Nature’s Influence on Jewellery Design – Part 1

Nature’s Influence on Jewellery Design – Part 1



Nature is bountiful! Many artists take inspiration from nature but the best example of this is jewellery.  Jewellery and nature have gone together since prehistoric times when the very stuff that jewellery was made from came directly from things easily found – shells, bones, leaves, feathers, stones etc.  and then later,  animals themselves became the inspiration.

Believe it or not even live insects were used in jewellery until not so long ago.  The Ancient  Egyptians are believed to have been the first to have worn insects as jewellery; their soldiers commonly wore scarab beetles into battle as they were considered to have  supernatural powers of protection against enemies.

In modern times Mexico and Madagascar have both used beetles,  decorated with gold and semi precious gemstones they are attached to a decorative safety pin by a chain.   Not surprisingly Animal Rights organisations have been opposing this practice for some time and it is now very rare.

In this blog I am looking particularly at the influence of creatures in the world of jewellery.  




Today the honeybee is one of the most popular influences on jewellery design, unsurprisingly perhaps as it plays such an important part in all our lives and its own life holds such a fascination for us.  They are also part of symbolism.  The hexagon, the shape of the honeycomb, has 6 sides, #6 is symbolic of love (it was a sacred number for the goddess Venus).  In some cultures, the bee is also representative of fertility, beauty and wisdom.   Bill Skinner is a designer based in Kent whose Honeybee designs have become iconic.  He has produced designs for some of the most famous Jewellers such as Asprey, Garrards, Van Clef and Arpels as well as the legendary  fashion designer Vivienne Westwood but he is one among many that have been attracted by this busy little insect!

Bill Skinner Honeycomb & Bee Cuff, Honeycomb & Bee Orb, 
Baby Bee Pendant & Bee Studs; Cinderela B Honeybee Bracelet
Chaumet Abeille Bee - White Opal, Sapphires, Citrine, 
Mandarin Garnets,
18th Century - Jeweller to
Napoleon Bonaparte who
adopted the bee
as as his emblem.

Butterflies are often very beautiful but they do of course start life as a caterpillar.  Not surprising perhaps then that butterflies are symbolic of new beginnings; often connected to the Law of Attraction they represent potential and transformation.  Where the caterpillar inches along, the butterfly soars!  The designs from brands Muru and Lucky Eyes are always meaningful, indeed Phil Barnes of Muru brings us a variety of Talismans of which the butterfly is just one that comes from nature.  

A selection of butterflies from Muru and Lucky Eyes

Birds are another popular source of inspiration and symbolism.  Owls, unsurprisingly, are symbols of wisdom; the Hummingbird a symbol of love and the Swallow a symbol of freedom but more generally birds are associated with grace and beauty.

Bill Skinner Night Owl Pendant, Muru Swallow Pendant,
Muru Hummingbird Earrings, Bill Skinner Double Bird Pendant
Boucheron (19th Century 
Peacock Ring,
White Gold, Blue Sapphires
& Diamonds

All sorts of other animals  have been represented in jewellery throughout history and continue to charm us often reflecting cultures, lifestyles and our fondness for pets.

Reeves & Reeves Hare and Fox Pendants, Bill Skinner Horse,
Muru Elephant stretch bracelet, Bill Skinner Kittens.

Iconic Chanel Lion Ring.  
Coco Chanel became a
pioneer for Costume
Jewellery in the 1920's
using 'faux' pearls,
gemstones and metals.

Vintage Tiffany Cat Brooch

Fun,  creativity and symbolism – all there in nature!


These are just a few examples of the creativity shown by jewellery designers over the centuries that continue to this day.  Jewellery has always been symbolic and meaningful as well as enormously decorative.    The choice offered by these craftspeople is amazing and with nature as their inspiration, boundless!  You are always assured of finding something that speaks of your personality and your loves. 

Jewellery for a Classic Style

Jewellery for a Classic Style

Are you a Classic?


Do you wear Classic pieces that have stood the test of time and become staples in many women’s wardrobes?  These pieces get an update every now and then and even sometimes find themselves the height of fashion on the catwalk but essentially they are timeless,   they don’t date but remain chic, smart and in many ways empowering.   Many women find themselves with a dual personality style as the Classic look works well in a corporate environment but may get ditched for something completely different at the weekend.  Don’t think for one minute though that the Classic look can’t handle days of leisure.  Those who have mastered this style look trés chic and pulled together, whatever the occasion.  



Staples items for the Classic Wardrobe include:


A well cut blazer worn as a suit or with jeans; crisp white shirt paired with an elegant skirt;  tailored trousers or jeans;  cashmere jumpers (roll necks, v necks, crew necks and cardigans!);  the Little Black Dress for a business look or sassy date night; the Breton top (made mainstream by Coco Channel in 1917, now stocked by just about every High Street brand); ballet flats (made famous by French film star Brigitte Bardot in the 1950’s and still going strong); simple black heels (from kitten heels to stilettos); trench coat and so on.


So what are the classic pieces of jewellery?



1. Diamonds (or Crystals)

They say that diamonds are a girl’s best friend but not many of us have the occasion to wear a diamond necklace; earrings however are a different thing.  A pair of diamond studs will see you through important meetings, weekend outings and even special dates.  However these are not in the budget for many and to be honest, at the risk of upsetting people, CZ these days is such good quality that I defy almost anyone to tell the difference and for a mere fraction of the price!

2. Pearls

Pearls are as iconic as diamonds and a great alternative option.  Pearl earrings can take you anywhere, whether a stud or a beautifully elongated symmetrical drop and with a little black dress you can’t go wrong with a string of pearls.  Of course you can pay a fortune for the roundest South Sea Pearls but today the standard of Freshwater Pearls, found in the lakes and rivers of China has dramatically improved making rounder, lustrous pearls available to the more modest budget;  Baroque pearls, a slightly elongated irregular shape, are widely used now in Designer jewellery due to their unique character.  You can even combine pearls with sparkle for the best of both worlds.  

3. Pendants

Sometimes subtlety is called for, a simple chain with an interesting pendant for that pared back look or something with just enough sparkle to add a bit of glamour for day to evening.   

4. A long necklace

There is always going to be an occasion when a long necklace is needed, whether something with a long chain and larger pendant or a long string of pearls/precious stones.  With jeans and a t shirt or over a cashmere jumper a long necklace can look stunning and they are perfect with high necklines or to jazz up a very simple outfit


5. Bracelets

Often overlooked but a bracelet or 2 should definitely be part of your Classic collection. In the office some bracelets are not always practical so consider this when making your choice but a bracelet can make more of an impact than you think even if it’s a simple pendant bracelet.  Choose one to be your ‘signature’ bracelet that you can wear with pretty much anything.  


6. Statement

It’s always good to have a really fabulous statement piece in your collection for that really special occasion.  Of 


So ladies, if your style is classic you have much to choose from to complete your look with timeless pieces like these.  Be inspired!



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Christmas Gift Ideas

Christmas Gift Ideas

….because jewellery is never an unwanted gift!

Christmas gift shopping can be a bit stressful but whether buying for a girlfriend, partner, spouse, mother,  sister, even grandma,  you really can’t go wrong with jewellery.  Choose from a pendant that has some significance or meaning, a long necklace or a bracelet.  With the trend for layering and stacking no-one can have too many of these things!  It’s not about how much you spend, the key is to show that you have given some thought to the choice so it becomes a treasured possession so I’m going to present you with some suggestions and ideas which will either solve your problem or at the very least give you some inspiration. 


Silver or Gold?

This is perhaps the place to start.  Nowadays often women like to mix different metals which makes life easier but some will opt for silver or gold depending on either a personal preference or because they identify as ‘cool toned’ and therefore know silver works better with their complexion or they identify as ‘warm toned’ and therefore go with gold.  If this is gobbledy gook to you fear not!  A rule of thumb is that if she wears cool, muted or deep colours she’ll probably be best with silver but if she dresses in rich warm, earthy colours then go for gold!  Or you can simply look at what she normally wears and stick with that!  There is another alternative of course which is rose gold which has the perfect blush that suits every skin tone so you can’t go wrong.


Try and make it personal

Whether it’s for a sweetheart, a friend or a relative try and tap into something in their personality, their likes, hobbies, aspirations etc……..


Talisman jewellery is a wonderful way to demonstrate the thought behind the gift.  The Butterfly is a symbol of transformation so for anyone going through a change in their lives, whether personal or career wise this would be a great choice.  The Purity Mandala is the talisman for health and happiness so if a loved one has been going through a difficult time this may bring some peace and harmony; the Bow is a symbol of everlasting love so perfect as an expression of love.  There are many other pendant options available also earrings and bracelets which all come beautifully gift boxed with a card explaining the symbolism.


