Skip to main contentSkip to footer

The founder of Annoushka Jewellery takes us inside her London pied-a-terre

Annoushka Ducas MBE has led a charmed life

Updated: September 23, 2022
Share this:

Sign up to HELLO! Fashion for style tips, cultural insights, must-have items, and more

By entering your details, you are agreeing to HELLO! Magazine User Data Protection Policy. You can unsubscribe at any time. For more information, please click here.

Annoushka Ducas MBE firmly believes that things happen for a reason. When she launched fine jewellery brand Annoushka 13 years ago, she and husband John Ayton began their search for a second home in London – a pied-a-terre to work with their permanent residence in East Sussex.

Rather than seeking a large terraced house like the one they’d previously owned in Notting Hill, Annoushka wanted something over one or two storeys. “It was up and down, up and down over five floors… exhausting,” she says, exhaling. “I wanted something small with a lateral entertaining space – we really enjoy entertaining.” After viewing a number of apartments, she was shown a Georgian cottage located between Pimlico and Belgravia. She fell in love with the “secret house” that you approach through an alleyway, which then leads you to an iron gate you have to buzz to enter.

MORE: 10 investment jewellery pieces that you'll cherish forever

RELATED: Hailey Bieber can't get enough of this Tiffany bracelet and neither can we


Annoushka Ducas MBE photographed by Rachael Smith 

“I went back to my husband saying it was the most perfect dream house, but he couldn’t see it because it’s way too expensive,” she says, adding, “I forgot about it. Well, I didn’t really, but anyway...” Then, around three years later, she was flickingthrough a magazine and saw the house advertised to let. “I was like, ‘Oh, look, that’s the house I saw. I’m going to ring the agent and see if it could be for sale’.” Luckily, it was and she and John even managed to purchase the property for 35% less than it was previously listed for. “Three years later… it was clearly meant to be,” she smiles.

Years earlier, another predestined turn of fate saw her passage into working with jewellery. In the late 80s, while working as an estate agent in Hong Kong, her motherphoned asking if she had any ideas of what would make a good gift for 60 male chefs. “My mother had a fish business supplying 60 of the best restaurants in London, including Annabel’s and Claridges,” she explains, “with fish straight from the boat in Rye, East Sussex”. “I said, ‘No, not really’. But after finding an amazing jewellery workshop in the Philippines during a weekend visit, I rang her back and said, ‘Why don’t we find a picture of a fish in a book, then these amazing craftsmen can make them into cuff links that you can give to the chefs?’”

MORE: 5 spectacular jewellery pieces you need to see at the Van Cleef & Arpels exhibition 


The bright flowers and circular rug extend warming tones to the white dining room

Because it was cheaper to commission double the quantity, after giving her mother half, she was left with 60. Wondering what to do with them, Annoushka arranged a meeting with the menswear buyer at Harvey Nichols. “She said she couldn’t take one design, it would need to be a collection. But to go back and see her when I had more. I think she thought she’d never see me again.” But, when Annoushka went back with eight designs, including a pig, Harvey Nichols ordered the lot. “And that was the beginning of Links of London – a rather unlikely way of entering jewellery design,” she says, of the brand she sold in 2006.

In designing for Annoushka, the eponymous label that she set up in 2009, her influences change, “all the time”, but what stays consistent is her fondness for nature, “I love organic things that are very natural and tactile”. Alongside that, she is also very aware of the world around us.

“The world is such a mess, so I think there’s a real need right now for a feeling of protection – talismanic jewellery that makes you feel safe, in some way. “I know that sounds a bit mad but that is where jewellery originally came from. So throughout my career that’s been in my head. A few years ago I designed a collection called Touch Wood. You might not be able to see the wood, there may be a piece hidden behind a diamond, but when you’re wearing it you are always touching wood.”

MORE: Inside Bella Hadid's exquisite vintage jewellery collection

RELATED: Watch rings and pendants: this new micro trend is the most stylish way to tell the time


Monochrome neutrals are teamed with a warm red throw in the bedroom

Another collection of wildlife charms pays homage to her stay in Africa during the pandemic. Annoushka, John and their four children (Marina, Oliver, Chloe and Oscar) were in Kenya for two weeks when lockdown was announced. So they rented a house and stayed for three and a half months. “When do you ever get a chance to do that? I didn’t have anything in my diary, we were by the sea, it was just fantastic. So inevitably that trip sparked inspiration. We spent a lot of time in the Maasai Mara, this amazing place in northern Kenya called Elephant Watch and we also saw the gorillas in Rwanda.”

Those inspirations from nature are more obvious examples, but she says she can quite often start with an idea that morphs into something completely different – that is invariably to do with optimism. “This is a smiley face made from yellow sapphires and he has wobbly eyes,” she says, shaking the necklace she’s wearing. “Again, it is about a kind of optimism and how we want to feel. I think that’s really important.”

