Only a short distance away from my home in the New Forest, you arrive at England’s remarkable Jurassic Coast, the cliffs and beaches of which trace 100 million years of history. This stunning coastline was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in December 2001, but it is not just its natural beauty that attracts, it is the geology and the amazing number of fossils found in the area that bring so many visitors to walk the coastal paths and explore the cliffs and beaches.
Fossil-hunting here began in Victorian times, often pioneered by men of the church, mostly because they were among the few in society who had the luxury of the time and sufficient wealth to devote to studying fossils.
Often the easiest fossil find, particularly for the novice hunter, is the ammonite, and it is the beautiful symmetry of the ammonite’s spiral patterns that caught my interest and I began thinking about how I could incorporate this into a piece of jewellery. Because the spirals of their shells resemble a curled ram’s horn, they are named after the Egyptian god Amon, whose human form had a ram’s head. When ammonites died, their hard shells fell to the ocean floor and became covered in sediment. Over time the sediment became compressed and hardened to encase the shell and it is this that is sought by eager beach-combers today.
There are many tales and superstitions surrounding this now long extinct creature; the fervently religious were thought to believe them to be snakes that had been turned to stone by St Patrick. Carrying one was thought to give protection against the evil eye and sickness.
I have tried to recreate the visual beauty of their perfect spiral staircase form in my designs and this is an outline sketch of an idea for cuff links.
The concept has rather taken on a life of its own and these initial thoughts have so far extended to two pendant designs with matching earrings and an unusual etched cuff.
So I am now hard at work developing these ideas and bringing the concepts to life – a collection of ‘Fossils in Silver’.