Rachel Jackson designs are very contemporary and will appeal to any independent minded woman who likes to follow her own path and wear something a little different………


For nature lovers

Does she love country walks?  Does she love a nice garden?  Is she a cat lover or an equestrian?  If so, you can look to Bill Skinner and his studio to provide the perfect gift, one that will be truly treasured.



Go for sophistication

If you’re still unsure then opt for something which offers a timeless elegance.  Here are some suggestions that could be worn by anyone anywhere…….

From left to right Reeves and Reeves Bateau necklace in sterling silver, Reeves & Reeves Organic necklace in sterling silver with a tiny pearl, Collette Waudby handmade silver twisted leaf pendant, Tara Kirkpatrick handmade silver medium ball drops, Rachel Jackson Hexagon Trio necklace in gold vermeil, Cultured freshwater pearl studs in gold vermeil.  
Any of these items could be worn day to evening so would be a very thoughtful, versatile gift.


Make her sparkle!


When all’s said and done, us girls love a bit of sparkle and it doesn’t need to be precious gems.  Lovely though they are and in certain circumstances a must, the quality of cubic zirconia today means that even the experts find it hard to distinguish between it and the real thing without resorting to special equipment.  

Happy Christmas!


I hope this has helped with any gift dilemmas you’re facing this Christmas.  I am always happy to receive emails via the website if you have any queries or need further advice.  Here are the last posting dates for Christmas:

18 Dec: 2nd Class and Royal Mail Signed For 2nd® Class.

20 Dec: 1st Class Royal Mail, Signed For 1st Class,

23 Dec: Royal Mail Special Delivery Guaranteed

Whatever you decide I wish you a wonderful time whatever you’re doing and whoever you’re doing it with.  If you’re not lucky enough to have anyone to spend Christmas with and you’re feeling lonely click here for telephone numbers that may be useful to you.  

Best Wishes


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Introducing Jo Jo Blue…….

Introducing Jo Jo Blue…….

An exciting discovery!


In order to serve my customers well and cater for differing styles, I like to provide my shoppers with their own jewellery department store at their fingertips as well as showcasing designs that they would otherwise not easily find.  When you’re as passionate about jewellery as I am and particularly love supporting British designers, there is nothing more exciting than discovering a new talent.

At the beginning of this year I was doing my usual round of trade shows when, tucked away on a tiny stand, I came across JoJo Blue Designs displaying some unusual, colourful jewellery and scarves that immediately caught my eye and required further investigation!  Fast forward several months to today and I’m excited to share with you the launch of an exclusive collection on the Sophisticato website.


So who is JoJo Blue?


JoJoBlue is in fact a daughter and mother partnership.  From their home in Scotland Sheena Johnson handcrafts the jewellery from acrylic and resin, creating one-of-a-kind pieces that are truly unique, while her mother Mary hand paints abstract designs onto silk.

By way of proper introduction to the world of JoJo Blue I conducted a brief interview so that you could hear their story in the words of the artists themselves:


First Sheena…..



Q. What is your background and how did you come to be working in jewellery design?

“I came to jewellery design via a rather unusual route.  After graduating from university with a degree in Biology I spent 10 years working in environmental management for a global manufacturing company.  However I had always harboured a creative side and wanted to pursue a career that would allow me to express this.  In 2016 I established JoJoBlue, together with my mum, Mary, to bring together our passions and talents and allow me to create beautiful things.”

Q. You work in resin and acrylic.  Why did you choose these materials?

I love colour and working with acrylic allows me to combine and explore all sorts of colour combinations.  The way I work with the acrylic also leaves an element of surprise in how the colours are going to combine together an effect the end design and I just love this!  The acrylic is then encased within 2 layers of glossy resin which really brings the acrylic to life and allows different pigments and colours to shine through.  Each pour of the resin is allowed to cure for 48 hours before each piece is then sanded and polished by hand.”

