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Last month I stumbled across the magical work of Australian jewelry label Billy Bride, whose rough cut crystal ring designs are now at the very top of my Christmas list. Their striking jewelry is all handmade in Australia from locally sourced minerals, stones and crystals. The lady behind the label is Renee Warne, who runs Billy Bride from her studio in Sydney. What is particularly beautiful about her work is her clear passion for the materials she works with. Renee researches and details on her website each crystal’s spiritual properties so her customers can find a design that not only looks striking but also has symbolic importance. Lin-Morris caught up with Renee to find out more about her crystal obsession and to see her latest collection, Enter Oblivion, which sees the designer sourcing materials from outside of Australia for the first time.
How did you become a jewelry designer?
I’m actually from a fashion background – my grandmother worked in textiles and my mother has been pattern making for couture designers for the last 30 years. I’ve spent almost a decade working alongside her, so it’s a surprise to now find myself designing jewelry!
About a year ago I approached a jeweler to set an amethyst crystal I’d been holding onto since I was about 13 years old, which was kind of sentimental. I went to a few jewelers actually but nobody wanted to work with crystals at the time; in their natural state they’re unpredictable, fragile and can be difficult to set. So after being turned away from a few places, I realised it was an opportunity to set up something of my own – that little amethyst cluster became the first piece of Billy Bride jewelry. (shown below)
Have you ever studied jewelry design?
Most of my interest comes from a love of wearing jewelry. I studied a little, as part of my design degree, but I don’t know if studying is really that helpful in creative fields. I think it’s better to forge your own path. I love eccentric objects and I like things that are handcrafted and unique – so that’s the base for all my design work. Plus I’m allergic to alloys, so it’s strictly precious metals!
What inspired you to exclusively use natural Australian materials?
The terrain here is wild, it’s pretty inspiring. The 1850′s gold rush is a big part of our history and there’s still a lot of little mining towns out in the rural areas. My boyfriend and I road-tripped out there last year and came across these tucked-away time warp curiosity shops that are floor to ceiling gemstones and geodes and nuggets. That’s where I sourced all the stones for the first collection.
Tell us about your new collection.
The new range, Enter Oblivion, is about expanding horizons and exploration. In that vein I’m now sourcing globally to include pieces like the Esme Tibetan Quartz necklace, which features prayer quartz from the sacred mountains of Tibet – the black flecks in the stone are pieces of the mountain caught in the crystal. There’s also Spanish aragonite, a flowering orange crystal, deep green corroded float copper from Lake Michigan, and Red Calcite from Mexico.
The descriptions of your jewelry designs always include information about the energy and auras of the stones that you work with. Is this an important element of your work?
I think there’s a lot more to crystals than their obvious ornamental appeal. There’s a real sense of wonder and spirituality, and you don’t necessarily need to be a particularly spiritual person to feel it. I think those feelings are strongest when the stones are in their raw natural form, which is why I like to work with uncut crystals.