Organic Objects: Scrimshaw and Amber

This week, I thought I’d chat about jewellery that’s made out of organic materials. You see, mining metals like gold or gemstones like diamonds can be a nasty business — environmentally and for the people who have to work in mines. I like to take the guilt out of adornment by buying second-hand or recycling gold and silver to make new things. Creating jewellery out of organic materials is another alternative (although, in the case of materials such as tortoiseshell and ivory, it can also be a nasty business).

Anyway, pictured above are two objects made of deer antler. People have been using antler for decorative purposes since man and Bambi first met, usually for utilitarian things like cutlery handles and coat buttons. It can be easily cut and carved and, unlike cow horn, it’s solid. And because this form of adornment is traditionally collected from a renewable resource — shed antlers — antler jewelry is a feelgood material.
The drawback, I suppose, it that antler always ends up looking a little raw, a little earthy. You’ll probably never see anyone wearring and antler at the Osacrs unless is has been cast out of platinum and set with rubies

The bolo tie on the right is also an example of the art of scrimshaw. Originally a form of decoration done by whalers whatever bits of bone and tusk left over from any marine mammals they may have caught, the handicraft expanded to using shed antlers after narwhals and elephants became endangered. I like this one because it shoes a picture of a a mountain sheep on the piece of sliced deer antler.

The one on the left is simply a slice of deer horn, roughly carved with a flower that’s set with a piece of amber in the centre. Amber is also an organic substance — fossilized tree resin, even.