Makers' Stories

Do you want to discover the makers' stories behind the products? Read our Goldsmiths' Shop Talent blog. 

Silversmith Alice Fry: capturing the chaotic beauty of rock formations

Posted by Rae Gellel on

Alice Fry has always possessed a unique appreciation for the rugged, atypical beauty of rocks. An avid metal detectorist as a child and a lifelong collector of every kind of stone, mineral and crystal imaginable, she began channelling this passion into her signature style as a maker in 2020, when she earned a first-class degree in Jewellery and Silversmithing from Glasgow School of Art.

Silversmith Alice Fry chasing

In particular, a visit to the Blue John Cavern in Derbyshire, a favourite childhood haunt, has proven a catalyst for Alice’s work, inspiring her latest fine jewellery collection, Hidden, which was chosen for exhibition at Shine 2021, the Goldsmiths’ Centre’s annual talent showcase. The cavern is named for Blue John, the purple hued fluorite which is still mined from its 250-million-year-old walls.

The Blue John Stone cave

By anodising the seldom-used metal niobium, Alice has been able to recreate the stunning shades of mauve that naturally occur in the ancient cavern. Working from a sample of Blue John, she has also translated what she describes as the "chaotic beauty" of rock formations into jewellery and precious objects.

Silversmith Alice Fry anodising a piece of metal

“I sat the rock down on a table and drew from it, using the ancient techniques of chasing and repoussé to translate it into metal,” she explained in a recent interview with the Goldsmiths’ Centre. The result of this creative process is a collection that features uneven textures, jagged edges and jutting crystalline shapes, to stunning effect.

Like many of her artistic inclinations in the present day, Alice’s attraction to niobium, a rarely seen refractory metal, has its roots in her youth; “I was fifteen when I first discovered niobium, at a Desire jewellery and silversmithing fair in London,” she recalled. “I met a jeweller called Brian Eburah and he is the only jeweller in the UK who uses niobium. I saw it and instantly fell in love with these beautiful, iridescent colours that you can’t really see in other metals, apart from titanium.”

Silversmith Alice Fry's sketchbook

After the Goldsmiths’ Company funded research into niobium in the 1970s, it enjoyed a brief surge of popularity among jewellers and silversmiths. It soon fell back into obscurity however, perhaps owed to its high resistance to heat. “It’s a very difficult material to work in - you can’t anneal it under normal working temperatures, so it isn’t very accessible,” Alice explains.

By opting to use the ancient techniques of chasing and repoussé, Alice has avoided the need to anneal her pieces and has therefore dodged this common complaint about her metal of choice. As a result, she is counted among just a handful of makers working in niobium in the UK, quickly finding a unique selling point at an early stage in her career. An alumnus of Bishopsland Educational Trust, she won a grant in 2021, the Jane Goodman Award, which gave her the chance to learn new anodising techniques from Brian Eburah, the jeweller who introduced her to niobium all those years ago.

Silversmith Alice Fry chasing a piece of silver

“Niobium is really soft, and it work-hardens very slowly. It’s kind of similar to titanium - you can anodise it, but titanium is very, very hard. So for me, it’s the perfect metal for chasing and repoussé. Using niobium, I started chasing onto the surface of the metal to form these 3D crystal shapes, which I then anodised to different colours, such as purples and blues. A big part of my collection is these pops of colour that contrast really nicely with silver, in addition to the texture from the chasing and repoussé, and these sharp, crystal edges.”

Though perhaps not as obscure as niobium, chasing and repoussé is also an increasingly scarce technique within the industry. Mastering these skills not only furnishes Alice’s work with another unique angle, it’s also testament to her commitment to keep traditional crafts alive.

“There aren’t that many people using chasing and repoussé, it’s an ancient technique and a dying craft, but there’s been a bit of a revival recently, particularly among silversmiths, so it’s the perfect time to be using this technique.”

Whilst the jewellery pieces featured in the Hidden collection are more focused on highlighting the potential of niobium as a material, the silversmithing objects successfully showcase the decorative capabilities of repoussé and chasing. A hand-raised copper beaker, adorned at the base with irregular diamond shapes that resemble sharp shards of rock, is a good example of this. Like all of the pieces within Alice’s body of work, this beaker is also very effective at drawing images to mind of a rough, weather-worn cliff face or the craggy walls of an ancient cave.

“For this collection, I delved into different fields of chasing and repoussé. The beaker I created was very much about surface texture, whereas my pieces of jewellery were more about exploring niobium as a material and the anodising process, and how far I’m able to push both of these techniques.”


Nonetheless, Alice professes a similar approach both to creating both jewellery and silversmithing objects, often describing her jewellery as “wearable sculptures”;

“I think I apply the techniques I use on both a small scale and a large scale, but I kind of approach it with a similar mindset - as if my jewellery pieces are miniature silversmithing pieces. I don't do a lot of small construction soldering for jewellery, so I think it's really interesting to have a different perspective on jewellery making. I want to show a range of pieces all using the same techniques and ideas.”

The Fool’s Gold brooch is a good example of the combination of these two disciplines - being jewellery that nonetheless required skills like the hand-raising of niobium sheets to create. It is also the piece that Alice unabashedly names as her favourite in the collection, in part due to the technical challenges the young maker overcame in creating it. It consists of a square within a square; a sterling silver “frame” that supports the brightly coloured design within.

“Making the Fool’s Gold brooch required me to really challenge myself, and the finished result is more of an art piece. It took a long time to chase because it’s very technically difficult, you’ve got to raise the metal from a flat sheet, all the way up and all the way back down again, at these really sharp 90-degree angles. It really helped push me into different areas of this technique. I wanted to convey the sense of it being a wearable sculpture by putting a frame behind the niobium to elevate and frame it like a piece of artwork. To create it required so many different techniques, with the main technique, on the front, being chasing and repoussé. The back is also really special, it’s constructed by hand using tiny cubes that mimic the front. Although I’ve got a functional brooch back, it ties into the cubes on the front.

It was hard to perfect, but I absolutely love overcoming challenges. Part of being a jeweller is about asking - how do I fix this? How do I overcome this obstacle? A lot of the time, the answer to that question is intuitive.”

The brooch is also favoured by Alice because she feels it is successful conceptually - it is an attempt to raise questions about the high esteem in which we hold gold. The design features bright flecks of the precious metal juxtaposed with the similar-coloured niobium. These protrude in cubes and angular shapes, and contrast with a textured, deep blue background.


“It’s inspired by iron pyrite and how it was known as Fool’s Gold because it looks similar to gold - so it’s a bit of a play on words. The niobium yellow cubes are supposed to resemble the iron pyrite, because it was often found in cubes and doesn’t look dissimilar to the tiny flecks of gold amongst the niobium rock, and they form rivets that connect the niobium to the silver backing. It’s questioning the material value that we ascribe to gold. Why do we consider it valuable, is it the colour, or the material properties? For me, it’s a piece that pushes concepts, which is something that brooches are great for. I’m very proud of it.”

The Fool’s Gold brooch is not only sophisticated both in terms of its concept and technical elements, it is also highly unique looking. This is consistently true of the pieces in the Hidden collection, and that is perhaps the result of several distinctive things happening at once, such as the choice of metal in niobium, and the use of techniques like chasing and repoussé.

“My style is not one that you see very much, because I've kind of gone with a really unique technique and material and ran with them both. It's chaotic and beautiful textures and shapes. It's really eye-catching, I suppose, quite over the top and not very simple. It's taking these crazy structures, and really going for it.”

The inspiration behind Alice’s work is also uncommon. Whilst it’s true that many artists draw from nature, rock formations are often overlooked in favour of more overtly pretty and feminine symbols of beauty, like flowers.



“The collection is inspired by the natural world, but the inorganic natural world, so obviously rocks, not biology. It’s a part of nature that it's not used very often in the jewellery industry, we use materials derived from rock like gemstones, but it's a part of the natural world that’s perhaps used less often as a source of inspiration. It was a very niche route that I decided to go down. The pieces incorporate themes of geology, history, gemmology, science, in addition to the physical process of making. A lot of different ideas feed into it, and they all interconnect.”

Hidden is a collection that draws our attention to a truly remarkable material; the material that forms the foundation of our planet, and indeed all planets. Although rock may manifest in shapes and patterns that are brutal, irregular and unpredictable, this body of work highlights just how breathtakingly beautiful this naturally occurring material can be. It evokes images of caves and caverns that have silently held for millions of years, and although it is crafted by a relatively new maker, it is as successful technically as it is aesthetically.

