Polly Wales founded her fine jewelry company in London in 2010. Since that time, she has taken the world by storm with her unconventional approach to jewelry manufacturing—particularly for her pioneering work in the Cast-Not-Set technique. Polly’s company is currently located in Downtown Los Angeles and sells jewelry all around the world.
Polly is a joy to chat with—a beaming light of presence and ebullience. Thank you, Polly, for being a friend, and for taking the time to chat with us today.
What are your pronouns?
Tell us a bit about yourself.
I’m a British jewellery designer living and working in Los Angeles. I always gravitated toward art from a very young age and went on to study sculpture then jewellery at the Royal College of Art. We left the English countryside almost 4 years ago and have been enjoying lots of sunshine ever since.
Describe your cultural background, your childhood. How does it impact your work?
I grew up in London and was a teenager in the ‘90s, which was an interesting time in England because it was the start of the rave scene and the Counterculture movement. People began taking an outsider’s approach to the way they lived their lives, participating in DIY culture and doing things outside of the usual constructs of society. These things very much influenced me and, in many ways, set me on the path to where I am now.
How do you maintain a sense of play?
All of the work that we do is very playful and some of that comes from having an anarchist attitude toward jewellery—a disregard for the traditional aspects of jewellery and what people understand jewellery to be. This attitude is very liberating and gives me a lot more space to be playful and push boundaries as a designer. It ultimately inspired the creation of my “Cast-Not-Set” technique which casts gemstones directly into molten gold. It’s a totally unique process that I have been developing for nearly 13 years.
What is your simple pitch to people who haven’t encountered your jewelry first hand?
We make jewellery that lends itself to reminiscing. It feels ancient, travelled, lived in and handed down. We are the antithesis of pristine and reserved. I like to think of our pieces like an old friend and also the most intriguing person at the party—at once intimate and captivating.
What inspires your creative practice?
I have always been drawn to the idea of “imperfect beauty” and am intrigued by the ways we develop relationships with the objects we treasure—how the marks of wear and tear make pieces more precious to us as we journey through life with them. I want our jewellery to tell a story about real life in the same way…for my pieces to be able to enhance a person’s beauty, as true and imperfect as it may be.
If you could live in any time period, what would it be and how long would you wish to stay there?
I would choose to live in any time or place prior to the point that we realized we were facing environmental catastrophe. I’d stay there forever…
What does scent mean to you?
Putting on a fragrance has an amazing ability to transport you to another time or place or feeling. It can be emotive or be about a memory. Wearing fragrance is an amazing way of describing who you are and what you’re about without using words.
Tell us about your favorite Sigil perfume.
I love Prima Materia. I was drawn to its vetiver and green notes. Vetiver is my favorite scent—it’s mostly used in aftershave so I love wearing it in a less masculine way. When I put on Prima Materia, I feel fully dressed and ready for the world. I spend most of my time in my workshop, so wearing beautiful perfume is a little bit of luxury for every day and it makes me feel good.