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Exploring Handmade Contemporary Jewellery: Ceramic, Sea Glass, 3D Printing, and Silver

A silver ring being welded in a workshop

Throughout centuries, empires, and religions, jewellery has been a decorative adornment that reflects the status of the wearer. Often made from precious metals, and by the hands of skilled jewellers, historically jewellery has been a little piece of luxury.

Fast forward to today and jewellery has been added to the ‘fast fashion’ machine, which churns out mass-produced jewellery. Often poorly made and largely from plastic, it’s designed to make a short-term style statement. Tempting in all its shininess for us magpies, but time and time again it lets us down, by breaking, tarnishing, or going out of fashion all too quickly. 

Thankfully, there are brilliant jewellers in Cornwall that offer an alternative. Jewellers who make using their hands and tools, paying homage to artisanal techniques and finding contemporary ways to forge their own path.

At Inspire Makers we’re known for our impressive jewellery collection, which showcases a diverse range of different jewellery making techniques. Each piece of jewellery is handmade by a jeweller who is connected to their work and their processes, and has integrity and longevity within their work. You’ll find handmade Cornish jewellery that won’t break the bank, will last you a long time, and best of all – is completely beautiful.

Barnacle Silver and Enamel Jewellery

Barnacle Silver and Enamel Jewellery by Silver Sapling £105

Champagne CZ & Cornish Pebble Pendant

Champagne CZ & Cornish Pebble Pendant by Rebecca Walklett £170

What are examples of handmade jewellery techniques?

Handmade jewellery can be made in a variety of ways, and different processes result in different shapes and finishes, and the level of detail.

We’ll touch on the materials and processes used in handmade jewellery below, but here’s a little fly by introduction.

We have a few jewellers who work with ceramic to create beautiful porcelain jewellery which can be shaped and glazed by hand. Sea Glass is a popular choice these days as we all recognise the ethical implications of sourcing gemstones. Sea glass gives you little nuggets of gorgeous colour, in a much more sustainable way. 3D printing is a hugely exciting area of jewellery design in Cornwall, and makes us feel old! 

We also have a few jewellers who work their magic with silver, and create beautiful pieces inspired by Cornwall and use traditional silversmithing techniques.

wire jewellery making

Types of materials used in handmade jewellery:

Ceramic Jewellery

Scratching your head when it comes to pairing ‘ceramic’ and ‘jewellery’? It does sound like a bit of an oxymoron! Although we think of ceramics as prone to breaking, remember this tends to be due to sudden impact from a high height. Ceramic jewellery withstands the super high heat of kilns, and can be glazed or coated with metal to provide further protection. 

Rach Richardson creates her contemporary ceramic jewellery here in Cornwall, and her pieces are incredibly stylish with a minimal design aesthetic. We love the silky-smooth feel of her pieces and the milk white colour paired with platinum.

Porcelain Spiral Shell earrings on silver hooks handmade by Rach Richardson

Spiral Shell Drop Earrings by Rach Richardson £36

Porcelain starfish studs handmade by Rach Richardson

Starfish Stud Earrings by Rach Richardson £28

Sea Glass

Love colourful gemstones sparkling in your jewellery, but hate the murky underworld of unethical gemstone sourcing? Sea glass might be perfect for you. So, what is sea glass? Sea glass is fragments of glass (from bottles, old glass fishing buoys, remains of Cornish industries) which have been tumbled, smoothed and rounded at the mercy of the ocean.

Sea glass can be found on the coastline, washed up with the tide onto beaches, alongside shells and pebbles. It comes in a range of colours, depending on the original colour of the glass. Sea glass hunting is fast becoming a favourite seaside activity for us!

Cuttlefish & Sand Casting

Cuttlefish casting is a mind-blowing process, and is such an interesting way to make handmade jewellery. Cuttlefish are a marine mollusc, and once dried their bones can be used to make moulds for jewellery. I’d recommend watching videos for this technique, because it must be seen to be believed!

Carving the shape of jewellery into the cuttlefish, a small channel is then created which molten metal can flow into the mould from. The metal solidifies in the hollowed out shape of the cuttlefish, and can then be sanded down and worked from.

