Meet the Jeweler Behind Kate Middleton and Queen Camilla's Favorite Jewelry

meet kiki mcdonough, the jeweler behind the royal family's favorite jewelry
Royal-Loved Jeweler Talks Kate and DianaGetty Images
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Kiki McDonough was never supposed to be a jeweler.

"It happened completely by mistake," she says. "My father was an expert in Georgian jewelry and English silver, so people used to come from museums to see him. But when he retired, he asked me if I wanted to do it, and I said, No, no, no."

<p><a href="https://go.redirectingat.com?id=74968X1596630&url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.kiki.co.uk%2Fproducts%2Fkiki-hoops-diamond-in-white-gold&sref=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.townandcountrymag.com%2Fsociety%2Ftradition%2Fa60669885%2Fkiki-mcdonough-royal-family-jewelry-interview-2024%2F" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Shop Now;elm:context_link;itc:0;sec:content-canvas" class="link ">Shop Now</a></p><p>Kiki Hoops Classic Diamond</p><p>kiki.co.uk</p><p>£700.00</p>

"I was wearing Biba t-shirts, bell bottom platforms, and felt, floppy hats," McDonough continues, "there was no way I was ever going to wear Georgian jewelry. So, he sold the business to somebody else."

McDonough changed her mind about a decade later when a friend persuaded her to design modern jewelry at his Bond Street storefront. Reluctant at first because she "had never done anything like that before," McDonough decided to give it a shot. "In those days you just took a gamble and thought, OK, well, why not?

the princess of wales visits field study health visitors
It’s reported the Princess of Wales owns 20+ Kiki McDonough jewels.WPA Pool - Getty Images

That was in 1985, and since then, McDonough has built a successful fine jewelry brand known for its colorful gems—finding fans among the British royal family, including Princess Diana, Kate Middleton, and Queen Camilla.

Ahead, McDonough sits down with Town & Country to talk about her career and what it has been like having the support from the royals.

What is one of your first memories of jewelry that sticks out to you most?

My father used to come back from work, and he'd sort of tap his pocket, take out an amazing brooch and he'd sling it down on the table at me—you know, like a cowboy does with a pint of beer—and say, "Kiki, What do you think of this?" So, I was brought up with jewelry, and when I did start the business in 1985, I wasn't frightened of it at all. It was just something we had at home. I think that made it a lot easier for me to start the business.

Why not follow in your father's footsteps?

Georgian jewelry [was from the time period of] King George IV. It was beautiful jewelry, beautiful stones. My father was very interested in the provenance of a piece and where it had come from and whose collection it had come from. And honestly, I always wanted jewelry I could wear.

kiki mcdonough
"I feel terribly, terribly fortunate that I’ve had such a lovely career," says the jeweler. "I couldn’t be luckier."Courtesy of Kiki McDonough

You're known for your colorful gemstones. What inspired that collection?

I've always seen the Victorian jewelry with amethysts and citrines, but they were big and surrounded by big gold stuff, and it wasn't my thing. But the colors are absolutely beautiful, and I think that's really what I fell in love with.

When I started the business, I was confronted with this sort of blank sheet of paper thinking, where do I start? So, to me, the color was the thing always at the back of my mind. And I thought, Well, half these stones nobody knows about and nobody's using them, so I made it my business to promote them.

Now, of course, I'm a victim of my own success because everybody's using colorful stones. Nobody was wearing pink tourmaline and peridots when I started.

You've established yourself as a high jeweler across the globe. But for shoppers who might not be as familiar with your work, what are some of your signature pieces?

Everybody who knows the brand loves wearing color. I think if you wear black polo necks and wear a black suit to work, you must put some color on your ears. It lifts your face and adds a bit of joy.

I have got something like 14 different collections, but I am known for my detachables, which I started 20 years ago—again before anybody else. They're little diamond hoops, and so you can go to work in your diamond hoops and then in your bag, you've got a little pouch with your detachable drops so that you can put on when you leave work.

a group of earrings
McDonough is famous for her detachable earrings, which can be mixed and matched with different stones and personalized to the wearer’s liking.Courtesy of Kiki McDonough

We're celebrating 20 years of my detachable this year, and you can do everything from cushion drops to flowers, to hearts, to sunflowers. So you can have a pair of the cushion drops, and then the next pair you buy is maybe something completely different, like a little flower or something.

You've been around for nearly four decades already. When did you realize you made it?

Everybody says to me, You know, it's amazing you've built this brand all on your own, and it's worldwide. I think if you think you've made it, you can't propel the business forward. So to me, I will never have made it, because there's always that next mountain to climb. You can't sit on your laurels and think, "Yeah, it's great. Put your feet up." It just doesn't work like that.

