Stephen Webster’s Thorn Addiction jewellery is the ultimate 90s revival
The renowned British jeweller, tapped by icons and idols from Machine Gun Kelly to Elton John, launches a men’s collection that punctures jewellery’s gender norms
Wrapped around the beating heart of Stephen Webster’s renowned jewellery work is the thorn, a motif that studs an almost 25-year archive of edgy, bold pieces. Today, the British jeweller celebrates the enduring icon and pioneering aesthetic with the Thorn Addiction collection.
The original thorn was inspired by tattoo magazines Stephen had picked up while honeymooning with his wife Anatasia in Rio, Brazil in 1999. He drew the intricate thorn design, like that of those iconic 90s armband tattoos, on the stretched skin of Assia’s pregnant belly. On returning home from the holiday, he created the first Tattoo Thorn collection. This is the first full collection they’ve revived – a men’s collection, but styled gender neutral – with modern new twists.
When we catch up with Stephen and his daughter and collaborator Amy Webster over Zoom, he’s a week into a trip to Bangkok for stone buying and visiting manufacturers – a journey he used to make regularly pre-pandemic. Now, the buzz is back, and Stephen is hunting for inspiration. “The business is growing in the more bespoke area, people want things that feel meaningful,” he says. “They want hidden messages, birthstones, engravings. Maybe it’s pandemic triggered – wanting to feel close to others – but there’s a demand for something more personal.”
“Going into the archive and picking up the thorn motif, seeing how we can twist and modernise it to appeal to the contemporary jewellery wearer, was so exciting. We got to go to town!” says Amy. Amy, who started out as a film editor, joined her father’s business three years ago and has developed in trend research, marketing, and styling campaigns. It’s a small but mighty team that takes the work familially and personally.
“When you’re at the front-end creatively you can’t stagnate, but you also can’t miss the opportunity to look back and reflect and revive. Amy and her generation can do that,” adds Stephen.
A wiley, creative way of working inspires jewellery that has captivated an epochal clientele of icons and idols from Elizabeth Taylor to Elton John, Ozzy Osbourne, and Angelina Jolie. Webster helped to visually define one of 2022’s wildest pop culture moments yet – that, being Machine Gun Kelly’s proposal to Megan Fox. The ring, designed with MGK by Webster, is a toi et moi style ring of two interlocking thorn bands to join the couple’s birthstones – diamonds and emeralds. After the proposal, they drank each other’s blood. Who else to envision a rock and roll ring that reflects the extra-as-hell goth couple-du-jour’s eternal love than jewellery rebel Webster?
“He’s a phenomenal canvas and collaborator for us,” Stephen says. “He highlights those extremes you can take it to, but also how you can find comfort in your own style.”
As he says, “we’re in a renaissance period of jewellery”. It’s an exciting space to be, as gender norms are obliterated on the runway and the pandemic invigorates a collective want for pieces that are sentimental, special, and tell a story. And ofc, rock is having a moment – from the theatrics of MGK-Fox and Miley, to the nocturnal aesthetics of Indie Sleaze; leather, studs, and latex at Versace, 16Arlington, and Coperni, and general post-pan party excess.
The Thorn Addiction collection speaks to Webster’s hardline, ferociously cool aesthetic and a deft ability to capture a zeitgeist. Personality and personalisation come before gender, and the collection celebrates the line’s traversing of masculine and feminine aesthetics – a sensibility his jewellery has played with long before the mainstream cultural landscape, where MGK stacks his rings over painted nails, or Harry Styles wears pearls.
“When we first launched the men’s collection more than 20 years ago, there wasn’t much on the market that was designed and available for men,” says Stephen. “It was sort of odds and sods really, and I think that made it feel very exciting. Men, I think, found it quite difficult to understand buying jewellery and had an uncertainty as to what suited them or was acceptable. We’ve been a part of an education in this world. Now with this collection, we’re able to lean even more into the gender neutral, be more free creatively.”
“It’s being worn in ways that I’ve never seen before – it’s far more theatrical and worn in more adventurous ways,” adds Amy. “Thorn Addiction came along at the right time.”
Thorn Addiction comes in sterling silver and 18K gold, making it as accessible as it is buildable and adaptable to styles. The signature Thorn linked chain is woven through signet rings, dog tags, ID bracelets and razor tag earrings. The pieces can be customised with polished metal, pave set, or with inlaid stones such as Malachite, Lapis, and Tiger Iron.
“We’ve introduced more silhouettes and colour – I’ve always really enjoyed colour in my women’s jewellery. There’s a glamour and age that feels like it’s for anybody, with the icon of the thorn taking centre stage,” Stephen says, adding that Amy has been instrumental in expanding how the brand reflects a person of her youthful generation finding their personal place for their jewellery.
“Even my friends who I would see as super creative, stylish, and outgoing can be intimidated by the idea of purchasing jewellery. A part of the collection is about encouraging accessibility. Silvers are a very good entry point, especially for people who want to do that layered look,” Amy says. “We’re introducing some unusual stones, like the Lapis – it’s deep blue with gold specks. Malachite is this stripy green and Tiger Iron looks like it has metallic rivers running through it. It’s all unique, easily personalised, no gender norms. It looks natural, raw, and organic, which also reflects that closeness people want to feel to nature these days. And, Stephen’s love of gem-hunting of course.” As the collection continues to expand and develop, Stephen hopes to introduce an exciting material – fossilised dinosaur bone.
Old world craftsmanship is modernised with Webster’s underground-inspired touches, all with ethical production in mind. Again, something Webster was doubling down on before sustainable action was expected and demanded. This collection is crafted using recycled silver and 18ct recycled gold. “We have a green team,” says Stephen. “It’s all aspects of the business.” He was one of the first jewellers to gain a Fair Trade Gold Licence, and won Grosvenor Britain and Ireland’s first sustainability award last year.
“As a jeweller, we’re about the ‘slow fashion’ – I want to make amulets, family pieces, items that are going to last a lifetime,” Stephen says. “That’s a responsibility as a creative person and a sustainable business.” Like a thorn, Stephen Webster stays sharp on style and substance – don’t sleep on the sleepers or the signets.
Thorn Addiction is available to view exclusively at Stephen Webster’s No Regrets Lounge, Mount Street London. Prices start at £50