These past few days, I have found myself donning my warmest winter wares once again to brave the unpredictable British weather, such a far cry from the blistering Egyptian heat I was encountering a mere week ago.
After a busy start to 2012, I relished the opportunity to relax and replace my heavy winter woollies with fresh and exciting summer pieces, both within my wardrobe and jewellery collection. The choice of bolder pieces of jewellery seemed apt to suit warmer climates and the surroundings of the Middle East. Locations such as this conjured up mental images of jewellery that is deeply rooted within an ethnic aesthetic we associate with a history of Warrior Queens and Goddesses. These women adorned themselves as an expression of empowerment and social status, as well as seductively accentuating the female form.
Ancient civilisations played a key part in the history of jewellery design, with some of the earliest recorded jewellery found dating back over 90,000 years before the Christian era. However it was really within founding cultures, such as the Egyptians along with Mayan (South America), Enkoni (Turkey) and Harappans (of India) that consideration for the decorative aspect of design within the making of these pieces began to emerge.
Typically, Egyptians preferred the use of gold in their craft for luxury and durability. However, the sourcing of materials for the purpose of jewellery design opened up the floodgates to a whole number of new materials for the time, allowing a subsequent expansion of trade across borders.
Each country’s approach to design influenced another, as trade allowed people to be inspired by what was available and what they saw occurring overseas. Even now we allow ourselves to look to other civilisations and ‘tribes’ for fashion inspiration. Throughout the last decade, we have seen a resurgence of statement design within the jewellery domain. This goes to show how much all culture, be it past or present, influences our fashion trends.
Such external influences are important at a time when the demand for precious metals has caused prices to rise staggeringly, so that it no longer has the same availability to us now as it will have done to past civilizations. As a result, we must be open to the idea of the use of alternative materials and look elsewhere for inspiration.
A designer to have done just that is Wendy Pickard, founder of ethical jewellery brand – The Branch. Her sought after wooden jewellery has been worn by A-list stars such as Gwenyth Paltrow and Kelly Rowland and is regularly featured in all of the high-end fashion magazines. Stocked in over 100 luxury UK boutiques, this range really flies the flag for sustainable, ethical, ethnic jewellery through the use of wood as the main component. The Branch also holds true to the lavish nature of jewellery design by accompanying it with semi-precious stones and smatterings of gold and silver detailing.
Wendy had always been a traveller, inspired by trips to Indonesia, building up a collection of crystals and quartz along the way. It was during her visit to Africa that she was inspired by the boldness of the indigenous jewellery and set about commissioning a wood carver to make a selection of pieces. Keen to create more, but also maintain an ethical source of wood, she relocated the workshop to Indonesia where a group of talented craftsmen were available.
Finding unconventional materials that still manage to embody the expensive finish that jewellery commands is a difficult task in itself, matched with the imposing factor of a material that is also physically difficult to work with, shows the complete ingenuity in this grand scheme. Only the very best craftsmanship could create this collection, which is why Wendy has outsourced people who have a detailed knowledge and understanding of such materials, therefore not only supporting the use of environmentally conscious resources but also sociological.
There is no need for complicated design, the simple choices of the shapes accentuate the natural marbling of the wood and the clouding of the Agates make each piece unique. Understated design allows the collection to lend itself to all directions of fashion, with its versatile nature giving the potential to be placed not only with a bright summer wardrobe but an autumn and winter one too.
Above all, it is down to the fantastic finish of each and every piece within The Branch collection that allows it to be categorised differently from other ‘crafty’ jewellery, placing it firmly in the high-end field. It is most definitely the materials that speak for themselves.