The fantastic, layered textures of the cuttlefish can be utilised to create stunning tactile jewellery which looks especially gorgeous cast in precious metals. Silky smooth texture, from nature.

Sand casting works with the same principles, but uses sticky, slightly damp sand as the base for a mould. A shell (or anything else!) can be pressed into the sand, which leaves behind a hollowed area. Molten metal is poured into the shape, and all being well – solidifies into the desired shape.

Both techniques are temperamental, and the conditions must be just right for them to work perfectly. It takes years and years of learning how best to master cuttlefish and sand casting, but the results are worth it.

3D Printing

From traditional techniques to ground-breaking new technology. 3D printing is an innovative way to create complex geometric jewellery, which would be hard to achieve in any other way. 3D printed jewellery involves inputting a design into computer software, which then ‘prints’ it by layering up the material with astonishing precision.

3D printing can be used to create a perfect wax model, which can then be used as a mould for casting jewellery. That said, it is possible to 3D print directly from precious metals. You can also print hollow designs, which is great if you’re looking for a lightweight item of jewellery. 

3D printed jewellery is an exciting new frontier in the jewellery industry, and we are so thrilled to stock the vibrant work of Katy Luxton, who is a pioneer in this area using hand-dyed, 3D printed nylon.

Orbit Pink Pendant

Orbit Pendant by Katy Luxton £55

Vortex Group Teal

Vortex Group Teal by Katy Luxton £80


Silver or gold? Most of us lean to one or the other when it comes to our jewellery collection. Silver is cool, and sleek, and can be alloyed with other metals to give it more durability. Sterling silver (925) is made when fine silver (999) is alloyed (mixed) with a small amount of copper to make it workable.

To find out more about jewellery terminology and different metals, check out our guide to jewellery metals.

Silversmithing is a traditional technique, and our Inspire Makers jewellers are passionate about paying homage to heritage processes. They update their designs however, and create contemporary jewellery inspired by Cornwall.


handmade silver ring

Arvor Ring by Silver Sapling £65

silver bracelet

Men an Tol Silver Bracelet by Silver Sapling £175-£190

Silver Clay Jewellery

What is silver clay? It’s a question we get asked often! Silver clay jewellery is made from the excess or waste silver reclaimed from industries which use silver, and is an environmentally friendly jewellery option. Made from teeny tiny silver particles, which have been bonded with an organic binder and water, silver clay is malleable, resulting in beautifully intricate jewellery.

Our very own Vicki Glaister who runs Inspire Makers is a silver clay jeweller, and you can browse her gorgeous Falmouth-made jewellery here.

Once Vicki has designed and shaped her jewellery, it is fired at high temperatures in a kiln. This is where the ‘clay’ part comes into play! A high heat allows the binder to burn off and fuses the tiny silver particles together. It’s an incredible process, and one that allows Vicki to create her geometric silver jewellery, with an ethical approach to her materials.

Silver Art Deco Flower Pendant

Art Deco Flower Necklace by Article Jewellery £50

Silver Teardrop and Bobble Pendant

Teardrop Bobble Pendant by Article Jewellery £65

Rectangle Ring

Rectangle Ring by Article Jewellery £75

Square Cufflinks by Article Jewellery £55

Why buy handmade jewellery?

Buying handmade jewellery is an impactful choice and helps make your money matter. By supporting independent jewellers you’re saying no to fast fashion, and yes to saving artisan jewellery traditions.

Handmade jewellery is also so important for diversity within the jewellery industry. Without it, our options would be the homogenous range of mass-produced pieces, and we’d all be wearing the same jewellery.

Buying handmade Cornish jewellery that suits your style, is a way to continue to express yourself exactly how you wish. We take for granted that we can purchase jewellery that we feel connected to, that becomes an extension of ourselves.

The charm of handmade jewellery is a connection to the maker, and the knowledge that this piece is unique from inception to outcome.

The process of creating ceramic jewellery

Ceramic jewellery is made from clay, and different types of clay have different colours and qualities. Our ceramic jewellers work from porcelain, which is a fine-grained clay with kaolinite in the composition.