Read more

Alice Fry has always possessed a unique appreciation for the rugged, atypical beauty of rocks. An avid metal detectorist as a child and a lifelong collector of every kind of stone, mineral and crystal imaginable, she began channelling this passion into her signature style as a maker in 2020, when she earned a first-class degree in Jewellery and Silversmithing from Glasgow School of Art.

Silversmith Alice Fry chasing

In particular, a visit to the Blue John Cavern in Derbyshire, a favourite childhood haunt, has proven a catalyst for Alice’s work, inspiring her latest fine jewellery collection, Hidden, which was chosen for exhibition at Shine 2021, the Goldsmiths’ Centre’s annual talent showcase. The cavern is named for Blue John, the purple hued fluorite which is still mined from its 250-million-year-old walls.

The Blue John Stone cave

By anodising the seldom-used metal niobium, Alice has been able to recreate the stunning shades of mauve that naturally occur in the ancient cavern. Working from a sample of Blue John, she has also translated what she describes as the "chaotic beauty" of rock formations into jewellery and precious objects.

Silversmith Alice Fry anodising a piece of metal

“I sat the rock down on a table and drew from it, using the ancient techniques of chasing and repoussé to translate it into metal,” she explained in a recent interview with the Goldsmiths’ Centre. The result of this creative process is a collection that features uneven textures, jagged edges and jutting crystalline shapes, to stunning effect.

Like many of her artistic inclinations in the present day, Alice’s attraction to niobium, a rarely seen refractory metal, has its roots in her youth; “I was fifteen when I first discovered niobium, at a Desire jewellery and silversmithing fair in London,” she recalled. “I met a jeweller called Brian Eburah and he is the only jeweller in the UK who uses niobium. I saw it and instantly fell in love with these beautiful, iridescent colours that you can’t really see in other metals, apart from titanium.”

Silversmith Alice Fry's sketchbook

After the Goldsmiths’ Company funded research into niobium in the 1970s, it enjoyed a brief surge of popularity among jewellers and silversmiths. It soon fell back into obscurity however, perhaps owed to its high resistance to heat. “It’s a very difficult material to work in - you can’t anneal it under normal working temperatures, so it isn’t very accessible,” Alice explains.

By opting to use the ancient techniques of chasing and repoussé, Alice has avoided the need to anneal her pieces and has therefore dodged this common complaint about her metal of choice. As a result, she is counted among just a handful of makers working in niobium in the UK, quickly finding a unique selling point at an early stage in her career. An alumnus of Bishopsland Educational Trust, she won a grant in 2021, the Jane Goodman Award, which gave her the chance to learn new anodising techniques from Brian Eburah, the jeweller who introduced her to niobium all those years ago.

Silversmith Alice Fry chasing a piece of silver

“Niobium is really soft, and it work-hardens very slowly. It’s kind of similar to titanium - you can anodise it, but titanium is very, very hard. So for me, it’s the perfect metal for chasing and repoussé. Using niobium, I started chasing onto the surface of the metal to form these 3D crystal shapes, which I then anodised to different colours, such as purples and blues. A big part of my collection is these pops of colour that contrast really nicely with silver, in addition to the texture from the chasing and repoussé, and these sharp, crystal edges.”

Though perhaps not as obscure as niobium, chasing and repoussé is also an increasingly scarce technique within the industry. Mastering these skills not only furnishes Alice’s work with another unique angle, it’s also testament to her commitment to keep traditional crafts alive.

“There aren’t that many people using chasing and repoussé, it’s an ancient technique and a dying craft, but there’s been a bit of a revival recently, particularly among silversmiths, so it’s the perfect time to be using this technique.”

Whilst the jewellery pieces featured in the Hidden collection are more focused on highlighting the potential of niobium as a material, the silversmithing objects successfully showcase the decorative capabilities of repoussé and chasing. A hand-raised copper beaker, adorned at the base with irregular diamond shapes that resemble sharp shards of rock, is a good example of this. Like all of the pieces within Alice’s body of work, this beaker is also very effective at drawing images to mind of a rough, weather-worn cliff face or the craggy walls of an ancient cave.

“For this collection, I delved into different fields of chasing and repoussé. The beaker I created was very much about surface texture, whereas my pieces of jewellery were more about exploring niobium as a material and the anodising process, and how far I’m able to push both of these techniques.”


Nonetheless, Alice professes a similar approach both to creating both jewellery and silversmithing objects, often describing her jewellery as “wearable sculptures”;

“I think I apply the techniques I use on both a small scale and a large scale, but I kind of approach it with a similar mindset - as if my jewellery pieces are miniature silversmithing pieces. I don't do a lot of small construction soldering for jewellery, so I think it's really interesting to have a different perspective on jewellery making. I want to show a range of pieces all using the same techniques and ideas.”

The Fool’s Gold brooch is a good example of the combination of these two disciplines - being jewellery that nonetheless required skills like the hand-raising of niobium sheets to create. It is also the piece that Alice unabashedly names as her favourite in the collection, in part due to the technical challenges the young maker overcame in creating it. It consists of a square within a square; a sterling silver “frame” that supports the brightly coloured design within.

“Making the Fool’s Gold brooch required me to really challenge myself, and the finished result is more of an art piece. It took a long time to chase because it’s very technically difficult, you’ve got to raise the metal from a flat sheet, all the way up and all the way back down again, at these really sharp 90-degree angles. It really helped push me into different areas of this technique. I wanted to convey the sense of it being a wearable sculpture by putting a frame behind the niobium to elevate and frame it like a piece of artwork. To create it required so many different techniques, with the main technique, on the front, being chasing and repoussé. The back is also really special, it’s constructed by hand using tiny cubes that mimic the front. Although I’ve got a functional brooch back, it ties into the cubes on the front.

It was hard to perfect, but I absolutely love overcoming challenges. Part of being a jeweller is about asking - how do I fix this? How do I overcome this obstacle? A lot of the time, the answer to that question is intuitive.”

The brooch is also favoured by Alice because she feels it is successful conceptually - it is an attempt to raise questions about the high esteem in which we hold gold. The design features bright flecks of the precious metal juxtaposed with the similar-coloured niobium. These protrude in cubes and angular shapes, and contrast with a textured, deep blue background.


“It’s inspired by iron pyrite and how it was known as Fool’s Gold because it looks similar to gold - so it’s a bit of a play on words. The niobium yellow cubes are supposed to resemble the iron pyrite, because it was often found in cubes and doesn’t look dissimilar to the tiny flecks of gold amongst the niobium rock, and they form rivets that connect the niobium to the silver backing. It’s questioning the material value that we ascribe to gold. Why do we consider it valuable, is it the colour, or the material properties? For me, it’s a piece that pushes concepts, which is something that brooches are great for. I’m very proud of it.”

The Fool’s Gold brooch is not only sophisticated both in terms of its concept and technical elements, it is also highly unique looking. This is consistently true of the pieces in the Hidden collection, and that is perhaps the result of several distinctive things happening at once, such as the choice of metal in niobium, and the use of techniques like chasing and repoussé.

“My style is not one that you see very much, because I've kind of gone with a really unique technique and material and ran with them both. It's chaotic and beautiful textures and shapes. It's really eye-catching, I suppose, quite over the top and not very simple. It's taking these crazy structures, and really going for it.”

The inspiration behind Alice’s work is also uncommon. Whilst it’s true that many artists draw from nature, rock formations are often overlooked in favour of more overtly pretty and feminine symbols of beauty, like flowers.



“The collection is inspired by the natural world, but the inorganic natural world, so obviously rocks, not biology. It’s a part of nature that it's not used very often in the jewellery industry, we use materials derived from rock like gemstones, but it's a part of the natural world that’s perhaps used less often as a source of inspiration. It was a very niche route that I decided to go down. The pieces incorporate themes of geology, history, gemmology, science, in addition to the physical process of making. A lot of different ideas feed into it, and they all interconnect.”

Hidden is a collection that draws our attention to a truly remarkable material; the material that forms the foundation of our planet, and indeed all planets. Although rock may manifest in shapes and patterns that are brutal, irregular and unpredictable, this body of work highlights just how breathtakingly beautiful this naturally occurring material can be. It evokes images of caves and caverns that have silently held for millions of years, and although it is crafted by a relatively new maker, it is as successful technically as it is aesthetically.

