If you are a big fan of nature then you are going to adore the botanical jewellery by Lucy Jade Sylvester. Inspired by her love of the British countryside and coastline, Lucy makes each piece by hand – beachcombing for shells, scouring the countryside for plants and grasses and insects such as flies and moths. Her wedding jewellery is simply stunning too. I caught up with the lovely Lucy to find out more… hi, Lucy!
Hi! I’m Lucy. I’m a countryside living jeweller, mum of two cheeky boys Archie and Alfie. Vegetarian for 32 years, lover of discovering new places, Chilli, log fires and strong cups of tea (I don’t take the tea bag out.) I have bee, butterfly, beetle and forget-me-not tattoos on my feet and around my ankle bone. I’ve always been a nature lover, on walks as a child my pockets would be filled with snail shells and leaves.
What’s your jewellery design background?
After a college Foundation Art course, I studied jewellery at Birmingham’s School of Jewellery, on completion I worked on my own pieces alongside teaching jewellery at a local college. A few years later I went back to University to take an MA in jewellery and metal work, this is where I focused and developed using nature in my work.
I started working on a website while I was teaching, so doing both on a part time basis. The college changed dramatically and asked staff who wanted to take voluntary redundancy, which I did, it gave me the push to leave my safety net and work for myself full time. This was the first time I applied and got accepted to have a stand at London’s Chelsea Flower Show.
What inspired you to specialise in botanical jewellery?
Nature has the most beautiful lines and textures, so I use it as directly as possible.
I take moulds from delicate woodland finds, dead insects, twigs, fallen leaves, and cast into the cavity they leave, this process allows me to create exact replicas of life in solid silver and gold that retain the finest details.
My insect based jewellery designs are all made from naturally deceased specimens, found by me or sent to me by people who know my work.
I give the specimens a new life in solid silver or gold, modern day fossils of the wildlife we have today.
These natural forms with beautiful textures would decay into the ground and be gone forever, with direct casting from them I’ve created something that will now be here forever, to be worn for a lifetime.
I love the Netted Dog Whelk Shell Pendant and the botanical wedding rings – very beautiful indeed. What items are proving popular amongst your customers so far this season?
The most recent collection is the coastal collection, the shells and sea urchin shells have the most incredible textures, I can’t wait to add more to the collection in 2020.
Living in Oxfordshire means we have to plan trips to the coast, the coastal pieces have evolved after family trips to stunning beaches on the Isles of Scilly, Devon, Cornwall and Wales.
The Coastal collection is currently silver, but we will be creating it in gold too, with many barnacle covered mussels and limpets set with diamonds, sapphires and rubies.
The coastal work is perfect for the summer, so now compliments the leaves and seed heads that can feel autumnal or wintery.
Acorn pendants are very popular, bought to mark a birthday, new job, new adventure or to remember a loved one, I can make them to enclose ashes.
Simple twig rings are bought as wedding bands, they also work well as stacking rings.
The designs for the botanical bridal and woodland wedding collections are growing, engagement rings from twisted twigs and leaves are created from grass, leaves and twigs that wrap around to form rings, the fragile veins and stems clearly visible with a scattering of diamonds.
Set with brilliant cut, rose cut or uncut diamonds these engagement rings can be paired with woven grass, leaf vein or lichen textured bands providing a timeless alternative for countryside lovers.
And moths are popular, too.
What are your favourite pieces?
My wardrobe essential is the Stag beetle necklace, I wear him or a long or short chain depending on what I’m wearing.
He is a lovely weight, his smooth wing casing makes him extremely tactile. He always creates a reaction from people, most love him, some aren’t sure, but I love that.
The stag beetle necklace is versatile, I wear him with jeans in the day or out for the evening.
As you are based in the UK, are your products available to purchase overseas?
All our jewellery is inspired by, and made in the UK, but we ship all around the world.
We use a tracked and insured postal service.
I’m very jealous of some of the destinations we’ve posted jewellery to!
You must have come across some interesting finds whilst beachcombing and countryside walking. Do you go out with an idea to look for something specific or do you fill your pockets at will every time you venture out?
My studio is filled with skip salvaged science jars filled with woodland and beach finds.
I love just coming across new inspiration, it could be a leaf on a path while on the school run.
Some finds I save to use at a later date, some finds I keep just to marvel at the magic of nature.
Wasp nests with the coloured stripes from different woods, bird nests blown from trees entwined with feathers, twine, grass and sheep wool, such incredible feats from these small creatures.
My mouse nibbled hazel nut pendant came from my garden when we moved house.
I’d seen a mouse occasionally run along a wall in our garden, under some tiles I discovered a stash of nut and seed husks, including the hazel nut shell, now in solid silver.
What was the hardest or most unusual piece you’ve created so far?
Technically the flies were the one of the most challenging to make, getting the wings and legs to stay intact took some time.
I occasionally create larger one off necklaces, usually after buying stones.
Have you always wanted to be a jewellery designer or did your career aspirations lie elsewhere?
I originally wanted to print fabrics, I loved using screens and squeegees.
It was during a college course that I discovered saws and blow torches and changed what path I would take at University.
I recently discovered cyanotypes, very different to metalwork, but I loved it.
Your Hawk moth and poppy seed head ring was chosen by costume designer Michele Clapton to be worn by Sansa Stark in the hit medieval TV series Game of Thrones. Did it feel strange seeing your jewellery being worn on TV?
Michele’s love of craftsmanship can be seen in all her costume designs, the detailing is amazing, a huge honour to be involved with such an iconic programme.
The Hawk moth ring and the matching necklaces are very popular, many have flown across the sea around the world, especially to America.
My jewellery is owned by some incredibly inspiring people, I have a letter from David Attenborough and wonderful card from Dame Judi Dench. I’m not sure my work could be in better hands, both have such a love for the amazing world we live in
What recommendations would you give to help look after and maintain your botanical jewellery?
Our jewellery just needs a occasional rub over with a jewellery polishing cloth, we recommend taking it off before bricklaying or anything to rough!
Personal now – what outfits and shoes would you normally be found wearing?
I love flip flops, I’ll wear them for as long as possible but in the studio I have a pair of Timberland Nellie pull on boots.
I also love converse, I have 2 pairs red, and leopard print.
I tend to wear jeans, with a simple black or khaki top. I accessorize with my short Hawk Moth or Stag beetle necklaces
My latest buy was a gold leather bag from Clarkes shoes.
I tend to use Ebay for much of my shopping or re buy things from the marketplace on Facebook, you can pick up vintage or new, and it comes straight to your door through the post.
What’s next on your clothes/shoes wishlist?
I’ve just discovered a hole in my Joules Bumble bee wellies, I guess these need to be my next buy!
Find out more about Lucy Jade Sylvester Botanical Jewellery:
Fabulous talking to you Lucy – it’s amazing what you can find when beachcombing or countryside rambling and I find it even more amazing at your talent to be able to make stunning jewellery out of the moths, shells, leaves…. I once found a fish head on Chesil Beach, Dorset camouflaged against the shingle and shells!
All photographs have been published with kind permission of Lucy Jade Sylvester (apart from my fish head pic!)