The finished collection

I’d like to share a little of my creative process with you but showing you a mini collection I made recently. My ideal Magpie-upcycler scenario is discovering a vintage or antique piece of jewellery and taking it back to my studio whilst I’m still giddy with excitement to create new jewellery from it straight away. I found this enamel Joan Rivers bracelet in York, wish I could show you a photo of the original but it was identical to this

It was perfect so I did feel some regret at destroying it, but I could already imagine how much happier the flowers would be if they were able to move freely, if they had space to breathe. So I’ve got ten flowers to work with, two of which make up the clasp. Which means four pairs of earrings. What takes the time is deliberating our which of a miraid of possibilities will be the best four choices.

The ARRIVAL OF SPRING earrings £48

The earhooks are gold plated sterling silver, which matched perfectly with the gold rim of the flowers. I added mother of pearl beads from a necklace I found at York Racecourse Car boot sale, and finished them off with beautiful pink sapphires from a vintage bracelet bought at York Antiques Centre. So all the upcycled elements were found in York!

The BLUE JOKER PANSY earrings £48

Mismatched earrings aren’t everyone’s cup of herbal tea but they can really freshen a traditional look. I imagine these for a spring wedding with a floral dress. I can’t even remember how long I’ve had the mini wreath of freshwater pearls from, but I cut it free from a vintage necklace of untwined rings of beads which were linked together to create a chain. It must have been really tricky to construct! I should add that the Blue Joker is a type of Pansy that has this colouring, if you were curious about the name!

The small stone beads are reused from an old necklace and are lapis lazuli.

The XO PANSY earrings £48

Can you guess why these are the x o earrings? Kisses and hugs in the form of an antique enamel cross and a luxuriously blue salvaged freshwater pearl made me think (actually my husband pointed it out) of the name. Tiny vintage freshwater pearls add to the prettiness.

The ARRIVAL OF SPRING necklace £99

What did I do with the clasp? It became the foundation of this cheerful, playful necklace. Salvaged freshwater pearls, vintage metal elements and reused stone beads all jostle together, the restrained colour palette drawing attention to the various organic forms. This necklace is cool from the back too, so I’d wear it with an open back dress.

Finally, a pair of classic earrings that don’t mess around, designed to be worn with the necklace or by themselves…for the woman who likes to wear unique, upcycled jewellery but is still into something symmetrical!

Then BLUE MOOD earrings £48

What next, now that this mini collection is ready? Labelling each piece shows how it is unique. I hand type the certificates, sign them and attach them to vintage book covers. This collection is heading off to the lovely ladies at with whom I’m currently collaborating. It’s a joyful thing because they are an online ethical clothing boutique, so they really care about manufacturing processes, and the pieces they stock are to be treasured forever, just like my jewellery.

the new luxury

What does luxury mean now? Well, boxfresh is so boring. The only way is down for a white pair of trainers. Scratch-free, stain-free, unused. These don’t fill me with joy but dread. I don’t want to brace myself for how bad I’m going to feel the first time I mar a new product. Its like watching myself damage as I consume. That’s not how I want to shop.

Give me something that will improve with time. As I’m living with it, we will age together, and we will age well.

Wabi-sabi is a concept that has been newly reembraced as we realise the beauty of imperfection. Its the idea that nothing is perfect, nothing is finished, nothing lasts forever.

Thinking about jewellery [I can’t stop, actually], there was a time when Elizabeth Taylor’s diamonds were my ultimate definition of luxury. Why? Breaking it down I suppose it was exclusivity, glamour, jewels as tokens of love and success, and the mesmerising sparkle of a perfectly cut, flawless stone. It was having a lifestyle in which this jewellery was appropriate to wear. Of course, there is still a place for Cartier and Boucheron, but in my life, my normal, lovely life, what do I actually want to wear?

Something that enhances me, my outfit, and people’s perception of me. Something that does the talking so I don’t have to. Something that elevates my everyday. But I still want exclusive, I want to be the only person in the world wearing this necklace, I want to feel like I’m wearing treasure. But to not be ostentatious, somehow.

For years, this meant wearing vintage and antique jewellery. Not only is it affordable and often excellent quality, the biggest appeal is that it is unique. But what I’ve discovered is that it can be hard to make it modern, to wear it relevantly. Dainty Edwardian pendants are lost on my tall frame. Stunning silver and gold bangles just feel too fussy with their machine turned decoration. Gorgeous old cut diamonds are trapped in stuffy engagement rings. It would seem scale, detail and fashion do matter in jewellery, especially if it is the focus of one’s outfit.

As a collector and sometime dealer of antique jewellery, it can still sometimes feel so wrong to rework or downright destroy a piece, with the aim to make it wearable. But it has got to be better than never wearing something. Of course you can find a way to make an heirloom serviceable without harming it, and that’s a wonderful thing to achieve, but I don’t think we need to be as precious about preserving history for history’s sake. People have always reworked jewellery; that in itself is historical. And in the past, there were ingenious ways of wearing the same jewel in so many different ways [ as a ring or as a lapel pin, for example].

Because the thing about jewellery is that its never practical. Its not about what will ‘do’. You absolutely HAVE to love it. Its emotional. Its the icing on the cake. Its as personal as perfume. Its about how it looks, but even more its about how it makes you feel.

I spend my time reworking antique pieces of jewellery. I mix them with vintage and discarded, salvaged, more modern pieces. Because using unique materials that have aged well guarantees a unique design. Because a light carbon footprint also sparks joy for me. Because I want to wear things that have also made other women feel special. Because I want to create value from individuality, exclusivity from design, and if an Elizabeth Taylor diamond winks at me across a room, I can twinkle right back knowing that pinning down my glamour is as complex as the history entwined in the piece I am wearing.

Less is more

Aren’t these shells pretty? So delicate, with a vivid blue flash that reminds me of opals.

They are from an antique Victorian necklace, and apparently now only allowed to be harvested by the aboriginal women of Australia, where they shells are from. (Do let me know if I’m right, and if you have more info).

They deserved to be shown off just as they are, so I formed some hoops out of Ecosilver, which is 100% recycled sterling silver.

My dilemma now is whether I leave them as they are, for the shells to tremble as the wearer moves and catch the light in 100 different ways, or whether to pop a dab of glue inside the shells to make them more secure.

Weirdly, it takes courage to choose simplicity. In my head is the equation more detail=more beauty. But sometimes it’s good to showcase a perfect form. And there is nowhere to hide when creating a circle in metal- it has to be right!


Curious about where and how I make my upcycled jewellery?

Come visit my studio, and the studios of my fellow artists and makers in York, on the first 2 weekends of April. Read more at

There are so many to see that the brochure has some great maps at the back to help you plan your route. Can I send you a brochure? Or you can follow this link to download the maps

Nature hates a straight line

I’m a self taught jeweller and that has its pros and cons. I’ve decided to harness my limitations and use them as strengths. There are lots of things I’ll never be able to do. But then I’d never want to either. Design is deciding who you are and for me that is not a straight line type of a person. I’m inspired by nature, looking for an organic aesthetic in my work. I buy my sterling silver ecowire [which means its 100% recycled] smooth and straight and perfect, and I take great pains to make it rough  and textured and imperfect.

This means melting, decoration with solder and scrap metal, reticulating using fire, hammering with traditional tools [and some not so traditional ones, like the nails I found mudlarking in the Thames], and enamelling in a haphazard way to bring in some colour. Sometimes the fire does this naturally, creating firescale, which is the enemy of the traditional jeweller, as it creates a sort of mucky rusty surface, but it is very much my friend.

So I guess you could say I’m in the business of artful destruction!