Shaun Leane and the Royal Engagement Ring

Shaun Leane is one of the world’s most talented goldsmiths and is a Liveryman of the Goldsmiths’ Company. Upon completing the royal engagement ring for Princess Beatrice we look back at the story of his career as well as what the royal commission meant to him.

Many of us want our work to stand for something bigger than ourselves and for Shaun the royal engagement ring wasn’t just the piece that allowed this to be fully recognised, it was also a natural destination point for a career overflowing with highlights.

Shaun’s instinct for design and irrepressible creativity started with an apprenticeship in jewellery design and manufacturing at age 15, where his tutor recognised his talent for crafting. With this support he progressed to English Traditional Jewellery in Hatton Garden, learning the finest skills of goldsmithing; but it wasn’t just an independent natural talent that drove him forward: Shaun says: “I developed a respect for past masters and how their spirit and personality was expressed through each distinct design. It triggered a passion to design pieces of my own.”

This passion to express unique design meant that by 1999 he had established his own business and was completing commissions for major clients such as Boucheron, Diacore and Daphne Guinness, for who he made a diamond evening glove which fused couture with fine jewellery. In the words of Shaun, it was: “A piece that no one had ever made before and showed who I was as a jeweller”.

“I flourished because I fell in love with design"

The articulation and expression of identity made bespoke jewellery a very large part of his business and the royal engagement ring was another chance to understand the dreams, emotions and memories involved in the creation of personalised jewellery. From the moment that Edouard Mapelli Mozzi approached Shaun to collaboratively design the engagement ring for Princess Beatrice, Shaun knew that it would be a fascinating, thought-provoking journey, translating messages and symbols into the design process, which took two and half months to complete.

Royal engagement ring with the Goldsmiths' Company Assay Office hallmarks

The journey encompasses not just the abstract but also the actual making of the piece. Shaun documents the melting of the metals, the alloys which are made in-house and everything from milling to setting and polishing - the piece evolved from concept to reality. “The challenge is capturing everything that’s in the client’s mind and bringing that into the making process,” says Shaun, “when the diamond is set and you see the response, it’s wonderful.”

Inspiration for the ring itself came from Art Deco and Victorian eras whilst bringing together modern design elements into a clean, solid, tactile ring. Needless to say, they both loved the design, execution and craftmanship. But it wasn’t just Edouard and Beatrice who were satisfied, Shaun felt he had a created a piece that is fit to represent the 21st century and act as a stylistic ambassador for future generations. 

“It’s a real honour and very flattering to know that a piece of my work is part of history. I went to the V&A to study past masters for inspiration and am in awe of the historical record that these pieces hold and what they resemble"

The royal engagement ring then is not only a record of style for historians, it’s for future goldsmiths to be inspired and continue the art of fine jewellery and design for which the UK is known for around the world. And for the goldsmiths of tomorrow inspiration requires the right people, platforms and long-term support to help it reach its full potential.
That’s why along with the magnificent examples of jewellery design on Shaun’s wall you’ll also find his certificate as a Liveryman with the Goldsmiths’ Company. “It’s not just a stamp of approval,” states Shaun, “it shows I’m contributing to something bigger and more important than just me as an individual.”

See more of Shaun’s work here