Annoushka Ducas, a name now synonymous with all things ‘haute bijoux’, has enjoyed a thriving career at the fore of the fine jewellery industry for over 25 years. It’s perhaps unexpected, then, that her first foray into design was purely personal – commissioning pieces for herself, before designing novelty cufflinks for the chefs that her mother’s fish company worked alongside. This was in the late 1980s, just one year before Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds released their single, The Ship Song. 

Fast forward to the present, and that very title is transformed into one of thirteen luxury talismans created by Annoushka with Nick and his partner Susie Cave – of The Vampire’s Wife – for a spectacular 18-karat gold charm bracelet. With Nick’s evocative lyrics providing the starting point to each motif, Susie and Annoushka set about designing and creating intricate renditions of every image that they conjured. 

Here, the decorated Ducas – awarded an MBE in 2013 for her services to the jewellery industry – explains to us the significance of charm bracelets, revealing her own history with them and the process behind each creation's unique design...

What appeals to you about a charm bracelet? Is it the promise of a deeper meaning behind each talisman, or the idea that the piece as a whole can be customised and made personal?
I have always considered storytelling to be an important part of my designs and I can’t think of a better way to capture stories and memories than in a charm bracelet, where each charm is a representation of a moment in time. I can’t resist miniaturisation – there is something so pleasing about taking a life-sized object and recreating each and every detail of it in miniature. Charms have always been an important part of my career since I started designing jewellery in 1990, and every charm I design has been created to hold a certain meaning or symbolism. We are living in very uncertain times, and I design my jewellery to have a talismanic quality – to give the wearer a feeling of hope and protection. 

How did you go about translating Nick's songs into single icons? Was it a tricky process, or could you see them in your mind’s eye immediately?
Susie and I took the very simple symbols that Nick had come up with to embody each of his lyrics, and recreated them in charm form. We started with sketches and then focused on perfecting the minute detail of each one. It wasn’t always an easy process; every design is incredibly detailed, and we spent a great amount of time and effort making the charms work as they would in real life.

That working mechanics of charm bracelets is fascinating, in that there are those pieces that you can interact with – opening and closing them, and so on. Is their construction equally challenging and/or exciting?
One of the things I love about designing jewellery is the challenge posed by scale and the need for functionality. Charms, by nature, are generally sculptures in miniature with so much potential for focusing on the detail; they are the perfect medium for expressing my personal love of playfulness. The smallest things are tremendously satisfying... I love the revolving barrel of the 'Deanna' gun charm with its single diamond bullet – and the 'Red Right Hand' piece that's an almost life-like replica of Nick’s hand, complete with his signature ruby ring. I take so much pleasure in the element of surprise; our 'The Ship Song' charm, for example, opens to reveal a hidden hull, while the 'God Is In The House' charm opens to reveal a miniature Nick and Susie getting married. 

"I design my jewellery to have a talismanic quality – to give the wearer a feeling of hope and protection." Annoushka Ducas MBE.

What is your personal history with charm bracelets? Are they always something you have found fascinating? Did you own one as a child?
I was given a charm bracelet when I was very young and I used to wear it for 'best',  as it was the most precious thing that I owned.  I love the storytelling potential of charms, and am fascinated by their talismanic appeal – how they have the power to create a sense of wellbeing, security and protection. I also want to encourage people to wear charms in different ways. You don’t have to wear a charm on a traditional bracelet – why not wear it on a hoop earring, or layered up on a chain? Men can wear them too! Why should it only be women who are allowed to wear charms?

On that storytelling aspect... What tales can you tell with jewellery?
A strong narrative and a sense of romance are at the heart of my designs, and each piece that I create is designed to be passed down from generation to generation. I love the idea that jewellery can become part of someone’s heritage – a precious treasure with its own specific history and memories attached to it.

So, if you were to create a charm that’s emblematic of you – your specific history and your personality – what would it be?
I have three much-loved French bulldogs – Pedro, Eric and Lenny – and have just designed two French bulldog charms, which are very personal to me indeed. That said, if I was designing a charm to reflect my personality, it would be a bag of pick'n'mix... because I love cheap sweets!

Do you have a favourite piece from your collaboration with The Vampire’s Wife – and, if so, why that one?
I love the detail of our 'The Wild Rose' charm, from the incredible work that has gone into creating each petal to the beautiful graduation of the sapphires and rubies.

Lead a charmed life; shop the Annoushka x The Vampire's Wife collection here: