THE INDIA STORY CONTINUES
From the very first moment I stepped off the plane in India in 2009, despite huge personal challenges, and the evident poverty and infinite chaos, I felt a connection to its vibrancy, beauty, raw authenticity and capacity for moments of magic in the most surprising of places.
Since that time, by returning to India, I have been enabled to grow not only Cathy Pope Jewellery, but my relationship with this vast country and its people, which has elevated my creativity, design and me personally.
My new collection Lucent reflects the blossoming maturity of my more than decade long relationship with India, revealing a deep sense of legacy, refinement and timeless sophistication. It’s a coming of age that - curiously - is intertwined with another coming of age story 100 years ago at a time when female empowerment accelerated at a pace never before seen in history.
After my first trip I returned to India - not without trepidation - within 12 months on an orphanage project I had fundraised for in New Zealand, and have done so every year since 2014. Each visit I meet with my talented manufacturing team in Jaipur; the people who have become integral to the story of Cathy Pope Jewellery.
These talented artisans’ skill, knowledge and creative innovation is palpable and they have enabled my business to expand while holding onto the values that matter to me; those of creating quality, timeless, affordable pieces to last beyond a lifetime aligned with impeccable employment ethics, transparent raw material sourcing, sustainability and conscious consumerism. It’s a partnership founded on trust, creativity and collaboration, and it is one I hope will last a lifetime.
THE EVOLUTION OF LUCENT
Last year, in October I returned to India on an exploration of a different kind. I had inherited beautiful heirloom pieces from my grandmother, which I took with me to Jaipur to ask their help in identifying the gemstones.
You can only imagine my deep, sinking feeling of profound disappointment when my manufacturers told me that my prized jewels were made from glass! The gold embellishments had me fooled into thinking they were something much more luxurious and precious.
But, ever the optimists, my Jaipur team not only celebrated these beautiful pieces, but set me on the road to what has become one of my most beautiful, relevant collections yet.
Sushil, the owner of the manufacturing business I work with, explained to me that these large stones were made in the 1940s, in an era when gems were rare due to scarcity in a world at war. He said that jewellery makers, with no other option, thought creatively, and cut glass into the same gemstone shapes as they would have rubies, emeralds and sapphires, to craft jewellery that was just as desirable and beautiful, but also affordable.
I didn’t know at the time that I was about to sow the seed for a collection that would launch in 2020 during the biggest crisis of our generation, one that mirrors that time of “forced” creativity back then.
THE EXCITING POSSIBILITIES
Suddenly I was very excited! I avidly researched the story behind glass in jewellery, which ignited a fire in me. Early and mid 20th century designers like Boucher, Sciaparelli and Coco Chanel had been using imitation gemstones made from glass. This elevated the costume jewellery industry and fine jewellers opted to replace precious gemstones with glass due to the tumultuous time of depression, war and war recovery when they were extremely scarce.
Essentially, glass is a “new material” for me, one that offers an abundance of colour, size, cut, shape, consistency and affordability, and is not hindered by global commodity pricing or what my customers are able to pay.
Caption: Choosing colour and size of gemstones for new collection pieces
The next day, fired up by the huge creative possibilities in front of me, Sushil handed me a selection of stones in extraordinary, pretty colours (pictured above). He asked me what stones I thought they were. After many wrong guesses, Sushil told me they were recycled glass. And so Lucent began.
I finally managed to refine my colour choices to create bespoke green (veridian), blue (indigo) and yellow (saffron), unique to Cathy Pope Jewellery, made from sustainably sourced, low carbon emission recycled glass, which at the very end of their lifestyle (hopefully in many, many years to come), whittles down to become sand. The choices of those three are because I love their rich depth of consistent colour, and in the sizes I like to work with, sapphires, emeralds and topaz gemstones are prohibitively expensive.
At this time, I re-imagined some existing samples and designs that I had previously created - ones that had left me feeling uninspired with the choice of gemstones I had on offer and got tingles seeing new possibilities opened up to me.
I now had the opportunity to replace lacklustre gemstones with this new seductive array of colour in sophisticated, brilliant facet cuts of recycled glass. My once dormant designs had gained new life. Jewellery pieces that could have paled into ho-hum, had become breathtaking and exquisite.
BREATHING NEW LIFE INTO HISTORY
Years earlier, I had converted my grandmother's brooch into a pendant, which became the creative springboard for Lucent. The pendant (pictured below) was exactly the opulence I was looking for in this new collection, and spurred the addition of a substantially sized cocktail ring, a pair of dazzling statement earrings, as well as a stud designed for everyday wear.
Caption: CAD drawing images of early concepts inspired by original costume jewellery pieces from my grandmother
Lucent is a fresh take on 20th century costume jewellery. The translucent clarity of recycled glass, combined with the detailed facet cuts, reflect light, hinting at forgotten luxury and glamour.
To marry the timeless, seductive beauty and charm of the 1940s with 21st century contemporary design, I paired the pendant with a modern paperclip chain, which brings the collection together.
These pieces looked great as a set but I also felt they looked a little too old fashioned which is where the addition of stand alone curb and snake chains and carrier looks came in. I wanted to modernise the collection and bring it into the 21st century as well as retain the sense of history and luxury.
Lucent… a light flicked on. Transparent. Transformation. Translucent.