My Love of Vintage Stones

Shopping a warehouse of treasure

Shopping a warehouse of treasure

The question I get asked all the time as a jewellery designer is why I work with vintage stones? That’s not a one sentence answer. It’s like asking a painter why they paint in acrylic or oil or watercolour.

Vintage is something a lot of people love and collect. Vintage clothes, vintage purses, vintage jewellery, and vintage barware are all popular and collectable. But what makes us love a specific thing?

Ornate flat metal chain

Ornate flat metal chain

My first encounter with vintage stones was with my dear friend, Robert Sorrell, who took me with him to a vintage stone warehouse 23 years ago. I walked in and immediately started my great love affair with vintage crystal and glass stones and beads that is still my passion today.

1950s pink Austrian crystal

1950s pink Austrian crystal

Now shopping for them has become challenging, as good vintage materials have become harder and harder to source. Each time I find something particularly fantastic, I buy as much as I can.

Vintage 1950s Starlight crystals in their original packaging

Vintage 1950s Starlight crystals in their original packaging

I source and buy vintage crystals and stones that have never been made into jewellery and are in the original packaging. Some of these stones and crystals have been sitting on wholesalers’ shelves for 30 to 80 years. Think about that. They were created by hand by artisans long gone to be used in contemporary jewellery at the time. I love the fact that I’m now creating modern pieces with stones made in the 1940s or ‘60s. Each piece I make will hopefully be around long after I am gone, and those stones will be too.

Vintage 1960s jet navettes in their original packaging

Vintage 1950s Starlight crystals in their original packaging

There is a real sense of history and romance as I source them and ultimately use them in a piece. Cuts and colours from a bygone era. I always wonder who the person was who made them and packed them. Some of the package names tell us. Some are Swarovski before the company we know now. Some are stone importers with phone numbers on the packages that conjure up switchboard operators connecting the caller to murryhill0439.

Each package is a treasure from the past. We talk now about sustainability, “up-cycling” and recycling. This is absolutely what I do, before it became what it is now — all because of my love of wonderful craftsmanship. Next time you look at a piece of jewellery, have a closer look at the beautiful crystals. Someone 70 years ago probably looked at it too.