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The History of Handmade Jewellery

When we think of jewellery we often refer to the latest trends, what’s current and how to incorporate the statement into our look. Rarely do we question its origins, who created it and the process that allowed for such a beautiful piece, when it’s the history of jewellery that made it possible.

Have you ever seen an old Victorian painting and admired the subject's jewellery? Or maybe you remember those history books in school or took a trip to the National Museum and got a glimpse of Celtic gold? The design you see there, that part of history is what has made jewellery design what it is today.

Why am I writing about this? Well, I thought I would share with you what about the past has influenced me. I have always been fascinated by Roman and Celtic gold jewellery you see. They used the simplest of tools to create spectacular jewellery and many of their methods are still used today. In fact, my latest collection, Fluid, is constructed using lost wax casting; the same method they would have used back in the Roman and Celtic times.I began experimenting with lost wax casting techniques during lockdown and it was within this that I discovered a new style. Fluid is a major shift from my previous work and I believe, a response to the loss of control we all experienced over the last two yearsWho has inspired me along the way?

Well, moving up the timeline, I have always been fond of the work of Alexander Calder. When I first set out to learn how to make handmade jewellery I was deeply moved by his work, creating modern art pieces that also speak of the past. He demonstrated that jewellery is not just something you wear, it is a form of expression.

Kilkenny Design in the 70s, particularly the work of Rudolf Heltzel was also a great inspiration to me. Heltzel is a master craftsman who’s jewellery has stood the test of time and remains current.

Jewellery design and its history is a tale, quite literally, as old as time.

As makers, when we seek innovation it is not only about opening ourselves up to our current surroundings but exploring that of the past. Historical jewellery and its makers always had intent behind the design. In prehistoric times jewellery was made from shell and bone and for some, was worn to protect the wearer from danger and identify status or rankNow, when we look at religious pendants, engagement rings, brooches and many other pieces, there is still a real meaning and symbolism behind them. Jewellery has not lost that purpose within our generation, and I know that when I hand make jewellery there is an intention behind it, a necessity within the creation itself.

I am always just a message or a phone call away if you would like to know more about my collections or how I got started. I want to encourage others to take that leap because the great thing about art is that there is no wrong way to create something beautiful. Look at all that has gone before us, it is there to inspire.

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