Seed chic: jewels from the garden

When you think of jewelry made from seed pods and stems, you’re probably thinking of something like this. But in the jewelry that wins ribbons in the design gallery of the Philadelphia Flower Show, largest in the world, berries look like pearls and leaves like precious metal. Clasps of actual vines may not function but they’re made to scale. Flower show jewels are judged not just on creativity but on how closely they replicate the real thing.

Given the Hollywood theme of this year’s PFS, the faux accessories on display were glitzier than ever: Carmen Miranda head wear, sci-fi tiaras, statement bracelets, and necklaces inspired by Elizabeth Taylor’s jewels – or, to be specific, “an interpretation of a necklace Richard Burton might have given to Elizabeth Taylor.”

Carmen Miranda hat

Hat of leaves, vines and flowers, Carmen Miranda tribute by Polly Glotzbach and Amelia Crambley (photo Cathleen McCarthy)

Liz Taylor faux emerald necklace

Necklace by Lisa Webb Howe of chickpea and coriander seed “pearls” and almond “emeralds” mounted in dried anise seeds and hibiscus at the Philadelphia Flower Show (photo Cathleen McCarthy)

Elizabeth Taylor-inspired "ruby" necklace made with hazelnuts, almonds and star anise (photo Cathleen McCarthy)

Necklace by Sarah Ponce of hazelnuts, almonds, and star anise won first place in “A Gift from Richard” contest at the Philadelphia Flower Show (photo Cathleen McCarthy)

Peregrina flower show

Necklace of seeds and organic material by Sarah Boynton, second place winner in “A Gift from Richard” contest, a dead ringer for La Peregrina pearl necklace (Philadelphia Flower Show/photo Cathleen McCarthy)

Peregrina+TaylorAmazing how a little frosted nail polish can turn a pea into a pearl. Recognize that last one? Direct copy of the famous La Peregrina pearl necklace that Richard Burton actually did give Elizabeth Taylor, sold at Christie’s in 2011 for $12mil.

La Peregrina pearl, once given Queen Mary Tudor by King Phillip II of Spain, later set in this Cartier necklace and given by Richard Burton to Elizabeth Taylor (and eventually confiscated by her dog)

La Peregrina pearl, once given Queen Mary Tudor by King Phillip II of Spain, later set in this Cartier necklace and given by Richard Burton to Elizabeth Taylor (and eventually confiscated by her dog)

The emerald and pearl necklace looks a bit like the Van Cleef & Arpels’ detachable Indian-inspired number and the ruby necklace looks like something Mike Todd gave Liz for swimming laps, although she got a few rubies from Burton as well.

Amazingly, many winning jewels were made by artists with no jewelry background and/or trying this seeds-and-berries trick for the first time. First place winner in the “Out of this World” contest (hair accessories inspired by a character in a sci fi or fantasy film) went to studio jeweler Caryn Hetherston who created a tiara inspired by Galadriel from The Lord of the Rings.

Tiara of leaves and twigs by Caryn Hetherston inspired by The Lord of the Rings

Tiara by Caryn Hetherston inspired by Galadriel, a character in The Lord of the Rings (photo Cathleen McCarthy)

One of my favorites was a cuff bracelet by Mimi Favre that won first place in the “arm candy” category. Mimi worked for many years at the bench for NYC-based Carvin French, producing bespoke jewels for the likes of Ralph Esmerian. But she is also an avid gardener and botanical illustrator who has been entering jewelry in the PFS design contests for 15 years.

Mimi Favre botanical jewelry 2015

Cuff bracelet by Mimi Favre won first place in “Arm Candy” category at the Philadelphia Flower Show (photo Mimi Favre)

Components of Mimi Favre's dragonfly cuff bracelet

Components of Mimi Favre’s dragonfly cuff bracelet

That bracelet took about 60 hours, starting with a quick sketch and a magnolia leaf wrapped around a soup can for a month to mold it into cuff form. For details on how she made this, see Mimi’s blog post.

Mimi Favre botanical cuff sketchMimi Favre Arm Candy leaf

Mimi entered her first flower show contest on a lark, then found herself addicted. She swears the art workshops are the best part of the annual flower show. Details behind this year’s classes and design contests are here.

Favre-Platinum+AGTAHaving done a lot of model-making in her New York days, usually from another designer’s sketch, she has a lot of experience with turning two dimensions into three.

But everyone brings something interesting to the contest, Mimi says.

“It’s a nutty kind of art form, a good creative exercise.” Also, like any contest, she says, “it helps to have parameters and a deadline.”

This was not Mimi’s only contest win this year. She scored a coveted Spectrum Award for a pair of ear pendants (left) of tourmaline in platinum. As you can see, even her precious jewelry shows a preference for the leafy greens and aqua blues of a garden.

I was familiar with Mimi’s jewelry before I knew she had a habit of making faux jewels from garden debris. It was her hair comb at the 2012 flower show that stopped me in my tracks. I’ve been a fan of the show’s design gallery ever since.

Favre haircomb - Phila Flower Show 3 bracelets by Mimi Favre-PFSFavre-Quinevere-Cross-18kHer set of three bracelets in a previous show seem to foretell the mixing-and-matching stacking trend in fashion now.

Another year, Mimi created a medieval cross pendant inspired by Guinevere. One woman fell so in love with it, she tracked Mimi down and commissioned an identical cross in real gold.

See? And you thought 60 hours on faux seed-and-leaf jewelry was a waste of time. As Mimi puts it, “You just never know.”

All photos of Mimi Favre’s work courtesy of the artist

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1 comment for “Seed chic: jewels from the garden

  1. January 8, 2016 at 8:07 pm

    Interested in entering a piece in this year’s flower show? The theme is National Parks and Mimi Favre is chairing the jewelry class herself. What an opportunity! I might register myself.

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