Now this is really embarrassing – for weeks I was wondering why postmen suddenly use tiny rubber bands (and chuck them away in the streets)…and then I saw my friend wear a bracelet her daughter had made. Do! It’s only a little rubber thing, but is of great personal value to her!!

So, precious doesn’t necessarily mean diamonds and gold, if a plastic ring means the world to you, then that’s great! Jewellery made of unusual, non-precious materials is still regarded as…well, not very valuable, and I get comments like “oh this is only silver, bronze and copper, with a bit of gold thrown in..” for my ARRESTING collection. If people only knew how much work goes into these pieces!

Susanna Hanli

Susanna Hanl

But what is often forgotten is that probably more research, trial and error and hard work go into making something beautiful out of not particularly beautiful materials.

So keep an open mind and get ready to be converted:

Lesley is a British jeweller specialising in the use of cellulose acetate (derived from cotton oil) combined with sterling silver. The acetate can be layered into a wide range of patterns and can be manipulated into far more fluid forms than other forms of plastics.


Her inspiration comes from weathered, natural forms and sculptors of the 1950’s. The final finish of each piece is important to her as she likes the wearer to have a very tactile relationship with her work.

To achieve her goals she has developed special methods of forming, polishing and matting the acetate. Some pieces are decorated with silver piqué whilst others combine acetate forms with silver cast elements. Small batch quantities of each design are made and each piece is individually hand crafted to a fine finish.

The two guiding principles that Lesley applies to all her work are to strive for elegant simplicity and empathy with the wearer. This has enabled her to develop continuously fashionable, wearable jewellery. Great for sensitive people – because of its vegetable origins, the material will not provoke allergies and has a pleasant warm and silky feel.


By her own admission, Michelle has always been drawn to the sculptural properties of objects be they natural or man-made, and is continuously fascinated by the way in which forms can wrap themselves around the body to distort, exaggerate, or protect the wearer – the interaction between a structure and the body.


Michelle’s jewellery explores the use of sterling silver, resin and plastics, and her work is inspired primarily by the working properties of the materials. Careful finishing of the various surfaces lends a refined, precious, quality to all the materials.


Polythene jewellery

Rachel trained at Middlesex University, gaining her degree in 3D/Jewellery in 1994. Since graduating she has refined the techniques developed while at college enabling her to use both pre and post recycled materials in a unique way.

Her approach combines elements of both jewellery and textiles, creating highly wearable, tactile pieces that are distinctive, eye-catching and yet address contemporary issues of consumerism and how we assign value to the things we use and wear.


“It is satisfying and a little ironic, to take a material that would normally be disregarded, transforming it into a desirable piece of jewellery. I especially like working with polythene, which cones in a fantastic range of colours, subverting it to challenge the usual perception of what constitutes preciousness”.

Rachel’s pieces are all individually handcrafted and rely on the time-consuming precision with which the material is worked. She is continually expanding her range of applications for her technique and is committed to presenting novel ways for us to value, what we are all now coming to realise, are precious resources.


Enormously comforted by how beautiful the world is, Sue started working with plants leaves and flowers to share her observation with people who wear her jewellery. The plants and weeds which grow in the front gardens and wastelands, in hedges and along paths are a rich source of material for her colourful pieces.


Sue uses a process she developed while studying – ‘fossilized plastic’ – which is inspired by a modernist approach, in which she links the natural world with the man made by marrying acrylic with the plants she gathers, to produce beautiful and individual jewellery.

Each piece of jewellery uses a real plant and even the veins of the leaf will show, thanks to the fine detail which is captured on the embossed surface. This means that each piece is unique and every piece is handcrafted. Sue Gregor’s work is a celebration of the organic and inorganic, industrial and natural.

“I have a deep fascination with stone.Its hardness and brittleness provide endless challenges, its texture and colouring exciting discoveries. It is initially cool to the touch but warms rapidly. I am interested in the everyday, non-precious stone. Brought down to jewellery scale, intricate details become apparent and it gains a preciousness in its own right.”


For Maike the first artistic act is to walk along the beach and pick the right pebble. She believes that stone is not a dead material but animated, though at a very slow pace, and in her work she shows respect for the enormous length of time it took for the rock to form and then to be shaped by the elements. Maike also works with slate and silver, combining those two materials so they show off each other’s properties in the best possible way.

“Slate is a quiet material. Its soft colour and subtle texture provide an almost audible contrast to the surface of worked silver.”

“The surfaces of the silver pieces are inspired by the materials I work with. Slate, sand, chiselled stone, broken edges. I am intrigued by accidents. Breaks are characteristic for stone and reveal an inner life that is hidden behind a polished surface.”

So when on your next walk, see the stones you walk on in a different light!


Beate’s love for art and jewellery was triggered at a summer camp when she was only 12, and her passion for both is clearly visible in her work! For Beate “adorning yourself is a human necessity, almost instinctive.” For centuries people have been wearing jewellery – to protect themselves against evil, as talismans, to ward off disease, catastrophes and even wild animals.


This might have lost its relevance today, but for Beate, this aspect is still exciting, and by using unusual materials brings them into a new context. Using fragile porcelain she points out the ever-changing ideals of beauty. Ok, now if you’re a bit squeamish or having your dinner while reading this, maybe skip this last section!

beate pfefferkorn garbe_Bubbles_Sophie02_klein


In true Scandinavian fashion, Karin brings something a bit different to the jewellery table. Her A Constant Grinding collection certainly is. Stunning colours and funky designs, you just wouldn’t expect from the material she uses……hazard a guess!


“Searching, collecting, always hunting. Constantly consuming, chewing, grinding. This is a self-portrait of the chewing gums I have chewed the last months. Misuse, mantra or mania – I identify with the repeated persistent movement and the constant grinding.” I bet you didn’t see this coming…just chew it over for a bit!

So don’t dismiss plastic, paper, etc as precious materials, they might be the diamonds and pearls of the future…not so sure about the chewing gum though!

Credits With thanks


About Author

Jewellery designer and Silversmith based in Edinburgh. I create bespoke, one off Jewellery pieces in silver and gold, as well as bronze, copper and brass. Many of them are set with diamonds, pearls or unusual precious and semi precious stones. I love the idea that every individual piece is unique, which makes it even more special for the person who wears it. Inspiration for my work comes from art, nature, conversations and chance.