I loved to wear extravagant beaded earrings and necklaces and wanted to share this passion with others.
The natural progression was for me to combine my love of sculpture with making jewelry. At first I used seeds, leaves and other found materials to create organic and natural forms. It was at this point I knew I wanted to be a jeweler and decided to study for a jewelry degree in London.
The course was contemporary and pushed me to make unusual, eccentric jewelry, but also taught me the techniques I needed to learn to make traditional pieces. I still used a lot of color in my work including ribbon, buttons and bottle tops. Towards the end of the course I discovered the lost wax casting technique, which was a perfect way of combining my interests in metal, organic forms and colorful gems.
I always start with the gemstone: All of my pieces are designed around the stone itself. I have a general idea of what the piece is going to look like in my mind but I don’t make many sketches beforehand. I need to physically work with the materials to create my designs.
Working with wax allows me to build up the piece gradually and alter it as much as I wish, which makes it an incredibly manipulative and flexible process. The next part of the process involves the casting, which I have less control over, as the stones move in the molten metal. With experience I have learned the techniques to roughly determine where the stones are going to end up and how much they will travel, but there is still an element of excitement as sometimes they move in an unexpected way.
I work with raw crystals and cut polished gems with pewter, silver and gold. I am fascinated with gems and all the different colors and shapes they come in. I love the fact that there are an infinite number of ways a gemstone can be set into a piece of jewelry. My personal favorite stones are sapphires and raw aquamarines because of the vast spectrum of shades they come in.
I always have more than one design on the go, so if I ever feel uninspired I can just switch to another piece. Problems can arise during the casting process; sometimes the stones can block the flow of metal resulting in half a ring, or the stones sink never to be found again! With experience I’ve gained the skills to prevent this, most of the time! There is always an element of risk, especially when using gold or expensive stones.
I set the stones in a specific place and I always have a plan of where they will end up. I like the final outcome to involve a bit of randomness to add to the excitement. This also means each piece is totally unique.
As a freshly graduated jeweler having taken part in New Designers (the UK’s biggest graduate exhibition), the interest shown in me and my contemporaries was overwhelming. Even though this felt like jumping in the deep end, it made me focus on what direction I wanted Mabel Hasell Jewellery to take. The difficulties of the business world were becoming clear. However the reality was to continue to navigate the challenges that were thrown at me and to look out for new opportunities.
Selling directly to customers at fairs, I recognized my work has an appeal to a wide range of people of all ages. My rings are the most popular items from my collections and are often sold as engagement rings!
My Floating Gems cluster rings! They are my statement pieces, which are used in photo shoots and gain the most attention when on show. They are also the most exciting pieces to make!
I would recommend you take part in as many shows as possible, to be seen by the public and to build up your contacts. And definitely get a good website to show off your work. Some designers spend so much time designing and making that they don’t have time for the marketing and selling side, which is just as important.
My favorite places to visit in London are the markets, especially Columbia Road Flower Market. I love looking at all the beautiful flowers, all year round; there is always such a great atmosphere with a real buzz. I do like to go back to Devon every now and again to refresh my batteries though!