By Chere Di Boscio
It’s not easy to start a new jewellery range, but Nettie Kent believed that her father’s artistic spirit and her love of nature would help her create eco-jewellery that people would love. In 2010, she launched the first line bearing her name, and since then the young designer has been working hard to meet demand for her original, ethical accessories.
“I’ve worked really hard to develop my own aesthetic and be original. It’s a fine line between knowing what’s out there and shutting it off and staying true to your own look”, she said. It wasn’t an easy journey–since the Fine Arts major had no training in the field of metalworking before, she had to begin as an apprentice. She learned much from other master jewellers, like Jill Platner, but eventually she developed her own style and distinctive technique.
Once her skills were honed, she sought and found a small, family-owned business that works with chemical-free practices to do the metal casting for her. Kent uses mostly highly polished brass that has the visual appeal of gold, but is more affordable–yet all her metals are free from nickel to ensure quality.
She sources her minerals, like black tourmaline and undyed lapis, from a former miner in Colorado and then does the crushing and polishing herself. After grinding them to sparkling pebble-like pieces, she sets them into chunky earrings, wrap around bracelets, statement pendants and cocktail rings.
In addition to these eco-friendly processes, instead of using the usual chemical clean-finishing she makes the final touches on the crafted pieces by hand, sawing off uneven spots and polishing them with different grits.
Brass and bronze are then treated with natural wax with added gold powder that slows down the tarnish. Kent advises her clients not to wear the pieces in water to maintain their shine, but she wears her jewellery when she surfs (her favourite activity back home) because she loves the way the water changes the surface of the pieces.
Deeply inspired by Byzantine and Egyptian culture and jewellery, Kent is also greatly impressed by Ancient Greek mythology. Inspired by this, her famous Andromeda pendant necklace reflects the story of the young woman saved by Perseus. The myth serves as the ancient foundations for most fairy-princess-saved-by-the-heroic-prince fairytales, but there is nothing pink and princessy about Kent’s pieces:
“Generally my clients are more young and edgy, although what I love about some of my pieces is their versatility,” she says. “
Apart from keeping her own atelier ethical, Kent continues to participate in and support the sustainable design community in Brooklyn and is a member of a number of renowned environmental activist groups, including No Dirty Gold and Ethical Metalsmiths.
Her cutting-edge, eco-friendly jewellery is as inspiring as it is aesthetically captivating. We admire her devotion to sustainable production from day one, hoping that more jewellery designers will follow her lead and create pieces that ecologically-minded fashionistas will be proud to wear.
All photography with redheaded model by Rachel Wright
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