Read more


Maria Gower’s Scented Metals jewellery collection explores the aesthetic of smell

Posted by Rae Gellel on

Of the five primary senses, smell is perhaps the one we take most for granted. For the millions of people who have suffered temporary or long-term loss of smell as a result of contracting Covid-19, however, the ways in which smells enhance and inform the human experience have been made sharply apparent by their sudden absence.

Scented Metals is therefore a very timely collection by Polish-born jeweller and artist, Maria Gower. Conceived and crafted in the thick of the pandemic, it consists of metal perfume flacons in both free-standing, handheld and pendant form, and is an attempt to unpack every aspect of this olfactory sensation - the molecular processes involved in our perception of scent, and the industry that has capitalised on our love of pleasurable smells for centuries.

Jeweller Maria Gower holding her perfume flacon pendant

Maria explains: “Perfume is a time-based material, you open a flacon of perfume and the molecules start escaping their lightest first, and their heaviest, the base note, can linger for days. I wanted to find a representation of this property in my collection.

We also often don't notice our scented world until we lose it, as was one of the symptoms of Covid. I would like, as a maker, to encourage the person who is wearing my jewellery to consider the importance of our sense of smell, and to perhaps notice the ordinary smells around him or her; the smell of cut grass in the neighbour's garden, or the rain on the pavement, which releases a chemical called Petrichor.”

Jeweller Maria Gower is inspired by books on scent

Until recently, soft synthetic clay was the material of choice for Maria. The proprietor of a successful London business, she specialised in life-like, pastel-coloured roses that adorned bridal tiaras, ornaments and jewellery. After forty years of working in this medium however, Maria experienced an artistic crisis; believing that she had begun to stagnate creatively, she felt a pressing need to explore new ground. Jewellery and silversmithing presented the fresh possibilities that she craved.

Jeweller and maker Maria Gower crafting at her bench

 

“Towards the end, I became restless and dissatisfied with what I was doing. I had this feeling that I had lost my creativity. I started looking for something else, and I found it in the form of a BA course at the School of Art, Architecture and Design, London Metropolitan University in London, in jewellery and silversmithing.”

Although the transition from clay to metal was transformative for Maria, it was initially a difficult adjustment. Unlike the extremely malleable nature of clay, precious metals ask a lot more of their handler in order to be manipulated, shaped and formed. The moment that the veteran artist began to master her new medium was therefore nothing short of revelatory.

Perfume Pod by jeweller Maria Gower

“I thought metal was a very unfriendly material; it was hard, unyielding, very sharp at the corners, you could cut your finger on it. When I discovered that given certain conditions, it is a very pliable material, it was a revelation. I found that actually, it has got very similar qualities to clay, which I was working with for such a long time, and in my work at the moment, I'm trying to explore those properties.”

Jeweller Maria Gower filing on of her moulds

Maria’s growing sense of competency in her newfound craft was sealed by the completion of her degree in 2018, followed by the inclusion of her Scented Metals collection in Shine 2021, the Goldsmiths’ Centre’s annual exhibition of new talent. The creation of Scented Metals signified even further technical and creative growth for Maria, providing her with ample opportunity to hone her skills, and become more intuitive in her interactions with metal.



“I gained lots of technical knowledge whilst working on this collection. I was, as I said, new to metals. There was a lot to learn about metal properties, techniques, and about the tools used in metalsmithing. I also learned to listen to the metal. Every metal has got different properties and as you work with it, you have to be able to understand the language. Sometimes it says ‘oh yes, I can go for a little bit longer’, and other times it screams to you ‘no more, you have to stop now’. This is something that you have to recognise.”

Jeweller and maker Maria Gower with her Scented Metals collection

For a maker who made her first foray into the industry just a few short years ago, you might imagine that experimentation would pose a daunting prospect. This is not so for Maria, however, who is keen to distinguish herself by establishing unique ways of working. This desire to break new ground in her pieces is perhaps most evident in the Perfume Flacon necklace, which features mottled, silver-plated plumes escaping from a textured rose-copper bottle - a stopper designed to represent scent escaping into the atmosphere. The effect is striking and unusual.



“Because I'm new to silversmithing, I'm very keen to find my own way of working with metal to establish my own techniques. I observed old silversmithing techniques and processes, but I'm always trying to find my own interpretation on them. As an example, I often use wax to make the stoppers for my bottles, and I wanted to find a way of representing a cloud of escaping vapor, and almost whip the metal into that cloud. After lots of experimenting, I found a way of doing it first in wax, and then it was transformed into metal. It's such an interesting piece, you can look at it for a long time and find these little caves, and every time you look at it, you discover something new in it.”

Whilst vessels are a longstanding staple of the metalsmithing industry, fully functional perfume bottles are an unusual twist on a familiar form, and the perfect object for expressing Maria’s themes relating to smell and scent. Each bottle also includes a subtle detail within its twisting mechanism:

“I’ve hidden a little feature. Every bottle is functional, you’re able to unscrew the top, but where typically you would only turn three, maybe four times, I have added more - so you have to turn it six, maybe seven times. That feature is hidden, but it is there.”



The use of perfume flacons adds a further historical element to the work; these small, decorative vials were popular in Roman, Medieval, and even ancient Egyptian and Mesopotamian societies, and Scented Metals is a modern continuation of this age-old tradition. Moreover, due to the longevity of metal as a material, Maria’s pieces have the potential to one day be counted among the historical artefacts that helped inspire them.

“I realised that because of the properties of metal, I'm creating objects of permanence, and that carries with it a responsibility: my bottles will still be there in 200 years’ time. Will they still be desirable in 200 years’ time, will they inspire curiosity?”

Jeweller Maria Gower form pressing her pieces

This referencing of the past is also evident in the collection’s choice of metals - copper and bronze for example, are often seen in ancient artefacts and crafts.

History is just one of three major concepts that Maria seeks to explore in the collection, however. She explains;

“I researched our sense of smell extensively in making this collection and that led me into three distinct avenues. First of these is our sense of smell in itself. We inhale a molecule, and where does it go - how does our brain process it? The second is “the juice” as it's known in the trade - perfume itself - and all the wonderful ingredients it incorporates, and the interesting, sometimes weird processes, involved in obtaining those fragrant molecules. And the third area is the vessels themselves, the beautiful flacons to hold the precious scent, which have been made for such a long time in history, and it made me realise that this is where my work belongs, it stands in this long line of perfume flacons made throughout history.”



Although the choice of which perfume to add to each falcon will ultimately fall to the wearer, when browsing Scented Metals and learning of its carefully researched and conceived themes, it’s possible to imagine rich and contrasting odours emanating from the various, beautifully crafted vessels. It is overall a highly distinctive and unique collection, produced with considerable technical skill in spite of Maria Gower’s relative newness in the industry. That it represents a kind of rebirth for the maker, once dogged with creative frustration, gives it an added poignancy.

“I enjoy the process of working with metal full stop, I find that joyous. For me, it's not work at all - it's play. With making, there is also no room for selfishness. You can’t just make things and put them in your bottom drawer when you finish - you have to share them with the world.”

Read more

Of the five primary senses, smell is perhaps the one we take most for granted. For the millions of people who have suffered temporary or long-term loss of smell as a result of contracting Covid-19, however, the ways in which smells enhance and inform the human experience have been made sharply apparent by their sudden absence.

Scented Metals is therefore a very timely collection by Polish-born jeweller and artist, Maria Gower. Conceived and crafted in the thick of the pandemic, it consists of metal perfume flacons in both free-standing, handheld and pendant form, and is an attempt to unpack every aspect of this olfactory sensation - the molecular processes involved in our perception of scent, and the industry that has capitalised on our love of pleasurable smells for centuries.

Jeweller Maria Gower holding her perfume flacon pendant

Maria explains: “Perfume is a time-based material, you open a flacon of perfume and the molecules start escaping their lightest first, and their heaviest, the base note, can linger for days. I wanted to find a representation of this property in my collection.

We also often don't notice our scented world until we lose it, as was one of the symptoms of Covid. I would like, as a maker, to encourage the person who is wearing my jewellery to consider the importance of our sense of smell, and to perhaps notice the ordinary smells around him or her; the smell of cut grass in the neighbour's garden, or the rain on the pavement, which releases a chemical called Petrichor.”

