This was probably the most difficult design I have ever been asked to do. I felt a great responsibility because I received this commission from a lady in France, who wanted a bespoke piece of jewellery for her good friend following the loss of her baby.
The Design Process
I wanted to design beautiful jewellery which would be a joyful celebration of life. An adornment which would, of course, bear sad reminders but which would also bring comfort in loss and, in the long term, would come to symbolise the constant presence of the person’s spirit.
The Victorian’s are amongst the best known for their mourning jewellery. Most of these designs were for brooches and pendants. The more I thought about my design, the more I realised that brooches and pendants would not offer the comfort and sense of connection I wanted because brooches and pendants are less visible to the wearer.
The Victorians used a lot of symbolism in their jewellery design. For example, they combined black enamel representing death and pearls for tears They also often included enamelled eyes and locks of hair.
However, I wasn't being asked to created an outward, visibile display of grief and loss. My goal was to design a private symbol of both the love the mother felt and to represent those special moments when something reminds us of a lost loved one.
I also drew inspiration from the Art Nouveau period which marked a return to organic shapes and simplicity following industrialisation, like this Charles Rennie Mackintosh wallpaper design. This was a joyful period which celebrated life and nature. Exactly what I hoped to achieve with this commission.
In discussion with the client, we agreed that the jewellery would be an open bangle created in sterling silver in an open organic design. This meant that the jewellery could be seen by the wearer. The choice of an open bangle was also pragmatic since we did not know the exact size of the lady’s wrist.
The bangle would be worn with the opening above the wrist, allowing me to engrave personal information on the inside of the silver where it touched the wrist pulse point.
I developed a number of designs but, because the lady has a small wrist, my client chose a narrower and more delicate design.
My client discovered that opals were the correct birth stone. Instead of using a traditional opal I suggested using an Australian boulder with veins of opal. These thin glimpses of stunning colour symbolise those moments in our every day lives when we are suddenly reminded of a loved one.
The Making Process
The first step in creating this bangle was to make sure that the bangle was the right size. This was especially difficult because the lady I was designing for didn't even know her friend had commissioned the bangle.
My client was in France while I was in Malta, so I tool lots of photographs during the making process to check she was still happy with the way the bangle was developing.
I had a number of veined boulder opals which I showed to the client using photos and she chose the one she liked best.
We agreed that the bangle would be made in 925 silver and so I began to manipulate the wire into the shape of the design.
I stamped the baby's birthday inside near the pulse and engraved his name. Whenever she wears the bangle his will be close to her.
I was really happy with the final bangle but of course I was on tender hooks waiting to see if the lady herself liked it.
The happy news is that both the client in France and her friend who lost the baby were really pleased.
"Hi Tara! I gave my friend the bracelet and she absolutely adored it she was very touched and she thought it was stunningly beautiful… You did an incredible job…"