But some may argue you have made it because you have fans in many members of the royal family. I read on the internet that the Princess of Wales has over 20 Kiki McDonough pieces of jewelry. What does it mean to have her support?

She's absolutely lovely. She's charming and and we're very lucky to have her. She is a working mother, and I think it is the sort of jewelry that you can wear, and no one's going to point the finger at you, or run you over in the street because they want your ring. I think it's just very nice to wear fine jewelry.

day thirteen the championships wimbledon 2022
Kate wearing Kiki McDonough’s citrine floral earrings at a Wimbledon match in 2022.Simon M Bruty - Getty Images

The Queen [Camilla] wears it as well. She's got a couple of pendants and things, and I think it is jewelry that you can go out and wear with a dress and hat. It moves across the generations, and I think it moves across our lives doing whatever we're doing.

Princess Diana was also a fan of your jewelry. Do you have any memories of working with her?

The really funny thing is that when she did walk in my store, I was in my first shop and it was a little shop and you had to go out to the side door to make yourself a cup of coffee. My landlord was having building work done and the builder went past me at 10 o'clock in the morning when I was making my cup of coffee and said, "You know, the Princess of Wales is at your door," and I thought he was joking. I just said, "Oh, for goodness sake, it's too early in the morning for jokes!"

barbara and diana
Princess Diana wore Kiki McDonough earrings with a Catherine Walker suit to meet Barbara Bush at the White House in October 1990.Princess Diana Archive - Getty Images

Anyway, I continued making my coffee and he came back in and said she's gonna take the door handle off in a minute. So, I thought, Well, perhaps I will just check. I put my head around the door, and she was there. It was lovely.

What were some of her favorite pieces?

I suppose the iconic piece of mine that she had was when she met Barbara Bush all those years ago. They were pearl earrings with an amethyst underneath. It was on the front cover of Hello.

What is it about your jewelry that you think the royals and women worldwide love?

The most important thing about my brand is that if you like my brand, you can't buy it anywhere else except for me because there's such an identity. There are lots of people doing colored stones out there and lots of people doing different things, but I tend to focus on what I like, what what I think works, and the mix of colors that work together.

the transfer of the colonel in chief of the rifles
Queen Camilla often wears a blue topaz pendant from Kiki McDonough, as shown here in this photo taken in 2020.WPA Pool - Getty Images

I think if you pay too much attention to everybody else, you just get so confused and you lose your way a bit. I tend not to look at anybody else too much because I know what I like, I know what sells, and I tend to concentrate on on me.

Tell me about your upcoming collection.

We have a new collection called Carousel [out May 21], which is based on when I was little. My father used to take me to Battersea Park, which is just by the river, and it used to have a fun fair in it. I used to go round and round and round on this carousel, and my father used to go, "Kiki, When it stops, you've got to get off!" because I've been on and around five times.

I love those multi-colored horses that just go up and down, and this collection goes round and round and was just based on my my love of a carousel.

king charles iii hosts coronation garden party at buckingham palace
Kate wearing Kiki McDonough’s blue topaz and diamond hoops at a garden party last year.WPA Pool - Getty Images

Next year you will be celebrating 40 years of Kiki McDonough jewelry. What does that mean to you?

This has been the most wonderful... I hate that word journey, but I can't think of another word. You know, 39 years of watching people's jewelry habits, watching how much women are prepared to spend on themselves, and watching it evolve, I feel terribly, terribly fortunate that I've had such a lovely career. I couldn't be luckier.

Kiki Classics Citrine Pear Drop Earrings

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Kiki Cushion White Topaz and Diamond Detachable Earrings

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Eden Flower Blue Topaz and Diamond Necklace

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Candy Mini Green Amethyst and Diamond Earrings

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Kiki Classics Peridot and Blue Topaz Double Oval Studs

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Grace White Topaz and Diamond Stud Earrings

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Lauren Pave Diamond Leaf Drop Earrings

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Signatures Blue Topaz and Diamond Drop Earrings

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Signatures Pear and Oval Lavender Amethyst And Diamond Earrings

<p><a href="https://go.redirectingat.com?id=74968X1596630&url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.kiki.co.uk%2Fcollections%2Fearrings%2Fproducts%2Fsignatures-lavender-amethyst-and-diamond-pear-and-oval-drop-earrings-in-white-gold&sref=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.townandcountrymag.com%2Fsociety%2Ftradition%2Fa60669885%2Fkiki-mcdonough-royal-family-jewelry-interview-2024%2F" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Shop Now;elm:context_link;itc:0;sec:content-canvas" class="link ">Shop Now</a></p><p>Signatures Pear and Oval Lavender Amethyst And Diamond Earrings</p><p>kiki.co.uk</p><p>£4900.00</p>

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