Solange Azagury-Partridge on Why Jewelry Is Like Underwear

The British designer has launched a new website dedicated to affordable versions of her famed Hotlips ring

“If eyes are the window to the soul, then lips are your sensuality,” said Solange Azagury-Partridge, the British jewelry designer behind the famed Hotlips ring. You know the one—countless celebrities and pretty much every fashion person have the lacquer-covered 18k gold pout in at least one color (mine’s bright red and I wear it every single day on my middle finger for obvious reasons). The ring invokes sensuality and sass and its playful essence is adored by young ladies and grown women alike. Because of its widespread poularity, Azagury-Partridge recently launched a dedicated Hotlips Website where fans can purchase a more affordable sterling-silver version of the ring in a number of patterns and hues. Prices fall between 160 and 220 GBP (or 212.92 and 292.77 USD at current exchange)—a bargain compared to the original ring, which will set you back a couple grand. “Because it’s accessibly priced, it needs to be sold in a modern way,” Azagury-Partridge, who’s currently favoring her neon orange Hotlips, said of the site. “I love buying online. You don’t have to talk to anybody. You just decided you want it and click, there it is. It’s wonderful.” Eventually, the site will become a platform for a broader secondary line.

Azagury-Partridge, who began her career in fine jewelry in 1987 by designing her own engagement ring with an uncut diamond, first introduced the 18k gold Hotlips ring back in 1995. “Before the days of e-mail, I used to write letters and I’d kiss the letter,” the designer recalled. “Sometimes I’d use red lipstick, sometimes pink. I’ve always been obsessed with lips, and [the ring] just came to me in a flash one day.” Since, it has become somewhat of a brand signature, with the designer dreaming up myriad iterations and special editions, like festive glitter, a flame motif, and a rainbow version. “The great thing about the lacquer is that the colors can be endless,” she said. “It’s basically like makeup. If you have a Hotlips ring and you’re fed up with the color, we can re-lacquer it for you. I’ve started using it as a blank canvas onto which I can project lots of different graphics, which means that, hopefully, it will never get old.”

The original Hotlips ring is somewhat of a cheeky luxury, due to the fact that its pricey gold base is hidden by decidedly inexpensive-looking candy-colored coatings (with some exceptions, of course, like the styles that are smattered with gemstones). “I just love jewelry that doesn’t look particularly precious,” explained Azagury-Partridge, whose more extravagant and often surreal fine jewelry has been exhibited at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London, Les Arts Décoratifs at the Louvre Museum in Paris, and Le Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris. “This idea of jewelry being as obviously precious as possible is quite old-fashioned. It has a place, of course, and I do design pieces that look obviously precious, but for a modern woman who wants to wear something special, it’s a little like wearing fabulous underwear. You know you’re wearing it, but you’re not flashing it to the world.”

Most recently, Azagury-Partridge introduced an American-and-British-flag-hybrid Hotlips ring in honor of the Royal Wedding. “I loved every minute of the Royal Wedding,” offered Azagury-Partridge. “The day, the pageantry, everything. [Meghan Markle] looked gorgeous, but I do think she could have ramped up the detailing on the dress. I mean, she had that gorgeous tiara on…” Actually, so did Azagury-Partridge, who celebrated the nuptials while wearing diamond and 18k white gold Mercury headband to a party in the English countryside. Certainly more obviously precious than her commemorative ring, but deliciously whimsical nonetheless.

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