Jeweller Maria Gower is inspired by books on scent

Until recently, soft synthetic clay was the material of choice for Maria. The proprietor of a successful London business, she specialised in life-like, pastel-coloured roses that adorned bridal tiaras, ornaments and jewellery. After forty years of working in this medium however, Maria experienced an artistic crisis; believing that she had begun to stagnate creatively, she felt a pressing need to explore new ground. Jewellery and silversmithing presented the fresh possibilities that she craved.

Jeweller and maker Maria Gower crafting at her bench

 

“Towards the end, I became restless and dissatisfied with what I was doing. I had this feeling that I had lost my creativity. I started looking for something else, and I found it in the form of a BA course at the School of Art, Architecture and Design, London Metropolitan University in London, in jewellery and silversmithing.”

Although the transition from clay to metal was transformative for Maria, it was initially a difficult adjustment. Unlike the extremely malleable nature of clay, precious metals ask a lot more of their handler in order to be manipulated, shaped and formed. The moment that the veteran artist began to master her new medium was therefore nothing short of revelatory.

Perfume Pod by jeweller Maria Gower

“I thought metal was a very unfriendly material; it was hard, unyielding, very sharp at the corners, you could cut your finger on it. When I discovered that given certain conditions, it is a very pliable material, it was a revelation. I found that actually, it has got very similar qualities to clay, which I was working with for such a long time, and in my work at the moment, I'm trying to explore those properties.”

Jeweller Maria Gower filing on of her moulds

Maria’s growing sense of competency in her newfound craft was sealed by the completion of her degree in 2018, followed by the inclusion of her Scented Metals collection in Shine 2021, the Goldsmiths’ Centre’s annual exhibition of new talent. The creation of Scented Metals signified even further technical and creative growth for Maria, providing her with ample opportunity to hone her skills, and become more intuitive in her interactions with metal.



“I gained lots of technical knowledge whilst working on this collection. I was, as I said, new to metals. There was a lot to learn about metal properties, techniques, and about the tools used in metalsmithing. I also learned to listen to the metal. Every metal has got different properties and as you work with it, you have to be able to understand the language. Sometimes it says ‘oh yes, I can go for a little bit longer’, and other times it screams to you ‘no more, you have to stop now’. This is something that you have to recognise.”

Jeweller and maker Maria Gower with her Scented Metals collection

For a maker who made her first foray into the industry just a few short years ago, you might imagine that experimentation would pose a daunting prospect. This is not so for Maria, however, who is keen to distinguish herself by establishing unique ways of working. This desire to break new ground in her pieces is perhaps most evident in the Perfume Flacon necklace, which features mottled, silver-plated plumes escaping from a textured rose-copper bottle - a stopper designed to represent scent escaping into the atmosphere. The effect is striking and unusual.



“Because I'm new to silversmithing, I'm very keen to find my own way of working with metal to establish my own techniques. I observed old silversmithing techniques and processes, but I'm always trying to find my own interpretation on them. As an example, I often use wax to make the stoppers for my bottles, and I wanted to find a way of representing a cloud of escaping vapor, and almost whip the metal into that cloud. After lots of experimenting, I found a way of doing it first in wax, and then it was transformed into metal. It's such an interesting piece, you can look at it for a long time and find these little caves, and every time you look at it, you discover something new in it.”

Whilst vessels are a longstanding staple of the metalsmithing industry, fully functional perfume bottles are an unusual twist on a familiar form, and the perfect object for expressing Maria’s themes relating to smell and scent. Each bottle also includes a subtle detail within its twisting mechanism:

“I’ve hidden a little feature. Every bottle is functional, you’re able to unscrew the top, but where typically you would only turn three, maybe four times, I have added more - so you have to turn it six, maybe seven times. That feature is hidden, but it is there.”



The use of perfume flacons adds a further historical element to the work; these small, decorative vials were popular in Roman, Medieval, and even ancient Egyptian and Mesopotamian societies, and Scented Metals is a modern continuation of this age-old tradition. Moreover, due to the longevity of metal as a material, Maria’s pieces have the potential to one day be counted among the historical artefacts that helped inspire them.

“I realised that because of the properties of metal, I'm creating objects of permanence, and that carries with it a responsibility: my bottles will still be there in 200 years’ time. Will they still be desirable in 200 years’ time, will they inspire curiosity?”

Jeweller Maria Gower form pressing her pieces

This referencing of the past is also evident in the collection’s choice of metals - copper and bronze for example, are often seen in ancient artefacts and crafts.

History is just one of three major concepts that Maria seeks to explore in the collection, however. She explains;

“I researched our sense of smell extensively in making this collection and that led me into three distinct avenues. First of these is our sense of smell in itself. We inhale a molecule, and where does it go - how does our brain process it? The second is “the juice” as it's known in the trade - perfume itself - and all the wonderful ingredients it incorporates, and the interesting, sometimes weird processes, involved in obtaining those fragrant molecules. And the third area is the vessels themselves, the beautiful flacons to hold the precious scent, which have been made for such a long time in history, and it made me realise that this is where my work belongs, it stands in this long line of perfume flacons made throughout history.”



Although the choice of which perfume to add to each falcon will ultimately fall to the wearer, when browsing Scented Metals and learning of its carefully researched and conceived themes, it’s possible to imagine rich and contrasting odours emanating from the various, beautifully crafted vessels. It is overall a highly distinctive and unique collection, produced with considerable technical skill in spite of Maria Gower’s relative newness in the industry. That it represents a kind of rebirth for the maker, once dogged with creative frustration, gives it an added poignancy.

“I enjoy the process of working with metal full stop, I find that joyous. For me, it's not work at all - it's play. With making, there is also no room for selfishness. You can’t just make things and put them in your bottom drawer when you finish - you have to share them with the world.”

Read more


Agata Karwoska: taking inspiration from decorative Middle Eastern architecture

Posted by Rae Gellel on

One of the most striking and distinguishable features of Middle Eastern architecture is patternation. The walls and ceilings of traditional Islamic buildings such as mosques, tombs and palaces are often alive with intricate, vibrantly colourful patterns that make use of every inch of available space, and that are at times almost hypnotic in their repetitiveness.

Whilst visiting Istanbul, and landmarks such as the Blue Mosque and Topkapi Palace, Polish-born jewellery designer Agata Karwowska found herself inspired by this highly decorative architectural style. It helped form the creative groundwork for Evergreen, a jewellery collection that employs similar use of rhythmic, arabesque-like floral patterns, elliptical forms and bold, contrasting colours.

Unlike many modern jewellers, Agata did not enter the industry through the path of formal education or training. Instead, she was introduced to the craft by a friend in 2014, whilst still based in her native country of Poland, and set about learning essential jewellery-making skills on her own terms:

“I'm basically a self-taught jeweller. My friend suggested I try jewellery making because she felt I’d always had a talent for painting and sculpture. She gave me some basic supplies and told me, just try it, and I fell for it instantly. I haven’t stopped since.

Jeweller Agata Karwowska in her studio

I started out mainly working in silver, but after moving to the UK, began using more gold and precious stones. Right now, my workshop is based in Hatton Garden. I'm very, very happy to be there, making my own designs, mostly in gold and silver.”


Agata remained a self-taught jeweller until 2020, when she began studying at the British Academy of Jewellery, graduating with a Level Three Diploma in Jewellery Design and Manufacture, and completing beginner and intermediate courses in stone setting.

The Goldsmiths' Centre first took note of Agata’s burgeoning talent as a jewellery designer in 2021, when she enrolled in Getting Started, our intensive introduction to business course. That same year, Agata would be chosen for annual Goldsmiths’ Centre exhibition Shine 2021, which highlights makers who show unusual flair and promise at an early stage in their careers.



Agata’s natural aptitude for her craft is evident throughout Evergreen, a title that references several components and themes within the fine jewellery collection. Perhaps most prominently, this title conjures images of nature and foliage, and gently textured floral patterns are key to each of the collection’s pieces - such as the Carved Sterling Silver and Sapphire Earrings which are embellished with soft, flowing leaves. These designs are reminiscent of those that adorn the historic bath houses and bazaars of Istanbul.

"The collection includes rings, earrings, and necklaces that I’ve designed, and these pieces have one common element, and that is texture. The texture is lovely and decorative and made up of leaves, tendrils, and little flowers.”

Jeweller Agata Karwowska shows an example of wax pressed jewellery

This textured effect is achieved through the technique of wax pressing, which involves embossing designs on wax, followed by metal, to permanent results. The word “evergreen” means perennial, everlasting; the title is therefore also a subtle nod to the longevity of this technique, and of precious metals in general.

