Shaun Leane (b. 1969) is a British jewelry designer best known for his collaborations with Alexander McQueen. For over 20 years, his fusion of artistry and innovation have kept his award-winning jewelry collections in the worldwide spotlight.
Shaun was born and raised in London. When he was 15 years old, he signed up for an on-the-job training course at the vocational Kingsway Princeton College of Further Education. A year later, he enrolled in a one-year apprentice goldsmith program in English Traditional Jewellery in London’s jewelry hub, Hatton Garden. It was at that time that he began taking on antique restorations of Victorian Art Nouveau and Art Deco jewelry. By age 18, he was crafting diamond tiaras for Britain’s luxury brand, Asprey.
When he was 22, Shaun met Alexander McQueen at a mutual friend’s graduation. Two years later, McQueen asked Shaun to make jewelry for his fashion shop. After being classically trained in precious metals and stones, Shaun was now creating pieces with brass, aluminum and sterling silver per McQueen’s requests.
He found it a bit intimidating and had to teach himself new techniques in order to keep up McQueen’s daring styles. In an interview with The Jewellery Editor Magazine, he said, “…I said that I was a goldsmith and I couldn’t do that, but he said he had seen what I could make and that I could apply my skill to any medium. So, I did and that was a really pivotal moment in my career because he opened up my mind to see my skill and to take it to a very different place.”
Shaun was working on eight shows a year for McQueen and his designs included simple watch chains and tusk-themed earrings. Larger and more avant-garde designs included the spine skeleton corset for McQueen’s 1997 Fall/Winter Collection.
His most infamous piece, The Gilded Corset, inspired by the film “The Shining” was estimated to be worth a whopping $350,000. It is a form encasing corset created from 97 aluminum coils. This was the only piece that was signed by both Leane and McQueen. Leane has said that this was his most challenging project. He worked 16-hour days for 10 weeks to complete it.
McQueen and Leane worked together until McQueen’s death in 2010.
In 1998, Leane was approached by a buyer from Harvey Nichols Lux Line about starting a collection. This led Leane to create pieces steeped in his goldsmithing origins and incorporating innovations and fantasies he picked up from Alexander McQueen. A year later, in 1999, he launched Shaun Leane Jewellery.
The pieces he creates for his line are unisex, a nod to McQueen’s influence. He’s said “…almost all my jewels are unisex. It is about an object that creates an energy or a reflection of your persona and that to me can be attractive to both a man and a woman.
Sotheby’s the famous auction house, described Leane’s jewelry as “antiques of the future” when it was featured in a 2017 sale.
Leane has collaborated with Givenchy, Boucheron, DeBeers and Atelier Swarovski. His creations are included in the permanent collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and the Victoria and Albert Museum and Fashion Museum in the United Kingdom. His pieces are worn by such celebrities as: Lady Gaga, Kate Moss, Elton John, and Emma Watson.
The wife of Prince Harry, Meghan Markle, and Kate Middleton, wife of Prince William, known as the Duchess of Cambridge have worn Leane’s pieces and in 2019, he created and designed an engagement ring for Princess Beatrice of York. Leane has made forays into architecture designing balcony rails and gates for London residential developments.
Shaun Leane’s professional motto is “create jewelry that take people’s breath away.” His distinctive creations tap into a new genre that evokes an emotional responses and breathes new life into staid traditions. He creates designs that are relevant to today’s world.