LONDON — The Moroccan-born jewelry designer Bernard Delettrez always had a fascination with stones and jewelry. It may even have been in his genes.
“Always. Always, always, always, always,” he said during a video call from Rome, where he now resides. “When I was young, I was always in front of the Cartier windows, you know, or Boucheron window. I was so fascinated and I never understood why.”
Then, one day in the mid-1980s at a flea market in Paris, he said, he found a jewelry box with the name Georges Delettrez, his great-great grandfather, inside. He later learned that the elder Mr. Delettrez had also been a jeweler. “I was so happy,” Bernard Delettrez said.
Mr. Delettrez, 69, moved to Paris with his family when he was 6 years old. The movement continued: He worked as a screenwriter in Los Angeles during his 20s, then graduated in the late 1970s from the Gemological Institute of America in Carlsbad, Calif., before moving to Brazil to work at an emerald mine. That job didn’t last so he opened and financed his own factory, he said, cutting emeralds in Rio de Janeiro and making jewelry for large companies such as H.Stern. “This was the beginning of my career,” he said.
But he began to feel as if jewelry-making in general was more than simply putting a stone into a setting. “In terms of jewelry, I was not happy at all,” he said, adding that he was more interested in exploring unusual materials, like rock crystal, onyx, mother-of-pearl and enamel.
So, while commuting for several years between Rio and Rome, he moved his base to Italy and embarked on his own venture, creating the Delettrez brand and opening five stores, one by one, across Europe, he said.
But during the early 1990s, the business was inconsistent and he sold his shops. From a workshop in Rome, he began working for different brands while developing his own fine jewelry line.
“I said, ‘But you were supposed to follow your mother in fashion,’” Mr. Delettrez noted.
By then, he had started to notice the rise of fashion jewelry (often referred to as costume jewelry and usually less expensive than fine jewelry).
“I understood fashion jewelry was extremely important and the brand I had before was not compatible,” he said. He was feeling “so crazy to do again my own work,” prompting him to establish the Bernard Delettrez brand in 2010.
He opened a Bernard Delettrez store in central Rome in 2015 and established the brand’s first London outpost, on South Molton Street in the Mayfair area, in 2022.
His signature motifs include skulls, lips, eyes and animals — often with smiling faces. Prices range from 55 pounds, or $69, for a single pearl earring with silver backing in the fashion line, to £65,000 for the diamond snake necklace among his fine jewelry designs.
The brand is known for its bold and playful approach to jewelry and its colorful use of stones. Fluorite and amethyst are some of the stones he uses the most, and he likes white diamonds the least, he said, because they are “boring.”
His style was described as “eclectic and unique” by the London-based fashion stylist Jennifer Michalski-Bray.
She said she “was really intrigued” by the pieces when she was introduced to the brand at an industry media day last year. It was “so different than any other jewelry that I’ve come across,” she said, and it “almost has a darkness to it.”
“I think it’s really evident in his designs that he’s had a well-traveled and very unique upbringing,” she said.
She has used Bernard Delettrez jewelry to style some of her celebrity clients, including the London-based Canadian comedian Katherine Ryan, who wore lip-motif rings and earrings, and the British actress Anna Leong Brophy, who wore several rings featuring skull, snake, bird claw and articulated designs, as well as a pair of hoop earrings.
To produce his fine and fashion jewelry, Mr. Delettrez employs a team of around 60 in his Rome atelier. He first sketches his designs, which are made into wax molds that are used to create prototypes. He then checks and makes any adjustments before the design is finalized. A new collection is added about every six months, according to the company, usually consisting of about 80 fashion jewelry designs and 30 to 40 fine jewelry pieces. Typically, for one-of-a-kind creations, it is the stone that will dictate the design, he said.
“Inspiration is very strange because you don’t control it,” he said, adding that he might be inspired for a couple of months by the gothic, but for another two months it’s all about flowers, and then insects.
While he would not disclose sales figures, Mr. Delettrez said the London store was doing well and that he planned to open one in Tripoli, Libya, this fall.
“This is the new technique,” he said. “Because I want to have a relationship with the customer who will wear the jewels. When you have some flagship stores, you understand everything, then it’s easier for me to design.”