Making Waves: Stuart Hughes

With their $8 million gold and diamond iPhone covers, black hole–inspired storage vessels, and lamps like glowing macrame, these audacious up-and-comers are wowing the design world.


Think of Stuart Hughes as a sort of real-life Goldfinger: He gilds, plates, studs, and encrusts things with jewels, transforming electronic gadgets (like the $2 million 24-karat-gold-and- diamond Bang & Olufsen system and the $480,000 Wii console, above)—or anything else, really—into monuments of ur-bling. Who else would encase your iPhone in rose gold and stud it with 500 diamonds ($8 million) or accessorize your gold aquarium with pieces of a real T. rex bone ($4.8 million)? It wasn’t Bond, though, that stirred Hughes, 40, to a love of flash; it was BMX. As an 11-year-old growing up in Liverpool, England, he dreamed of a gold-plated bike, and after 20 years, despite having no formal training in goldsmithing, he made one for himself. Nine years after that, Hughes has shown his instincts to be uncanny. Along with the custom line is a slightly more budget-friendly marque, Goldstriker, whose fans include Stefano Gabbana. (“He told me, ‘I could afford a solid gold iPhone, but I lose a phone every single week,’” Hughes says of the designer. “So he just gets gold-plated ones.”) Hughes, who recently teamed up with a partner in Hong Kong to explore expanding in Asia, says his Liverpool studio has just been offered its biggest challenge yet: a solid gold helicopter for a client he won’t name. “Of course, we could do it,” he adds, chuckling, “but the thing would never get off the ground” (

Photo courtesy of the designers