The essence of how I work and create jewellery is to transform items into something different to what they started out as. I can achieve this to different degrees with different elements – some bear a close resemblance to what they began as…and other elements take on a whole new purpose. When I design I always aim to do as little alteration as possible – adding a few holes or trimming pieces is about as far as I go. It’s always a dilemma – how much do I alter something? Some pieces are very old and I know I will not find another like them. The choice is then: 1) do I leave it intact to preserve it and probably never use it in any way other than to look at it, or 2) do I make a few small alterations so that I can give the piece a new life and purpose?
I tend to favour the latter 90% of the time. Some things I come across are just too precious to change, but in the case of the coral tiara I bought a few months back, I did have to think for a while. Dating to about 1810, this tiara is from France, is in gilded brass and with coral bead embellishment. It was in a poor state of repair – it was bent out of shape and about 20% of the coral beads were missing. I decided to at least harvest the coral beads from it, as they alone were worth more than I paid for the tiara as a whole. Once I removed them, I realised that the frame could also be repurposed and would make a great choker necklace. Inspiration for a design did not hit until yesterday when, as usual, I was rummaging through my box of most precious treasures and supplies and I had a closer look at a little French Empire era coral buckle I bought recently. I realised that the little buckle would be a perfect complement for the tiara parts I had been holding onto.
It only took me ten minutes to make the piece, and I am very happy with the result. It epitomises everything that I like to achieve in my work – a cohesive design from unrelated parts that most likely were not intended to be worn together, and which can in fact be from different eras, centuries, countries and purposes.
Here is the result – my choker necklace.
Remembering that it started with these two pieces:
and the tiara was probably worn similar to what is shown in the 1813 miniature portrait below