🐾 Maybe the reason I love animals so much, is because the only time they have broken my heart is when theirs has stopped beating.

Wednesday, 21 October 2015

Jewellery inspired by Nature

Did you know that I make jewellery? It started way back in the 1980's, when I used to do stained glass - panels, lampshades, trinket boxes and anything else that could be made out of glass! As you can imagine, one is left with a lot of off-cut glass pieces and I had boxes and boxes full. Racking my brains as to what to do with all this glass, I picked a few small shards and started experimenting with cutting and soldering them together and it turned out that they made beautiful earrings, pendants and brooches!

 Pink stained glass clip-on  earrings with pink dangling beads

Amber stained glass pendant

Blue glass jewel and copper brooch

It wasn't long before my imagination started taking over and, as always, inspired by nature, I started making insect jewellery, mainly as ornaments, but some I fashioned into brooches. Using my 'Insects of Southern Africa' encyclopaedia pictures as reference, I painstakingly crafted each insect using copper, pewter, glass jewels, beads, silver wire and silver solder. Each Goggo/insect can take 3 or more hours to make.

A lot of research goes into making these little creatures. I use photographs for reference, live study where possible and also Google the necessary information regarding their size, habits, lifestyle, etc. Hand-crafting these little animals has taught me so much about nature and given me a new respect for all Mother Nature's beauty.

 Dung Beetle and matching dung ball earrings

The larvae of some dung beetle species are able to produce feint sounds. Some species are horned and all live on dung. The female, having laid an egg, encases it in a ball of fresh dung, which is then buries and serves as food for the larva.

This little Dung Beetle can be used as a brooch


The Tarantula’s appearance is worse than its bite. Tarantula venom is weaker than that of a honeybee and, though painful, is virtually harmless to humans.

Tarantulas periodically shed their external skeletons in a process called moulting. In the process, they also replace internal organs, such as female genitalia and stomach lining, and even regrow lost appendages. Tarantulas sizes range from as small as a fingernail to as large as a dinner plate when the legs are fully extended. Depending on the species, the body length of tarantulas ranges from 2.5 to 10 centimetres (1 to 4 in), with leg spans of 8–30-centimetre (3–12 in).

The underside of the Tarantula - this one could also be fashioned into a brooch by just soldering on a brooch pin

A Leopard Tortoise hand-crafted with a shell, painted with oil paints, with soldered edge and feet. The head is a yellow glass bead.

Southern Africa is very fortunate to have the largest variety of animals in the world. It is home to more than 800 bird species, 150 mammal species, about 50 snake and lizard species, 11 tortoise species and thousands of invertebrate animals like insects and arachnids.

The Leopard Tortoise (or Mountain tortoise - Geochelone pardalis) inhabits a wide range of habitats, from dry Bushveld to moister coastal plains and is the most widely distributed and also the biggest of the 12 species of land tortoise found in Southern Africa. It is believed to take its name 'mountain' tortoise from its size rather than its habitat. ('Leopard' tortoise' comes from the black and yellow blotched patterns on its high-domed carapace.)

Baboon Spider - here I used 2 green glass jewels, silver solder and silver wire

Ground-dwelling, these hairy spiders are among the world's largest, ranging from 2-6cm (body length). Various species exist in South Africa, all of them living in burrows. They have large fangs which can inflict an unpleasant bite but without serious envenomation.

 Hermit crab - here I used a shell, lots of silver solder and silver wire

The underside of the crab

Hermit crabs are decapod crustaceans of the superfamily Paguroidea. Most species have long, spirally curved abdomens, which are soft, unlike the hard, calcified abdomens seen in related crustaceans. The vulnerable abdomen is protected from predators by a salvaged empty seashell carried by the hermit crab, into which its whole body can retract.

Hermit Crabs are very social animals and can live 10 years or more, changing shells, moulting several times throughout their lives and growing up to six inches in length. Did you know that Hermit crabs are sometimes kept as pets? Hermit Crabs are docile and are easy and economical to care for and their crabby antics, like climbing, digging and shell switching are as entertaining as they are educational!

Blue Emperor Dragonfly (Anax Imperator) - blue glass jewel for the thorax and blue glass bead for the head with silver wire wings and abdomen

The Emperor Dragonfly or Blue Emperor, Anax imperator, is a large species of hawker dragonfly of the family Aeshnidae, averaging 78 millimetres (3.1 in) in length. It is found mainly in Europe and nearby Africa and Asia. They frequently fly high up into the sky in search of prey, which includes butterflies, Four-spotted Chasers and tadpoles; small prey is eaten while flying. They breed in a variety of aquatic habitats from large ponds to dykes, but they require a plentiful supply of vegetation in the water. The females lay the eggs into plants such as pondweed, and always lay alone. The male is highly territorial, and difficult to approach.

Paper Wasp - Arthropoda. Order : Hymenoptera. Family : Vespidae
For the throrax and abdomen I used red glass beads and the rest of the wasp is made with silver wire and 
silver solder. Approx. 5cm (2") long.

Sometimes mistaken for a hornet, the larger Paper Wasp is a social wasp, building tube-like nests of a papery material under any convenient shelter. The smaller Paper Wasp builds much larger colonies that are aggressively protected. Larvae feed on paralysed insects.

Button Spider (Latrodectus) - Black glass jewel for the body and silver wire for the legs

The only potentially deadly spider found in South Africa. The male is small and harmless. The female's body is 10-15mm long, black, often with a red marking above the spinneret at the rear of the abdomen. Will only bite if accidentally pressed against the skin.

Inspired by the Eucalyptus trees on our property, a Blue gum leaf made out of copper covered in silver solder and a patina agent added (I use BlackIt) for a vintage look. The other earring is an Indian Silver bead depicting the seeds of the blue gum trees.

Porcupine quill wound with silver wire and soldered for a secure fit. A short dangling silver chain has a glass Mali bead. Pendant hangs from a silver chain, but some leather thonging can also be used for a more natural look.
No animals were hurt during the manufacture. All the quills I use are collected from the veld after porcupines have shed them.

A stained glass panel I made on commission in the early 80's for a game lodge in the Kalahari. Size 3m x 2m.

Another stained glass panel in 3D I did on commission, size 1m x 1.5m.

An amber Stained glass trinket box. Useful for storing jewellery, pens and pencils, tea bags, you name it!

I also use a lot of items from nature for some of my designs, like beach pebbles, stones, wood, feathers, shells and crystals.

An assortment of Rose Quartz crystal pendents.

If you're so inclined, please feel free to visit my jewellery site, "Afrika Street Jewellery", where you will find some other items I make, like cigarette lighter holders, business card holders and all sorts of other items.

Thanks for looking and hope you have a great day!



  1. They are beautiful. What a lovely talent you have.

  2. Maree, your glass work is absolutely exquisite!!! The pieces are all so creative and innovative! And I always enjoy and appreciate the fascinating information you offer in your posts. How would I go about purchasing some of your jewelry? I have a sister who loves silver, and she has been a saint lately in taking care of my ailing aunt. I would love to get her something.

    1. Wow Katherine, thank you for your lovely words, very pleased you like it! But the bad news is that I have very little left of the jewellery, most of it has been sold and I haven't made any for ages. There are a few pieces for sale on my jewellery site (the link is in the post above), but not much with stained glass in it. And I don't do commissions any more either. Maybe one day I will take up the craft again!

    2. PS : I basically only put up this post to show how nature inspires me!

    3. I hope you are inspired to create more in the future, Maree. Your work is so beautiful, so unique!

    4. Thanks Kathryn (sorry about spelling your name wrong above!), there is certainly a chance of that, never say never!



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