Annoushka grew up in London and was surrounded by jewellery, although, she assures us, it wasn’t necessarily all fancy. “It was stuff my mother collected, she travelled a lot and being an only child I travelled with her. She had big jewellery boxes filled with an eclectic mix: so it might have been something real, but it equally could have been something she bought at a market. “And every year in the 70s, my father would gift her a big, bold ring – I’ve still got them and look at them a lot. It takes me back, because jewellery is so much about the memory, the narrative, who you remember wearing what and when – that’s why it’s so emotive.” Tapping into memories and charms, which is where she began with Links of London, Annoushka offers a fully bespoke service called My Life in Seven Charms. “So if I ask you, what would your life look like in seven charms? You immediately start thinking what parts of your life were important. And I make those charms to replicate that memory.”


A cosy nook off the hallway finds the afternoon sunshine – the perfect spot to linger with a book

She is about to start the third season of podcasts that goes alongside it. “If you’ve ever listened to Desert Island Discs, it’s like that. I speak to all these amazing people about their life and why they’ve chosen each particular charm.”

Being a successful businesswoman, Annoushka likes to give back to women. Two years ago she launched The Brilliant Breakfast for The Prince’s Trust. The nationwide annual fundraising event is designed to be totally inclusive and non threatening and kicks off this month. And in the 2012 New Year’s Honours list Annoushka was awarded an MBE presented by Princess Anne, for her services to British jewellery. “To be honest it came out of the blue. I received

the envelope and thought it was a joke. “It was a really special and proud moment. It wasn’t something that had occurred to me, but it was a fantastic, happy day.” Because her husband John, who is also her business partner, was awarded one too, it meant the whole family could join them for the day, including one of her children, who had been travelling around South America on a gap year. 


The clean lines of the modernist kitchen still displays Annoushka’s art and ceramics

Annoushka studied French language and civilisation at The Sorbonne in Paris. “It was predominantly to learn French, because that was my mother’s first language. She was Russian and her parents left for France as refugees in 1922. So what is happening in Ukraine feels particularly poignant to me.”

Not only has her Russian heritage inspired her jewellery, but also interior tastes. Her house in Sussex is full of pieces handed down from her grandfather, who was a collector. She describes the property as “quite eclectic” because she has antiques from her great uncle who was the icon specialist for Christie’s auction house and also her mother.

“So there’s quite a lot of dark furniture – and Russian art.” She doesn’t have a favourite piece, it is more about the whole thing. “It’s not about that, say, chest of drawers… but the chest with those pieces on it. I sometimes think I’ll move things around and then decide, it’s always been like that, let’s keep it there. It’s a familiarity thing and I love that.”

In contrast, her London cottage is minimalist and modern. “It is much less cluttered than home – cleaner and simpler. And it doesn’t have any dark furniture.” When they purchased the property it was a blank canvas and painted white throughout. The previous owners worked in theatre and she believes they had only spent a few nights there. “All The White Company bedding was still in its packaging.” She felt something was needed to tie the rooms together because of the unique floor plan. “It was a bit difficult to work it out because the kitchen goes into the sitting room, which goes into the hall. So the wallpaper, which came from the States, is what we call trigger wallpaper. “It works throughout and I wanted it

to be a good backdrop for art because we collect a lot of pieces. It feels a bit like Jackson Pollock has been in there,” she says of the splattered wallpaper design. “I really love texture and colour, you’ll see that in my jewellery, so the study is covered in Japanese rice paper. It comes in sections and you apply it to each panel sheet by sheet – it’s gorgeous and each piece is different. Unfortunately, I can’t remember where the paper is from: I know that because the flat recently had a leak and I can’t find the bloody wallpaper!”

She loves to entertain, mostly in the evenings. “I’m quite meticulous in my planning. I have a collection of green vases and I put candles in them. I also love flowers – they both establish such a wonderful atmosphere. “I also really enjoy creating a mise-en-place with things I’ve purchased when abroad, much to my husband’s horror. I’ll say, ‘No, no, we’ve got to bring these back!’” she laughs.

“When I was in the Philippines I picked up some table mats: they are rattan in the middle with shells around the edge. It’s those little details that all kind of work together. But, as I say, flowers and candles can make everything look gorgeous.” For flowers, she’ll head to New Covent Garden Market, after going to the original

one with her mother as a child. “I could spend all day there looking at this riot of colour and eventually leave with armfuls of the same flower – I mean about 50 stems. “The two things I love most in the world are jewellery and flowers. And if I wasn’t a jewellery designer, I’d definitely be doing something in floristry.”

This interview appears in the October issue of Hello! Fashion, out now…

Like this story? Sign up to our Hello! Fashion newsletter to get your weekly 'Fashion Fix' delivered straight to your inbox.

More Hello! Fashion

See more