Lauren Harwell Godfrey is the founder and designer of Harwell Godfrey, a line of 18-karat gold and gemstone jewelry handmade in California.
She spent more than 15 years as an award-winning art director and creative director in New York City and San Francisco, creating branded content for clients including Adidas, Levi’s and Ray-Ban. Eager to embrace another growing passion, Godfrey enrolled in the inaugural class of the San Francisco Cooking School in 2013. After graduation, her natural talents quickly landed her an externship at critically acclaimed restaurant SPQR, stages at beloved Bay Area institutions Bar Tartine and Chez Panisse, and a hosting gig for Wired.
Finding the process of working with her hands meditative, Godfrey began crafting bold accessories for herself and friends in 2015. Striking an instant chord with collectors and retailers, those initial pieces were the spark for Harwell Godfrey’s accessory line, founded in 2016. These one-of-a kind pieces are custom made by Godfrey with intriguing, bold scale combinations of hand-tooled leather and raw stones.
Her foray into fine jewelry began in 2017 with a capsule collection launched at Paris Fashion Week with For Future Reference.
Q&A WITH DESIGNER/FOUNDER LAUREN HARWELL GODFREY
Why did you want to move from your handmade accessories to fine jewelry?
The leather and stone pieces I make by hand were my first foray in to the seductive world of jewelry. The more exposure I had to this incredible craft, the more it made me want to experience designing with precious metals and stones, as well as explore the techniques specific to fine jewelry. I’ve definitely been bitten by the jewelry bug. I’m still hand-making pieces, but as I’m sharing time with the fine jewelry development, it is on a much more limited, mostly custom basis.
Stones and their meanings are very important to you. How did you start exploring this topic and why does it resonate with you?
I originally started working with rough natural stones and crystals because I found them visually interesting, but over time I found myself tuning in to the energy that they carry. I’ve done a lot of trunk shows where I’ve been able to witness people being drawn to very specific stones. That compelled me to start learning about the fascinating, ancient tradition of using crystals and stones as tools for various forms of healing. Not sure if I’m getting too woo woo here, but it resonates with me because I'm very interested in our relationship as humans to the energy in and around us. I love the idea of creating pieces that people can connect with not only visually, but energetically. This has been really fun to explore in fine jewelry—it turns out diamonds act as amplifiers of the stones around them!
Talk about the elements inspiration and why this is the heart of your first fine collection.
As I’ve been learning more about stones, I’ve been spending time thinking about how they relate to the elements: Air, Water, Fire and Earth. As a former creative director and art director, I am used to designing around a thought or an idea. This felt like a great opportunity to take my interest in the energy of the stones and apply it to designing a collection in a purposeful way. And because most people are familiar with the zodiac, which also falls under these elements, there’s a natural way for people to connect with the collection.
You use a lot of techniques in your jewelry — including inlay and enamel — how does this add to the interest in your pieces?
There are a lot of techniques in my jewelry! Inlay, enamel, pavé, engraving, stone cutting, goldsmithing. Some of the pieces are worked on by as many as six different master craftspeople. This combination of techniques has allowed me to fully tell the story I wanted to tell in this collection. I’m interested in creating pieces that have a lot of visual interest as a whole, but the details are what makes them special.
You’re incorporating surprise elements into your jewelry such as poison rings and perfume inserts. Why did you want to step a little outside of the traditional fine jewelry parameters?
I didn’t realize I was stepping out of the traditional parameters when I started doing those things. There is something very liberating about being naïve that I hope to hold on to! The reason for creating poison rings and lockets is that I loved the idea of jewelry as a place to hold something meaningful close to you. I was thinking about how nice it would be to keep a written intention or a note in something you wear. The perfume inserts felt like a perfect fit for these pieces, though I realize these could also be a great place to stash a Xanax. What ever you’re into—no judgment!
Tell us about the perfume inserts — is this a signature scent and if so, how will this continue to be a part of your collection?
The perfume inserts came out of this idea of carrying something meaningful in the jewelry. Essential oils, like stones, can enhance energy. I worked with Loreto Remsing, an amazing perfumer, to develop a signature scent that is 100% all natural and non-toxic, using only pure essential oils, absolutes, and tinctures. I definitely plan to continue to explore the relationship between jewelry and fragrance.