As Tomfoolery celebrates 25 years of retail, we speak to owner Laura Kay about the importance of handcraftsmanship and the growing demand for alternative bridal jewellery
Husband-and-wife duo Peter and Nicki Kay opened Tomfoolery in 1994 in Muswell Hill, joining the leafy enclave's impressive line-up of independent boutiques. It became one of the first well-known contemporary jewellery galleries in London, specialising in emerging designers and alternative diamond jewellery. Their daughter Laura worked on the shop floor as a teenager and took the reigns of the boutique in 2011, following a stint at Hermès and a job at a leading photographic agency.
“It gave me a very good all-round skillset as I dealt with large teams of more than 100 people, often managing campaigns,” Kay recalls. “It was all very good practice to help me bring Tomfoolery into the digital world, which was something my parents always struggled to understand.”
The glass-fronted, light-filled boutique houses more than 100 designers, each selected by Kay for their unique aesthetic. Home-grown British talent includes Hannah Bedford, Ruth Tomlinson and Shaun Leane, as well as Polly Wales, who relocated from the Cotswolds to LA in 2016 and is known for her “cast not set” technique that coolly places diamonds and vivid gemstones into bubbling molten gold.
There is also an impressive array of global jewellers, including Tel Aviv-based ARTËMER and Brookyln’s Anna Sheffield, both of which are popular with brides-to-be seeking a less traditional design.
Since assuming the helm, Kay has made Tomfoolery a destination for alternative bridal jewellery, shunning predictable singular diamond rings in favour of more adventurous and personal designs. “A solitaire with an ugly manufactured setting is a cop-out; don’t do it. It doesn’t have to be bonkers but bridal is such a personal lifetime purchase and your ring should really reflect your personality.”
The boutique hosts a biannual Alt Bride jewellery showcase, which rivals Christmas sales in terms of popularity and presents an extensive array of engagement-worthy rings, spanning glittering clusters and bold, stackable wedding bands.
It also includes Métier by Tomfoolery, the in-house collection launched by Kay in 2013. The line incorporates mixed metals and unique, raw diamonds, including unusual pale grey and champagne hues. “I have found that it's important to be timeless and that neutral or tonal stones work best, thus allowing a customer to wear it every day at ease. Many customers also propose with a stone and come back to the boutique to design the ring.”
This November will mark the boutique's second ART Ring event, which curates a selection of one-of-a-kind rings. "It is a chance for each of our jewellers to really showcase their skillset and artisanal techniques and offer our customers something completely unique."
Who Laura Kay is following on Instagram: I love the @jewelleryactivist. It's much more arthouse but it's the kind of content that gets my full attention on Instagram.