Rare sighting: Ming Lampson’s Oriental Garden

Notting Hill jeweller Ming Lampson presents her first collection in 10 years. Discover how her low-key approach makes her one-off jewels more desirable.

Ming Lampson Butterfly ring on model

Ming Lampson is something of an insider’s secret. Tucked away in her bijoux boutique in Notting Hill, you could cycle past and miss the black façade between the veterinary clinic and the Asian raw food bar.

In fact, it is likely you have never seen any of her jewels. More used to making bespoke pieces, for many years Ming quite simply had nothing to show. Just as jewellery used to be, Ming’s is a very personal relationship between maker and client.

Notting Hill Jeweller Ming Lampson has launched Oriental Garden, her first collection in 10 years.

The jewels go from her basement workshop straight onto clients’ fingers and lobes with no PR fanfare. “It’s something I’m quite proud of,” says Ming. “By their very nature bespoke jewels are always one-offs so I have to design from scratch every single time. This has given me a range of knowledge and a wider scope than if I had just been making my own collections.”

More like an old friend, Ming, usually dressed in jeans and Adidas shell toes, really wants to talk to you about jewels – and not about her jewels but what is right for you. At ease with handling oodles of diamonds and amazing stones, Ming strips out pretension and snobbery. Not in the moneyed, “this old thing” way but as someone who wants you to find the joy in the flashes inside a candy-bright rubellite or run your fingers over the dragonfly wing pattern on the shank of a ring.

Emerald Caterpillar ring
Five Brazilian emeralds are set to mimic the plump body of a caterpillar in this ring by Ming Lampson of London (£19,000).

Ming encourages me to admire the liquid ripples of translucent colours in an Australian black opal, which she describes as “jelly-like”. As if lit from within, five luminous Brazilian emeralds make up the body of a pudgy caterpillar. Ask Ming for a price and, almost surprised, she goes scurrying into drawers and reaching up onto bookshelves in search of the elusive price list.

Her British parents were living in Hong Kong when she was born and Asia still colours her life. “I grew up surrounded by Oriental art and furniture and then I trained in India and lived in Sri Lanka and Thailand. I can’t shake off the influence of Asia and my fascination with it,” she explains.

Oriental Garden is Ming’s first collection in 10 years and each jewel is a one-of-a-kind creation. Her last collection, which marked the opening of her Notting Hill boutique, was Oriental Princess. “I realised that it had been ages since I had made anything that wasn’t a commission so I thought it was time to create a theme,” says Ming.

“I chose Oriental Garden, because the frustrated gardener in me would love to spend as much time as possible in the heat and humidity of Asia,” she continues. "I imagined what I would see walking around my dream garden, from dragonflies to ponds to a diamond-paved path going from night to day. There is just something about the heat and beauty and lushness of Asian gardens that I can’t shake.” Ming, who lives in an apartment in Paddington, hastens to add that in no way is she knocking her beloved London.

My favourite piece is the serene Lapis Pool ring, above. A square of deep-blue lapis lazuli is a Zen-like pond of cool water onto which a green tourmaline leaf has just fallen – a serendipitous moment of spontaneous beauty captured forever. The magnificent Wisteria necklace, below, wouldn’t be out of place on the neck of a Duchess at an Edwardian ball, but when worn it has a very contemporary lightness to it. Abundant swags of sapphire blooms, almost drooping under their own weight, encircle the neck with an unexpected ease and sway gently with each move, uncannily like the real thing. 

Unusually, Ming is both a gemmologist and a John Cass graduate jeweller and will happily debrief you on every aspect of the gemstones and inspiration as well as the construction of each jewel. Ask Ming about any of the stones and she pings back data-dense information about the origin, quality and individual quirks of each.

As a trained gemmologist she has vetted and committed to each and every stone she adopts. She points out that the Wisteria necklace is set entirely with natural sapphires, each one chosen by her and transformed using the diamond cut, which both enhances their sparkle and allows them to be set more closely together as aesthetics and technique go hand in hand.

From the level of explanation offered, it is clear that Ming is there every step of the way. When not at her jeweller’s bench, she confesses to breathing down the neck of her jewellers and indulging in some serious back-seat gem-setting.

Tourmaline and sapphire Flowerbud ring
Ming Lampson's Flowerbud ring features an 8.64 carat green tourmaline and blue sapphires (£19,500). 

As a woman, Ming puts emphasis on the comfort of a jewel and how it will be worn. For example, the green tourmaline Flowerbud ring, left, is top-heavy on purpose: “I could have created a split shank to make it sit central on the finger but I wanted it to move so that you can appreciate both the size of the stone and the details in the setting underneath.”

After an hour, Ming’s obsession with her craft, and creating her own world spun from precious stones, is obvious. Each jewel is a crusade of perfection and beauty, pondering and mulling over every detail. And she won’t rest until it is perfect. “It’s like a neurosis,” says Ming laughing, “but it’s all about perfection because that is what you want in jewellery.”

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