Other Natural Materials

Other Natural Materials, Process, New Inventory

Two Peas in a Spiky Pod

Earlier this year I posted about how and why I have begun incorporating natural materials other than stones (e.g. horn, bone, wood, and seeds) into my pieces. I’ve been continuing this trend in recent months and wanted to share with you my love of the nickernut seed.
Also called bugbog seeds, eaglestones, or sea beans, because they float and wash up on beaches, gray nickernuts come from a tropical, leguminous shrub commonly called the warri tree. These dove gray seeds have subtle lines around them similar to wood grain. They are hollow, extremely lightweight, and carry a subtle beauty.


My excitement over these little nuggets of goodness goes back a few years to an early spring day when I was traveling along a local highway that winds along a river (Route 8 for you Connecticut folks). As I accelerated up the on-ramp, I noticed the most amazing juxtaposition of colors created by the exposed light gray rock ledge that lined one edge of the roadway and the fresh, verdant flora beginning to show itself in patches along the rocks. I immediately thought, “I want to make a necklace with that!”

When I returned to my studio, the gray stones I had just didn’t look good with the green stones in my inventory. Two other gray stones, cat’s eye and labradorite were both too cool and silvery in hue – leaning toward blue, in the case of labradorite, and green for cat’s eye. I didn’t give up hope but decided to table the idea until the proper color combination revealed itself.


Fast-forward to this spring and my search for lightweight, natural materials, and voila! I discovered that the nickernut seed provides exactly the color I've been searching for. When I saw pictures of them perfectly nestled as a pair in that spooky, spiky pod, I was in love. They are downright a.d.o.r.a.b.l.e in their pods!

What about that green and gray necklace?, you ask. It sold quickly, but there is a new incarnation, Clethra, up on the website that incorporates golden horn and keshi pearls to create a perfect triumvirate of color that will complement so many outfits and necklines. A very classic combination.

Vitus, a.k.a. the "highway" necklace, has sold.

Other Natural Materials

Beauty and the Beast (of Burden)

Over the few years of this blog’s existence, I hope you have taken away a few kernels of knowledge about the rich visual, cultural, and scientific world of natural stones. As this month marks my twelfth(!) year designing and crafting one-of-a-kind stone jewelry, it seems an appropriate time to venture beyond the world of stones and introduce you to other natural materials I have been exploring.

Our Daylily necklace is made with large, rough aquamarine nuggets and rosewood

Our Daylily necklace is made with large, rough aquamarine nuggets and rosewood

The large black horn beads in Canna are bold but not heavy

The large black horn beads in Canna are bold but not heavy

I’ve just posted a new collection of jewelry to the website that incorporates wood, horn, and even seeds. I began researching these various materials awhile back in search for beads with the visual interest and earthiness of natural stones but without the weight. I often want to showcase large, chunky stone beads but know that the weight of the finished product would be simply too heavy for anyone to enjoy. By incorporating horn or wood in a complementary hue toward the back, a necklace like Daylily becomes grander than the sum of its parts and is much more comfortable to wear.

Canna, on the other hand, is made entirely with large horn beads that have considerable visual impact while being lightweight, warm to the touch, and easy to don on your way out the door.

Let’s talk for a moment about the horn I use. It comes from the carabao, a domesticated water buffalo from the Philippines. 99% of the carabaos in the Philippines belong to small farmers whose livelihood depends on the animal’s meat, milk, hide, and draught animal power. Knowing that the entire life and body of the animal is of value to the people of the Philippines, I feel comfortable using their horns in my jewelry, as it is a natural by-product of carabao husbandry. Carabao horn beads are naturally black or golden in color and are commonly dyed a deep red, like in our Marilandica necklace.

In 1993 the Philippine government established the Philippine Carabao Center with the mission of helping “towards better nutrition, higher levels of income and improved general well-being of the overwhelming sector, the rural farming families... through the conservation, propagation and promotion of water buffalo as important source of milk and meat, in addition to draft power and hide." If this cause is of interest to you, Heifer International facilitates the donation of carabaos to families in need.