Interestingly, Cornwall has a place in the history of porcelain, as it was once home to the largest deposits of China Clay in the world, back in the 1800s. Side note – to read up about Cornish ceramics and its history, read our blog here.

Rach Richardson creates beautiful ceramic jewellery here in Cornwall. She shapes the clay into her desired design, and is incredibly skilled as is evident from the delicate and detailed forms she makes.

It’s a slow process, with plenty of drying, kiln time, and cooling time allowed, all of which harden and strengthen the porcelain. Rach sometimes finishes her pieces with vibrant platinum, which acts as the perfect full stop for her designs. The final stage is to attach the fastenings, whether that’s stud earring backs, or necklace chains. Rach uses ethical sterling silver where she can, and is committed to zero waste.

Porcelain mini scallop shell studs handmade by Rach Richardson

Scallop Shell Studs by Rach Richardson £32

Porcelain Clam Shell pendant on silver chain handmade by Rach Richardson

Clam Shell Pendant by Rach Richardson £34

How artisans source and shape sea glass to create beautiful handmade contemporary jewellery

Sea glass is a beautiful way to replicate colourful gemstones with none of the ethical conflict. Once found on the beach, you can turn your sea glass into a ring, necklace, or bangle. At Inspire Makers we work with jeweller Laura Talbot of Porth Jewellery who also runs sea glass jewellery workshops, making your sparkling beach find even more special.

If that sounds like a little bit too much hard work on your end, Laura also has a regular collection of Cornish sea glass jewellery in Inspire Makers, ready to buy. 

Once she has collected her sea glass, and thought about which item of jewellery it might be best for, Laura sets about creating a bezel to house it in.

Ring Pirate Gyllyngvase

Sea Glass Ring (Pirate, Gyllyngvase) by Porth Jewellery £85

Piece of green seaglass set into silver on a chain by Porth Jewellery

Sea Glass Pendant (Green, Bream Cove) by Porth Jewellery £75

How to choose the perfect handmade piece of contemporary jewellery

Now we’ve outlined some of the innovative handmade jewellery techniques, which one will you go for? Choosing a piece of jewellery can feel like a big choice, and it should. It’s far more sustainable to invest in fewer pieces which will last longer. Therefore, it’s worth spending a little time considering your purchase.

Do you want a statement piece of jewellery for special occasions? Or perhaps you want something special to wear everyday. For a statement piece, you can go for something impactful without worrying too much about the durability. For jewellery to wear every day, you want to consider how hard wearing it is, and whether your lifestyle suits it.

Unusual handmade jewellery

We’re advocates of finding and nurturing your own style, and jewellery is a great way to do this. Here are a few of our more unique handmade pieces in the shop that will bring a lot of fun to your jewellery box.

Pair of earrings made from blue feathers displayed in black box on linen by Saffron & Peach

Saffron and Peach Blue and Yellow Macaw Earrings £48.50

Tragopan Earrings

Saffron and Peach Domesticated Tragopan Earrings £48.50

Pair of teal perspex and pewter contemporary drop earrings and matching pendant on waxed grey cord by Ceciel Van Oevelen

Teal Mirrored Acrylic and Pewter Jewellery by Ceciel Van Oevelen £95

Clear Ring

Clear Ring by Ceciel Van Oevelen £125

Silver handmade contemporary jewellery

Silver jewellery is a classic style staple, and we are so thrilled to stock the work of Cornish jewellers working with silver in Inspire Makers.

Cornish Hedgerow Bangle

 C Jane Jewellery Cornish Hedge Bangle £120

Silver Seafoam Pendant

C Jane Jewellery Sea Foam Pendant £85

Single Silver Ring Pendant.

Zoe Howarth Single Silver Ring Pendant £45

Silver Bangle

Laura Drayson Silver Bangle £65

There we have it—a whistle-stop tour of handmade jewellery techniques and Cornish jewellers utilising them so brilliantly. Although jewellers may use versions of the same techniques, their design approaches differ hugely, and the resulting jewellery is unique and a testament to their individual creativity.

We offer handmade jewellery to suit all budgets, with affordable Cornish jewellery and fine jewellery from precious metals within our collection.

Want To Hear More? We Would Love To Hear From You. 

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