Q. What led you to use acrylic?  How did you know this was the best medium for you?

“Through a process of experimentation largely.  We looked at different materials and I learnt which I enjoyed working with. Acrylic and resin are very adaptable.   Also my mum had worked a lot with acrylic over the years so we decided to explore this and over time developed a process of working which produced the result we were wanting in terms of colours and abstract designs which would be unique.  It gives me the freedom to create anything from delicate earrings to chunky pendants in an infinite range of colours with a beautiful glossy finish 




Q. How would you best describe your design style?

“At JoJo Blue Design we believe in the power of colour and art to express our individuality, inspiring a range of contemporary designs that are individual and truly unique.  Each piece is handcrafted and inspired by our love of colour, abstract form, and the natural world.  We want our designs to encapsulate the beauty of nature while paying tribute to the freedom of the unexpected.”

Q. What have been your influences in your style of design?

We are strongly influenced by the world around us and many of our designs are inspired by our trips around Scotland, where we live, and further afield, where we take the colours of the surrounding landscape and use them to inspire new combinations of colour for our jewellery and scarves.”


Q. Where did the name JoJo Blue come from?

” We spent a long time deliberating over the name for our business.  We wanted something that reflected how the business started i.e. mother and daughter team bringing together our passion for creativity and as our surnames are Johnson we came up with JoJo.  We also wanted something which reflected our love of colour and we both love blue!  Hence JoJo Blue Design was born.”

Q. What’s it like working with your mum? 

” It’s been great being able to share this journey with her.  She has such a breadth of experience in the creative industries, from painting through to fused glass, from silk painting to sculpture and her creative flare has been an endless source of inspiration  for me and my own work.”

Now Mary…..

Q. What is your background in design Mary? 

“I have always experimented with different art media and was introduced to textile and jewellery design as part of the combined studies degree I undertook at Edinburgh University.”

Q. How did you come to be hand painting silk scarves?

“I was drawn to the wonderful texture of pure silk and silk painting allows me to work with my favourite mediums of painting and textiles.”

Q. How do you come up with your designs?

I usually have the beginnings of an idea in my mind before I start working on a scarf but as I draw straight onto the silk with a resist, the drawing evolves intuitively as I work.”

Q. What have been your influences in your design style?

“I’ve been influenced by the abstract painters of the 20th century such as Kandinsky and Miro but recently I have also became interested in the abstract potential of the natural world.

Q.  How are you enjoying being part of JoJo Blue design?

“Being similarly inspired as Sheena by colour and abstract design the silk scarves complement the jewellery and I love working with the soft beauty of silk which I source in the UK, to create unique, wearable pieces of art.


Contemporary, artistic, unique!

What talented ladies and how lovely that 2 generations of women are working together on their passions.

Hope you love it as much as I do!



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How to build a capsule jewellery collection

How to build a capsule jewellery collection

The problem….


Some women tell me that they’d love to wear jewellery but find choosing and shopping for it a little bewildering.  They feel it’s hard enough to decide on an outfit let alone the accessories.  Some of us grew up in times when the man in your life bought the occasional fine jewellery pieces as a gift and you may have the odd precious pieces with genuine stones but to be honest, though they have their place,  I rarely have the occasion to wear this sort of thing nowadays and unless you have a lot of money these pieces will be quite minimalist and not in keeping with current fashion trends so can actually make you look frumpy, dare I say it!  But maybe you have a faithful pendant that gets thrown on whatever you wear and/or maybe you have accumulated  a multitude of necklaces, bought on impulse over the years,  that are just gathering dust and tarnish so when you go to put a piece on you’ve got to disentangle/clean it first and likely end up wearing nothing!

Then there are some women I’ve met who have lost or never got into the habit of wearing jewellery at all who tend to feel self conscious about the prospect of starting to wear it even though they’d actually love to!  Often they are dealing with confidence issues and trying to tackle some of this by looking at their wardrobe as a whole, sometimes with the help of a stylist, to understand their colours, personality style,  body shape etc. I thoroughly recommend this for anyone especially if you have confidence issues.   Stylists can help you totally change the way you feel about yourself and the way you shop, but I digress so I will return to this subject in another blog methinks!

Now as you will know if you’ve come across me on social media or read previous blogs,  when I walk out the door earrings along with some lippy are a minimum requirement.  As someone who’s not naturally confident I find this essential for my ‘ready to face the world’ persona.

The Solution…….


You’re familiar I’m sure with the term ‘capsule wardrobe’ from stylists and fashion media/bloggers;  – pieces of clothing that reflect your personal style that can be worn again and again in combination with one another?  The same principles can be applied to jewellery as well,  resulting in a jewellery collection that contains simple, versatile pieces that can be worn with anything in your wardrobe for all your day to day needs. The key is to buy quality (that does not have to equate to expensive!) and to buy with purpose.

