Machine Gun Kelly’s Favorite Designer, Stephen Webster, Wants More Young People to Become Jewelers

SHINE ON: The Leopards, a group of U.K. jewelry industry figures, have spent the last eight years mentoring trainees in craft and design, teaming with The Prince’s Trust charity, and raising funds for emerging talent.

Now they’re broadening their reach and looking to preach to an even younger crowd about the joys of jewelry-making.

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The group, which includes jewelers and industry figures Stephen Webster, Theo Fennell, Solange Azagury-Partridge, Susan Farmer, and Carol Woolton, will this week be distributing 10 jewelry toolboxes to teenage students at Aston University Engineering Academy in Birmingham, England.

The aim is to get those students to try their hands at crafting and explore all the different skills that go into jewelry making.

The Leopards, who take their name from the leopard hallmark, which has been used to mark gold and silver pieces produced in London since 1363, said they chose Aston as it has a new jewelry skills training center.

The center, which is set to open in September, is meant to boost Birmingham’s reputation as a jewelry and metalworking hub.

The black toolboxes cost 500 pounds to make and fill, and come complete with a host of instruments including needle files, tweezers, magnifying glasses, binding wires and soldering blocks.

The image for Carol Woolton’s podcast “If Jewels Could Talk.”
The image for Carol Woolton’s podcast “If Jewels Could Talk.”

Webster, who trained as a jeweler and later became a jewelry designer, said the aim is to “champion jewelry, and communicate what a fabulous career choice this is.”

The jeweler, whose clients include Lewis Hamilton, Machine Gun Kelly and Jennifer Lopez, said handing out the toolboxes to teenagers is like sending youngsters onto the soccer pitch, asking them to kick a ball around, and watching to see who falls in love with the sport.

Webster said it’s never too early to expose young people to craft. “The U.K. is facing a crisis now, because there are not enough young craftspeople coming in.”

Fellow Leopard Woolton, the author and host of the podcast “If Jewels Could Talk,” said the toolboxes will give students the chance to put down their mobile phones and use their hands to create something.

“We want to introduce jewelry-making to people who would never have thought about it, or considered it as a career,” said Woolton, adding that in the U.K., “skills like enameling and engraving are dying. We want to give people an opportunity to save these crafts.”

Shaun Leane, Susan Farmer, Solange Azagury-Partridge, Stephen Webster, Carol Woolton and Theo Fennell

Woolton and Farmer, who was the guiding force behind The Leopards’ formation, brought De Beers on board to sponsor the first batch of boxes – and there are more in the pipeline.

The Leopards are planning a fundraiser for later this year to support their work, which includes mentoring trainees from The Prince’s Trust, which was founded by King Charles in 1976 (when he was Prince of Wales) to help disadvantaged young people discover their talents, and train for jobs.

The industry group has been fundraising since it was founded in 2016, staging awards galas, and partnering with big brands and with London’s Goldsmiths’ Hall, which has been home to the British gold, silver and jewelry industry for more than 700 years.

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