“I chose the name Evergreen because I wanted to show that during the process of making this collection, I used a technique called wax pressing. It involves transferring the pattern from a silver element into wax. It's permanent, it's durable, it stays there forever, and uses floral elements - which is the connection to the title Evergreen."



In traditional Islamic buildings, particularly those of a religious nature, highly repetitive patterns give the illusion that they continue infinitely, suggesting the infinite nature of the universe and the infinite power of God. The concept of infinity is yet one more reference to the idea of something being never ending, and thus to the title of Evergreen.

Another way in which Agata draws on her Middle Eastern theme is through the shapes that form the basis of her pieces. The Textured Silver, Sapphire and Opal Mandala Necklace is perhaps the most overt example of this. Whilst the mandala is a symbol often associated with eastern religions such as Hinduism and Buddhism, the necklace’s elliptical curves are evocative of the polylobed arches and domed mosques so widespread throughout Middle Eastern towns and cities.



This necklace also prominently features blue sapphires and fire opals, which is typical of the collection - brightly coloured gemstones are included throughout. The colours chosen by Agata are those commonly seen in traditional Islamic decorative paintings, and are juxtaposed with highly textured silver to create a dramatic contrast in colours.

“I’ve created a high-definition contrast between the metal and the stones. For example, I’ve used blue sapphire and a very intense yellow citrine. For the earrings, which are inspired mostly by elements of Middle Eastern architecture like arches and domes, I’ve incorporated gemstones like garnets and fire opals, because I wanted them to stand out and contrast nicely with a bright silver. The same applies to the necklaces in the collection - I’ve used sapphires and fire opals because colours like gold, blue, orange, and red are very widely used in Middle Eastern architecture.”

Whilst sterling silver is Agata's metal of choice in Evergreen, the Honey Citrine Sterling and Silver Gold Ring also includes gold, to create a bold contrast in colours. The piece is a particular point of pride for the maker.



“The rings are my version of alternative wedding bands, made using silver and 18 karat gold. I really love the Honey Citrine wedding band. I just used a simple wedding band with my signature texture, and added some 18 carat gold, which looks striking against the citrine. There is a connection with traditional and contemporary jewellery, so I think it's a good piece, my favourite one.”



The patterns on the Honey Citrine ring, as is the case with many of the pieces that accompany it, are intricate and tight-knit, closely contained within the band. To achieve such fine detail on a such a small surface area is no doubt an impressive feat - one that Agata confesses she initially found intimidating.

"I was really afraid that I may be unable to incorporate the Middle Eastern style of architecture in the collection, because the buildings use texture and colour so intensely that I thought I’d have trouble applying this to a tiny piece of jewellery, but I made use of all the space that I could."



The cumulative effect of all these different elements is a collection that, by Agata's own assessment, is both traditional and contemporary:

"The style is definitely decorative and I incorporate, in my opinion, both a traditional and contemporary approach to jewellery. Traditional because rich textures and decorations are typical for traditional jewellery, and contemporary because the collection uses minimal forms overall. I believe that I managed to achieve that balance.”

Overall, the largely self-taught maker is successful in producing jewellery that skilfully pays tribute to a culturally and historically significant era of architecture; translating vast structures into beautiful, jewellery-sized forms whilst exploring themes relating to the evergreen and the ever-lasting.

Read more

One of the most striking and distinguishable features of Middle Eastern architecture is patternation. The walls and ceilings of traditional Islamic buildings such as mosques, tombs and palaces are often alive with intricate, vibrantly colourful patterns that make use of every inch of available space, and that are at times almost hypnotic in their repetitiveness.

Whilst visiting Istanbul, and landmarks such as the Blue Mosque and Topkapi Palace, Polish-born jewellery designer Agata Karwowska found herself inspired by this highly decorative architectural style. It helped form the creative groundwork for Evergreen, a jewellery collection that employs similar use of rhythmic, arabesque-like floral patterns, elliptical forms and bold, contrasting colours.

Unlike many modern jewellers, Agata did not enter the industry through the path of formal education or training. Instead, she was introduced to the craft by a friend in 2014, whilst still based in her native country of Poland, and set about learning essential jewellery-making skills on her own terms:

“I'm basically a self-taught jeweller. My friend suggested I try jewellery making because she felt I’d always had a talent for painting and sculpture. She gave me some basic supplies and told me, just try it, and I fell for it instantly. I haven’t stopped since.

Jeweller Agata Karwowska in her studio

I started out mainly working in silver, but after moving to the UK, began using more gold and precious stones. Right now, my workshop is based in Hatton Garden. I'm very, very happy to be there, making my own designs, mostly in gold and silver.”


Agata remained a self-taught jeweller until 2020, when she began studying at the British Academy of Jewellery, graduating with a Level Three Diploma in Jewellery Design and Manufacture, and completing beginner and intermediate courses in stone setting.

The Goldsmiths' Centre first took note of Agata’s burgeoning talent as a jewellery designer in 2021, when she enrolled in Getting Started, our intensive introduction to business course. That same year, Agata would be chosen for annual Goldsmiths’ Centre exhibition Shine 2021, which highlights makers who show unusual flair and promise at an early stage in their careers.



Agata’s natural aptitude for her craft is evident throughout Evergreen, a title that references several components and themes within the fine jewellery collection. Perhaps most prominently, this title conjures images of nature and foliage, and gently textured floral patterns are key to each of the collection’s pieces - such as the Carved Sterling Silver and Sapphire Earrings which are embellished with soft, flowing leaves. These designs are reminiscent of those that adorn the historic bath houses and bazaars of Istanbul.

"The collection includes rings, earrings, and necklaces that I’ve designed, and these pieces have one common element, and that is texture. The texture is lovely and decorative and made up of leaves, tendrils, and little flowers.”

Jeweller Agata Karwowska shows an example of wax pressed jewellery

This textured effect is achieved through the technique of wax pressing, which involves embossing designs on wax, followed by metal, to permanent results. The word “evergreen” means perennial, everlasting; the title is therefore also a subtle nod to the longevity of this technique, and of precious metals in general.

“I chose the name Evergreen because I wanted to show that during the process of making this collection, I used a technique called wax pressing. It involves transferring the pattern from a silver element into wax. It's permanent, it's durable, it stays there forever, and uses floral elements - which is the connection to the title Evergreen."



In traditional Islamic buildings, particularly those of a religious nature, highly repetitive patterns give the illusion that they continue infinitely, suggesting the infinite nature of the universe and the infinite power of God. The concept of infinity is yet one more reference to the idea of something being never ending, and thus to the title of Evergreen.

Another way in which Agata draws on her Middle Eastern theme is through the shapes that form the basis of her pieces. The Textured Silver, Sapphire and Opal Mandala Necklace is perhaps the most overt example of this. Whilst the mandala is a symbol often associated with eastern religions such as Hinduism and Buddhism, the necklace’s elliptical curves are evocative of the polylobed arches and domed mosques so widespread throughout Middle Eastern towns and cities.



This necklace also prominently features blue sapphires and fire opals, which is typical of the collection - brightly coloured gemstones are included throughout. The colours chosen by Agata are those commonly seen in traditional Islamic decorative paintings, and are juxtaposed with highly textured silver to create a dramatic contrast in colours.

“I’ve created a high-definition contrast between the metal and the stones. For example, I’ve used blue sapphire and a very intense yellow citrine. For the earrings, which are inspired mostly by elements of Middle Eastern architecture like arches and domes, I’ve incorporated gemstones like garnets and fire opals, because I wanted them to stand out and contrast nicely with a bright silver. The same applies to the necklaces in the collection - I’ve used sapphires and fire opals because colours like gold, blue, orange, and red are very widely used in Middle Eastern architecture.”

Whilst sterling silver is Agata's metal of choice in Evergreen, the Honey Citrine Sterling and Silver Gold Ring also includes gold, to create a bold contrast in colours. The piece is a particular point of pride for the maker.



“The rings are my version of alternative wedding bands, made using silver and 18 karat gold. I really love the Honey Citrine wedding band. I just used a simple wedding band with my signature texture, and added some 18 carat gold, which looks striking against the citrine. There is a connection with traditional and contemporary jewellery, so I think it's a good piece, my favourite one.”