First have a clear out!


If you have jewellery items in your drawer, possibly going back years, this is a very therapeutic exercise and with a clear out comes space for new things.  Discard anything you don’t love, anything you haven’t worn for a couple of seasons (as long as it’s not valuable of course!)  and anything which has deteriorated/tarnished beyond help and certainly those that turn your skin green!

As with any purge I guarantee you’ll feel good for having done it.

Ok, so now you’re ready to start planning

Now choose your metal colour


The first choice you need to make is silver or gold.   Now this could be a simple matter of preference but if you’ve had your colours analysed by a stylist you’ll know what suits you better.   If not,  the rule of thumb is this that if you suit soft muted colours, or bold, vibrant colours you should consider sticking to silver.   Rose gold is good for just about everyone but there is often less choice available in rose gold.  There’s nothing to say that you can’t mix and match metals but to start with choose one so that you are guaranteed a cohesive collection and if later others wish to buy you gifts they’ll know which to buy!!

Now choose the pieces.


My suggestion is that you keep it really simple to start with and buy one piece from each main category ie one pair of earrings, one short pendant, one long,  one bracelet and if you don’t have engagement/eternity rings that adorn your hands the majority of the time, a ring.  With the base collection achieved, you can then add to this as you go along and gain more confidence.  Additional options include, for instance,  a pop of colour,  more sparkle/statement pieces for those party nights and more season specific pieces for holidays (these can be very inexpensive while still choosing a quality brand).



My preference is for a pair of studs as my go to earrings but a small pair of hooks would work just as well

Prices of the stud earrings above range from just £27.00 – £210.00 for the Collette Waudby solid gold handmade studs

If you are uncomfortable wearing studs, which won’t apply to many I’m sure,  then simple hooks like these will definitely work for you.

Prices of those above range from £32.50 to £72.00

Short Pendant/necklaces


Fairly straightforward but worth giving a little thought to the type of neckline you tend to wear.  You have the option of a simple horizontal necklace if you tend to wear rounder necklines rather than v neck or sweetheart necklines. Also if you wear collared shirts a horizontal style can work really well to pretty up the neck.  If going for the more common form of pendant, think about where you want a person’s eye to be drawn, how tall you are and therefore what length you need.  Sounds obvious but if you have a broad neck a 16″ chain is going to be almost choker style.  I offer a choice of lengths on most of the Muru pendants and other brands will vary.  Anything from 16″ to 20″ will be appropriate depending on your body scale.

Prices of these necklaces and pendants range from £35 – 75.00

Long Necklaces


You may wonder why I feel this is important enough to be included as part of the basic capsule but short necklaces don’t work with everything.  If for instance you have a turtle neck jumper or a shirt a long necklace can be far more effective.  Even with some dresses a long necklace can work a treat.  For instance I have a plain Boden dress that has a collared neckline which conflicts with a short necklace but a long necklace takes the plainness away and gives the outfit a real lift.  With a short and long necklace at your disposal you also immediately have the tools for layering, something which will very easily take your outfit up a notch and keep you very much on trend.  Some long necklaces can even be doubled up to give an instant layered look on their own.



Bracelets really do add a touch of ‘finish’ to an outfit so I recommend you give some consideration to adding a bracelet to your capsule collection.   With short or 3/4 sleeves a bracelet will have impact however delicate but a sophisticated bracelet at the end of any sleeve is a very feminine touch especially in an office environment where perhaps you have to dress in a corporate style.  It also just adds a touch of elegance and class.

Prices of featured bracelets range from just £9.50 to £75.00

To sum up…..


I hope you have gained some inspiration from this blog.  It is not prescriptive, there are of course many other options but the basic premise is that from a nucleus of pieces you can build a collection that will mean that you are never short of something to ‘dress’ your wardrobe.  I hope this will give you the confidence to add in bolder, more adventurous pieces that will make a statement about you and your personality.  Whatever your budget there will be something for you but inevitably the less expensive items will not last as long.  Nothing outlives solid gold, platinum and real gems which is why they are called ‘precious’ but materials such as vermeil, gold filled metal, and the better quality costume pieces will last you for years and give great value for money if they are looked after.

If you have any questions, comments, style dilemmas I’m always happy to try and help or suggest someone who can.

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