As a child, Ms. Martin had never even considered jewelry as a potential career. She grew up in Bristol, a port city in southwest England, where she fell in love with art during her years at the local public school. Her mother, who was a teacher, and her father, a graphic designer, always encouraged her interest, and she planned to become a sculptor. But during the foundation course at Central Saint Martins, it took only a week in the jewelry workshop for her to be hooked. “It fit my artistic side, but there was also definitely a bit of a right brain side of my head that liked the design challenge,” she said. “And I love bashing metal around.”
Between her second and third years of study, she had an internship at Cartier in Paris, but then turned down a job offer to start her own business. “I thought, ‘I want to be in that world, but I want to make it for rock ‘n’ roll boys’,” she said with a laugh. After graduation, she won a place in a lottery-funded program that provided entrepreneurial training to graduates in the creative industries and, later, a grant of £30,000, enough to make her first two collections.
Over the years, she has been a consultant for a number of global luxury jewelry brands, including Louis Vuitton and Chaumet, an activity that helped her keep the business going when the pandemic coincided with the high costs of producing a new collection and renovating her studio. It also has helped her retain a broad perspective on design. “You’re in an echo chamber when you’re doing your own thing,” she said.
Ms. Martin’s uncompromising attitude to her vision does have its drawbacks. In 2013, she largely withdrew from wholesale because it had become too expensive for her to produce enough pieces in her gold-heavy style for speculative sales. (Although Dover Street Market in London, she said, has been an important supporter since Day 1.)
“It cannot have been easy for her to stick to her guns, financially, as an individual, independent designer-jeweler,” the jewelry historian Vivienne Becker wrote in an email, “but she has grown her business organically, building a devoted core clientele, appealing to media, music and show-business collectors. And it’s all now coming together; she’s gaining much-deserved recognition.”
To Mr. McGregor, Ms. Martin’s radical approach to jewelry design is what sets her apart. “Hannah’s work reimagines and upends the term ‘precious’ — it has an otherworldly beauty.”