The patterns on the Honey Citrine ring, as is the case with many of the pieces that accompany it, are intricate and tight-knit, closely contained within the band. To achieve such fine detail on a such a small surface area is no doubt an impressive feat - one that Agata confesses she initially found intimidating.

"I was really afraid that I may be unable to incorporate the Middle Eastern style of architecture in the collection, because the buildings use texture and colour so intensely that I thought I’d have trouble applying this to a tiny piece of jewellery, but I made use of all the space that I could."



The cumulative effect of all these different elements is a collection that, by Agata's own assessment, is both traditional and contemporary:

"The style is definitely decorative and I incorporate, in my opinion, both a traditional and contemporary approach to jewellery. Traditional because rich textures and decorations are typical for traditional jewellery, and contemporary because the collection uses minimal forms overall. I believe that I managed to achieve that balance.”

Overall, the largely self-taught maker is successful in producing jewellery that skilfully pays tribute to a culturally and historically significant era of architecture; translating vast structures into beautiful, jewellery-sized forms whilst exploring themes relating to the evergreen and the ever-lasting.

Read more


In search of ancient treasures with jeweller Katherine Brunacci

Posted by Rae Gellel on

Tales of adventurers traversing exotic, faraway lands in search of ancient treasure are littered throughout both history and popular fiction. They have long been a source of fascination for Tasmanian-born jewellery designer Katherine Brunacci, who seeks to instil that feeling of discovering something rare and coveted in her latest fine jewellery collection, Trove.

Hand-carved and cast in wax and glittering with ethically sourced gemstones, each piece included in Trove is a personal treasure, unique to the wearer and inspired by precious historical artefacts. The collection also incorporates themes of travel, independence, personal strength and identity, which resonate deeply with the globe-trotting Katherine. For its richly layered motifs and skilful execution, Trove has been selected for showcase at Shine 2021, our annual exhibition of fresh and promising talent.

Katherine explains: “I've always had a love of ancient history and artefacts and the adventurous journeys that their discovery entails. That a piece of jewellery can be thousands of years old and still be as breathtakingly beautiful as the day it was created, I really do find that magical.”

Katherine Brunacci at her jewellery bench

Although she once considered a career in fashion, Katherine felt the sometimes-wasteful nature of the fashion industry might be at odds with her ecologically-conscious values. A self-professed “history-nerd” who can often be found pouring over historical texts in the nearest library, she decided to find a vocation that would combine her interest in fashion with her passion for exploring the past. The ancient craft of jewellery-making presented the perfect solution.

"I was going to get into a career in fashion, but I didn’t like the idea of fast or throwaway fashion. I’d always gravitated towards old things and history - so I thought I could couple the two together. My love of jewellery making really started from there, I took some night courses in jewellery and it was a case of love at first sight.”



Katherine went on to train professionally in jewellery making in her native country of Australia, at The Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology. After achieving a bachelors and master’s degree in fine art, with a major in gold and silversmithing, she also earned qualifications from the Gemmological Institute of America and Gemmological Association of Australia, training that reinforced her commitment to use ethically-sourced gemstones throughout her work; “As a gemmologist, it's really important that I’m a fully ethical jeweller, and that the gemstones I do source are from ethical mines.”

Katherine entered the British jewellery industry in 2017, when she travelled to the UK for a training course and, as she puts it, “six months turned into four years - I decided to see how far I could develop my brand here.” Whilst the British Museum quickly became a favoured spot of hers for sourcing inspiration, Katherine also drew creatively from her experiences of adapting to a new culture and country:

“Here in the UK, you have the British Museum, which is great. I like to go there for inspiration. I also have a huge personal library - I love my books, and have a lot of museum catalogues. Whenever I travel, I find a lot of inspiration in elements from different cultures, and I like to grab little components and kind of mix and match.”

Katherine Brunacci looking at her medium Lantern necklace

Travel is one of the major themes featured throughout Trove. It is expressed through globe shaped pieces, such as Katherine’s Silver and Gold Vermeil Global pendant set with sparkling sapphires, which bears resemblance to the planet earth.

Whilst the collection draws heavily on the idea of fantastical adventures, such as those to perilous lands in pursuit of ancient treasures, the theme of travel also relates to journeys of a more personal nature:

“One of two focal points within the collection is a mini-series called Globo that includes pieces that are symbolic of travel. Globo is Italian for globe. I was born in Tasmania, on a little island off of Australia, so the series is quite personal to me. It's that sense of travel, adventure and exploration that I've had to incorporate within my own practice, and it has a special place in my heart.”



The second major theme present throughout Trove is even more personal still, and is portrayed through the use of a lantern shape. “The lantern is symbolic of inner light, strength, and the self,” Katherine explains. Countering the statement Globo pendant is a Geo Lantern Silver and Gold Vermeil Necklace, set with sapphires, amethysts and green onyx, and inspired by medieval religious iconography. “It has been hand-carved by myself and is encrusted with ethically sourced gemstones. It is designed to be worn on the lower length, so it's for the wearer to enjoy as well so they can capture that detail and feel the weight of it and hold it in their hands.”

Jeweller Katherine Brunacci setting stones in her jewellery

Katherine aims to achieve a historical aesthetic throughout her jewellery, creating pieces that could have believably spilled, gleaming and glittering, from an unearthed treasure trove. Due to the longevity of precious metals, there is always the possibility that Katherine’s jewellery may become a piece of history in itself, if passed down through the generations.

“A lot of my jewellery, I feel you can see the historical elements within it. I like to capture the aesthetic stylings from ancient jewellery and incorporate that into my work. Everything I make is heavily textured, involving lots of colour, which I achieve by using multicoloured gemstones. My pendants are all three dimensional, I don’t do much flat work, I favour bigger work - they are all quite hefty, one-of-a-kind pieces.”


To further enhance this sense of her clients discovering something truly special through her work, Katherine uses the lost wax process, hand carving and casting pieces in wax to ensure that they are one-of-a-kind, with details that are impossible to recreate exactly.

“I hand wax-model every piece. I don't use any master moulds and I think this is partially so I don't get bored making the same pieces over and over. Each piece is a new, unique creation. It's nice for me to be able to say to the wearer, that's yours, and no one else's. There might be pieces that look similar, but this one has got its own little forms, its own little indentations and structure - no-one else will have one identical. Again, that's that element of treasure - that you're finding something magical and unique to you. That's what I want to get across.”

Jeweller Katherine Brunacci creating jewellery through wax carving

With the oldest known example of the lost wax technique estimated to be approximately 6,000 years old, it’s use throughout Trove is also yet another nod to the underlying theme of history and ancient treasure.

“I like that I’m harking back to the ancient tradition of jewellery-making - making as those in this industry have been for hundreds, if not thousands, of years. As a history nerd, I like that connection to the forebearers of the craft. I love the idea of being skilled in something so old and ancient.”

For Trove, Katherine also experimented with the traditional Japanese wax carving technique of Misturo Hikime, which helps create the subtle, undulating textures in some of her pieces.



“Misturo Hikime involves moulding the wax with your hands and stretching it, which creates these beautiful striations, a gorgeous natural-looking texture. A few of my pieces will feature that wax working technique. The wax components involved in the technique are quite hard to find and no-one has a definitive recipe, so that required a lot of development.”

The outcome of these myriad interweaving themes and techniques is a collection that has depth and meaning, both for the maker herself and for any client interested in owning one of Katherine’s unique, painstakingly hand-crafted pieces. Trove is an assortment of jewellery that is successful not only in terms of its technical elements, but also in its ability to evoke the sense of excitement, adventure and intrigue associated with treasure that has held many of us rapt since childhood.

Read more

In search of ancient treasures with jeweller Katherine Brunacci

Posted by Rae Gellel on

Tales of adventurers traversing exotic, faraway lands in search of ancient treasure are littered throughout both history and popular fiction. They have long been a source of fascination for Tasmanian-born jewellery designer Katherine Brunacci, who seeks to instil that feeling of discovering something rare and coveted in her latest fine jewellery collection, Trove.

Hand-carved and cast in wax and glittering with ethically sourced gemstones, each piece included in Trove is a personal treasure, unique to the wearer and inspired by precious historical artefacts. The collection also incorporates themes of travel, independence, personal strength and identity, which resonate deeply with the globe-trotting Katherine. For its richly layered motifs and skilful execution, Trove has been selected for showcase at Shine 2021, our annual exhibition of fresh and promising talent.

