Nature's Bounty: The Jewellery of Elaine Jenkins

A host of Northwest designers are exhibiting at International Jewellery London this month, including Elaine Jenkins, whose work takes its inspiration from tiny environmental details – even blades of grass

Feature by Charlotte Geoghegan | 05 Sep 2013

When it comes to fashion, we all spend a lot of time discussing the clothes. The shape, the colour, the silhouette, the mood. But what about the little things that make the outfit? What about the accessories, and, more specifically, the jewellery? With the International Jewellery London exhibition approaching, we thought it was about time we took a closer look, and focused on the smaller touches that so often give an outfit that little something extra.

International Jewellery London (IJL), running 1-4 September, is an annual jewellery trade exhibition that gives gallery owners, retail buyers and enthusiasts the chance to discover hidden treasures and up and coming talent. With more than 100 new jewellers and even more returning attendees setting up shop at this year’s exhibition, it is the perfect place to showcase fresh and exciting designs and jewellery trends.

Here in the Northwest there is no shortage of talented jewellers, many of whom are attending this year’s exhibition. One of them is Elaine Jenkins, who, having graduated from Liverpool Hope University in 2008, has forged forward with her beautiful jewellery and silverware designs. Primarily based in Liverpool, she is continuing to add skills to her already impressive CV while designing collections that stand alone but also complement the current fashion trends. She also designs and makes commissioned pieces, working closely with the customer to create something truly one of a kind.

This year is Jenkins’ first attending IJL, and she will be doing so with a number of peers from the Manchester Jewellers Network. She tells us that “by exhibiting at IJL I am opening up my products to a higher market,” and in order to coincide with the exhibit her new Marram collection will be launched at the show.

Although she describes her new work as “sleeker than past collections,” it still holds true to her main inspiration: nature. Jenkins tells us that ultimately, the starting point for the Marram collection comes from “the long marram grass on the sand dunes at Ainsdale nature reserve."

She explains that, "When the grass is dry, the edges have a silver shimmer that catches your eye at dawn. This and the simple form of the grass is the main focus point for this collection.”

The simplicity of nature’s beauty is a jumping-off point for all of Jenkins’ work; she then deconstructs the whole to focus on one small specific aspect, and then promotes this throughout certain collections. “The simple ball shape of a moss formation” was the focus of the Moss collection, and the “subtle outline of the shadows cast by a butterfly wing” was the driving force behind the new Wings collection, which is aimed at a more trend-conscious buyer.

When it comes to the type of person she designs for, Jenkins tells me she is not specific, and that there is truly something out there for every jewellery lover among her work. The Moss and Marram collections are aimed at customers looking for a statement piece in the higher price bracket – something that is the focus of an outfit, rather than a simple accessory. The Fall and the new Wings collection, meanwhile, are designed to work with the changing trends and appeal to a wider market. These are the pieces that add the extra ‘oomph’ to an outfit.

As well as these collections, Jenkins' commissioned pieces are striking and trend-led but more focused towards the individual's style and specific requirements. “My commissioned work is based on the person who has come to me with a design in mind," she explains. "Whether it be an engagement ring or a birthday present, I try to get my customers as involved in the design process as much as I can. There’s nothing quite like the feeling of handing over one of these pieces and seeing a customer’s face light up.”

Each collection brings something unique and interesting to the table. The Moss collection is littered with small diamonds, and some of the limited edition peach necklaces and bangles are so simple but would be a beautiful addition to anyone’s jewellery box. The Wings collection gives an edge to the girly and feminine connotations of the butterfly, while the pieces from the Fall collection add a twist to a simple autumn leaf.

So what’s next for the designer? Quite a bit, it turns out. With Christmas on the horizon (yes, the countdown has nearly begun, folks!), there are commissions to be completed and galleries to be stocked with work. On top of this, Jenkins is starting a course on stone-setting at Holts Academy in London and the British Jewellers' Association mentoring programme – never a dull moment. For those of you lucky enough to be heading down to IJL 2013, keep an eye out for Jenkins' work being featured in the ‘spot the winner’ trail, which gives customers the chance to vote for and win their favourite pieces.

Of course, Jenkins isn’t the only independent designer that's caught our eye, and for those keen jewellery collectors out there or for those who are just searching for something beautiful, take a look at some of the other designers that belong to the Manchester Jewellers Network: Gemma Scully, Karin Sheldon, Charlotte Verity and Kate Wimbush. Let’s take our time to appreciate the jewellery that so often gets forgotten but always adds the finishing touch to a look, and the jewellers who can take simple things such as the sheen of grass on a sand dune and transform it into something covetable, wearable and completely timeless.

International Jewellery London, 1-4 Sep, Earls Court, London