Katherine explains: “I've always had a love of ancient history and artefacts and the adventurous journeys that their discovery entails. That a piece of jewellery can be thousands of years old and still be as breathtakingly beautiful as the day it was created, I really do find that magical.”

Katherine Brunacci at her jewellery bench

Although she once considered a career in fashion, Katherine felt the sometimes-wasteful nature of the fashion industry might be at odds with her ecologically-conscious values. A self-professed “history-nerd” who can often be found pouring over historical texts in the nearest library, she decided to find a vocation that would combine her interest in fashion with her passion for exploring the past. The ancient craft of jewellery-making presented the perfect solution.

"I was going to get into a career in fashion, but I didn’t like the idea of fast or throwaway fashion. I’d always gravitated towards old things and history - so I thought I could couple the two together. My love of jewellery making really started from there, I took some night courses in jewellery and it was a case of love at first sight.”



Katherine went on to train professionally in jewellery making in her native country of Australia, at The Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology. After achieving a bachelors and master’s degree in fine art, with a major in gold and silversmithing, she also earned qualifications from the Gemmological Institute of America and Gemmological Association of Australia, training that reinforced her commitment to use ethically-sourced gemstones throughout her work; “As a gemmologist, it's really important that I’m a fully ethical jeweller, and that the gemstones I do source are from ethical mines.”

Katherine entered the British jewellery industry in 2017, when she travelled to the UK for a training course and, as she puts it, “six months turned into four years - I decided to see how far I could develop my brand here.” Whilst the British Museum quickly became a favoured spot of hers for sourcing inspiration, Katherine also drew creatively from her experiences of adapting to a new culture and country:

“Here in the UK, you have the British Museum, which is great. I like to go there for inspiration. I also have a huge personal library - I love my books, and have a lot of museum catalogues. Whenever I travel, I find a lot of inspiration in elements from different cultures, and I like to grab little components and kind of mix and match.”

Katherine Brunacci looking at her medium Lantern necklace

Travel is one of the major themes featured throughout Trove. It is expressed through globe shaped pieces, such as Katherine’s Silver and Gold Vermeil Global pendant set with sparkling sapphires, which bears resemblance to the planet earth.

Whilst the collection draws heavily on the idea of fantastical adventures, such as those to perilous lands in pursuit of ancient treasures, the theme of travel also relates to journeys of a more personal nature:

“One of two focal points within the collection is a mini-series called Globo that includes pieces that are symbolic of travel. Globo is Italian for globe. I was born in Tasmania, on a little island off of Australia, so the series is quite personal to me. It's that sense of travel, adventure and exploration that I've had to incorporate within my own practice, and it has a special place in my heart.”



The second major theme present throughout Trove is even more personal still, and is portrayed through the use of a lantern shape. “The lantern is symbolic of inner light, strength, and the self,” Katherine explains. Countering the statement Globo pendant is a Geo Lantern Silver and Gold Vermeil Necklace, set with sapphires, amethysts and green onyx, and inspired by medieval religious iconography. “It has been hand-carved by myself and is encrusted with ethically sourced gemstones. It is designed to be worn on the lower length, so it's for the wearer to enjoy as well so they can capture that detail and feel the weight of it and hold it in their hands.”

Jeweller Katherine Brunacci setting stones in her jewellery

Katherine aims to achieve a historical aesthetic throughout her jewellery, creating pieces that could have believably spilled, gleaming and glittering, from an unearthed treasure trove. Due to the longevity of precious metals, there is always the possibility that Katherine’s jewellery may become a piece of history in itself, if passed down through the generations.

“A lot of my jewellery, I feel you can see the historical elements within it. I like to capture the aesthetic stylings from ancient jewellery and incorporate that into my work. Everything I make is heavily textured, involving lots of colour, which I achieve by using multicoloured gemstones. My pendants are all three dimensional, I don’t do much flat work, I favour bigger work - they are all quite hefty, one-of-a-kind pieces.”


To further enhance this sense of her clients discovering something truly special through her work, Katherine uses the lost wax process, hand carving and casting pieces in wax to ensure that they are one-of-a-kind, with details that are impossible to recreate exactly.

“I hand wax-model every piece. I don't use any master moulds and I think this is partially so I don't get bored making the same pieces over and over. Each piece is a new, unique creation. It's nice for me to be able to say to the wearer, that's yours, and no one else's. There might be pieces that look similar, but this one has got its own little forms, its own little indentations and structure - no-one else will have one identical. Again, that's that element of treasure - that you're finding something magical and unique to you. That's what I want to get across.”

Jeweller Katherine Brunacci creating jewellery through wax carving

With the oldest known example of the lost wax technique estimated to be approximately 6,000 years old, it’s use throughout Trove is also yet another nod to the underlying theme of history and ancient treasure.

“I like that I’m harking back to the ancient tradition of jewellery-making - making as those in this industry have been for hundreds, if not thousands, of years. As a history nerd, I like that connection to the forebearers of the craft. I love the idea of being skilled in something so old and ancient.”

For Trove, Katherine also experimented with the traditional Japanese wax carving technique of Misturo Hikime, which helps create the subtle, undulating textures in some of her pieces.



“Misturo Hikime involves moulding the wax with your hands and stretching it, which creates these beautiful striations, a gorgeous natural-looking texture. A few of my pieces will feature that wax working technique. The wax components involved in the technique are quite hard to find and no-one has a definitive recipe, so that required a lot of development.”

The outcome of these myriad interweaving themes and techniques is a collection that has depth and meaning, both for the maker herself and for any client interested in owning one of Katherine’s unique, painstakingly hand-crafted pieces. Trove is an assortment of jewellery that is successful not only in terms of its technical elements, but also in its ability to evoke the sense of excitement, adventure and intrigue associated with treasure that has held many of us rapt since childhood.

Read more


Jeweller Ellina Pollitt boldly brings together design and technology innovation

Posted by Rae Gellel on

After emigrating to the UK from Russia fifteen years ago, and raising a family in Staffordshire, Ellina Pollitt couldn’t shake the feeling that she “wanted more” than her current circumstances offered. She had an innate need to explore an untapped artistic side of herself.

“I had a passion for design in particular, but I didn’t know where to start,” Ellina said.

Jeweller Ellina Pollitt working at her bench

It was at an open day at leading arts and design institution, Staffordshire University, that Ellina would finally discover an outlet for her creativity, and take the first of many steps on a path into a creative industry. She signed up for a foundation year at the leading arts institution, followed by a Bachelor's Degree in 3D Design, which she completed in 2019.

I found I love working with different types of metal from aluminium to precious metals - I find it so amazing to start from a flat piece of metal, and finish with something bold and creative.”

Parametric Silver Bracelet by Ellina Pollitt (c) The Goldsmiths' Craft & Design Council, Photographer Richard Valencia

Image credit: Parametric Silver Bracelet by Ellina Pollitt (c) The Goldsmiths' Craft & Design Council, Photographer Richard Valencia

Ellina is now studying for a Master’s Degree at Birmingham School of Jewellery, and in the five short years that have elapsed since she embarked on her new profession, she has already garnered a number of coveted industry accolades.

In 2021, she earned a Goldsmiths’ Craft and Design Award in the laser category, and secured a spot on Shine 2021, the Goldsmiths’ Centre’s annual exhibition for emerging talent.

Final parametric design aluminium set of two Ellina Pollitt

“I feel very satisfied with what I’ve achieved so far,” she enthused. “I would never have predicted this, I didn’t know what I wanted to do in the future, just that I wanted an education, but with such wonderful people around me, I was able to understand which path to follow.”

Key to Ellina’s success at such an early stage in her career has been a belief in the importance of both innovation and collaboration. During her second year at Staffordshire University, Ellina brokered a relationship with KMF Precision Metals, a leading sheet metal manufacturer, which has been instrumental in the formation of her signature and ground-breaking approach to design.

Laser cutting jeweller Ellina Pollitt's Bold collection

“I’ve been very lucky to have the right people around me at the right time,” she says. Working in conjunction with KMF, Ellina has realised her jewellery designs by applying industrial-scale laser cutting machinery to metal. “I draw the designs, and make samples in aluminium. Then I send the files to KMF for the next stage.”

Whilst popular brand Tatty Devine, a source of inspiration for Ellina, is well-known for its laser-cut acrylic jewellery, the use of this technology on precious metal jewellery is almost unheard of, especially using such large scale machinery. “When we first tried the laser cutters on silver, we didn’t know the outcome. KMF were very worried that they would ruin my design - but that didn’t happen. I’ve never heard of anyone using the technology in this way - I believe that I’ve found a gap in the market, and this is my unique selling point.”

The result of this novel integration of design and technology is Bold, a collection of laser-cut jewellery in aluminium and silver that lives up to its name. Powder coated in eye-catching colours, the collection features large bodily adornments with sweeping lines and sudden curves that are evocative of Zaha Hadid’s architecture, another of Ellina’s creative influences. The emerging maker hopes it will be the first of many collections, and a springboard for the creation of her own highly distinctive fashion jewellery brand.

“I would say my visual style is big and bold, utilising repeated organic lines for scale and impact. With each new collection, my aim is to create something completely different - new coatings, new structures, new colours, new collaborative projects.”

Ellina began work on the collection in January 2021, during the UK’s third lockdown in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. “It was a very challenging time for all of us, and it was very difficult to produce the collection, but with the help of my course leader at Birmingham School of Jewellery, and through my relationships within the industry, I was able to create an innovative and professional collection.”

Among the pieces included in Bold, the Parametric Design Silver Bracelet is a particular source of pride to Ellina, although she professes to have no favourite piece, describing them all as her “babies”.

“Within the collection I have my favourite colours and favourite structures, but I’m particularly proud of my silver bracelet because it won Gold at the Goldsmiths’ Craft and Design awards this year. We never know what’s going to happen when we use these massive laser cutting machines on pieces of silver, and there is a lot of preparation beforehand, but it has been very successful.”

Ellina also counts the work of fashion designers Iris Van Herpen and Gareth Pue as sources of inspiration for her jewellery. Both operate within a similar aesthetic as the jeweller, creating show-stopping, futuristic clothing that make use of repetitive kaleidoscope-esque shapes and lines.

Fashion is a passion of Ellina’s in general, and in addition to establishing a popular jewellery brand, working for well-known designers represents the pinnacle of her creative ambitions; “My dream is to collaborate with fashion designers in the future, and design something for them."

Ellina has already proven she has a talent for integrating closely connected industries, as the bridges she has built between the world of design and manufacturing have already yielded such successful results. “I find that working with different industries is beneficial as it allows you to see from other perspectives. My aim is always to contribute to the field of collaborative work between jeweller and manufacturer.”

Jeweller Ellina Pollitt with her new collection Bold

It is abundantly clear the extent to which Ellina values her partnership with KMF Precision Metals, and how crucial she considers their partnership to the creation of Bold - in addition to future collections.

“I hope to continue utilising my laser design skills and working with the company - I think we will be very successful together. I think this work is challenging for them as well, but also interesting, because they’ve never done it before."

The buzz Ellina has been able to generate around her work in just five short years is impressive. Most importantly however, she has found a means to express her creativity and a vocation, quieting the voice in her head that once sent her on the search for "more".

"Applying this technology to jewellery has allowed me such a great sense of freedom as an artist,” Ellina concludes.

Read more

After emigrating to the UK from Russia fifteen years ago, and raising a family in Staffordshire, Ellina Pollitt couldn’t shake the feeling that she “wanted more” than her current circumstances offered. She had an innate need to explore an untapped artistic side of herself.

“I had a passion for design in particular, but I didn’t know where to start,” Ellina said.

Jeweller Ellina Pollitt working at her bench

It was at an open day at leading arts and design institution, Staffordshire University, that Ellina would finally discover an outlet for her creativity, and take the first of many steps on a path into a creative industry. She signed up for a foundation year at the leading arts institution, followed by a Bachelor's Degree in 3D Design, which she completed in 2019.

I found I love working with different types of metal from aluminium to precious metals - I find it so amazing to start from a flat piece of metal, and finish with something bold and creative.”

Parametric Silver Bracelet by Ellina Pollitt (c) The Goldsmiths' Craft & Design Council, Photographer Richard Valencia

Image credit: Parametric Silver Bracelet by Ellina Pollitt (c) The Goldsmiths' Craft & Design Council, Photographer Richard Valencia

Ellina is now studying for a Master’s Degree at Birmingham School of Jewellery, and in the five short years that have elapsed since she embarked on her new profession, she has already garnered a number of coveted industry accolades.

In 2021, she earned a Goldsmiths’ Craft and Design Award in the laser category, and secured a spot on Shine 2021, the Goldsmiths’ Centre’s annual exhibition for emerging talent.

Final parametric design aluminium set of two Ellina Pollitt

“I feel very satisfied with what I’ve achieved so far,” she enthused. “I would never have predicted this, I didn’t know what I wanted to do in the future, just that I wanted an education, but with such wonderful people around me, I was able to understand which path to follow.”

Key to Ellina’s success at such an early stage in her career has been a belief in the importance of both innovation and collaboration. During her second year at Staffordshire University, Ellina brokered a relationship with KMF Precision Metals, a leading sheet metal manufacturer, which has been instrumental in the formation of her signature and ground-breaking approach to design.

Laser cutting jeweller Ellina Pollitt's Bold collection

“I’ve been very lucky to have the right people around me at the right time,” she says. Working in conjunction with KMF, Ellina has realised her jewellery designs by applying industrial-scale laser cutting machinery to metal. “I draw the designs, and make samples in aluminium. Then I send the files to KMF for the next stage.”

Whilst popular brand Tatty Devine, a source of inspiration for Ellina, is well-known for its laser-cut acrylic jewellery, the use of this technology on precious metal jewellery is almost unheard of, especially using such large scale machinery. “When we first tried the laser cutters on silver, we didn’t know the outcome. KMF were very worried that they would ruin my design - but that didn’t happen. I’ve never heard of anyone using the technology in this way - I believe that I’ve found a gap in the market, and this is my unique selling point.”

The result of this novel integration of design and technology is Bold, a collection of laser-cut jewellery in aluminium and silver that lives up to its name. Powder coated in eye-catching colours, the collection features large bodily adornments with sweeping lines and sudden curves that are evocative of Zaha Hadid’s architecture, another of Ellina’s creative influences. The emerging maker hopes it will be the first of many collections, and a springboard for the creation of her own highly distinctive fashion jewellery brand.

“I would say my visual style is big and bold, utilising repeated organic lines for scale and impact. With each new collection, my aim is to create something completely different - new coatings, new structures, new colours, new collaborative projects.”

Ellina began work on the collection in January 2021, during the UK’s third lockdown in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. “It was a very challenging time for all of us, and it was very difficult to produce the collection, but with the help of my course leader at Birmingham School of Jewellery, and through my relationships within the industry, I was able to create an innovative and professional collection.”

Among the pieces included in Bold, the Parametric Design Silver Bracelet is a particular source of pride to Ellina, although she professes to have no favourite piece, describing them all as her “babies”.

“Within the collection I have my favourite colours and favourite structures, but I’m particularly proud of my silver bracelet because it won Gold at the Goldsmiths’ Craft and Design awards this year. We never know what’s going to happen when we use these massive laser cutting machines on pieces of silver, and there is a lot of preparation beforehand, but it has been very successful.”

Ellina also counts the work of fashion designers Iris Van Herpen and Gareth Pue as sources of inspiration for her jewellery. Both operate within a similar aesthetic as the jeweller, creating show-stopping, futuristic clothing that make use of repetitive kaleidoscope-esque shapes and lines.

Fashion is a passion of Ellina’s in general, and in addition to establishing a popular jewellery brand, working for well-known designers represents the pinnacle of her creative ambitions; “My dream is to collaborate with fashion designers in the future, and design something for them."

Ellina has already proven she has a talent for integrating closely connected industries, as the bridges she has built between the world of design and manufacturing have already yielded such successful results. “I find that working with different industries is beneficial as it allows you to see from other perspectives. My aim is always to contribute to the field of collaborative work between jeweller and manufacturer.”

Jeweller Ellina Pollitt with her new collection Bold

It is abundantly clear the extent to which Ellina values her partnership with KMF Precision Metals, and how crucial she considers their partnership to the creation of Bold - in addition to future collections.

“I hope to continue utilising my laser design skills and working with the company - I think we will be very successful together. I think this work is challenging for them as well, but also interesting, because they’ve never done it before."

The buzz Ellina has been able to generate around her work in just five short years is impressive. Most importantly however, she has found a means to express her creativity and a vocation, quieting the voice in her head that once sent her on the search for "more".

"Applying this technology to jewellery has allowed me such a great sense of freedom as an artist,” Ellina concludes.

Read more