Wild Jewelry by Design: Ethically Sourced Jewelry Design Ideas

Design Idea J520 Bracelet

Before we begin, and this might be something that will be referenced several times throughout this article: Fire Mountain Gems and Beads sources all our animal products, be it bone, leather, feathers or anything else, in ethically only ways. Our products are collected only as by-products of other industries that do not waste parts from the animals. We do not carry any products that would be produced in a manner that wastes animal parts. It's for this reason why certain products, such as those from rabbits, the saddle feathers of birds and others, will never be carried by Fire Mountain Gems.

We also try to take into consideration religious observances when it comes to our animal products, for example many of our bone and horn products come from India where religious observances require that products be harvested only from an animal that has died of natural causes. Our feathers are from natural molting and never from a bird killed specifically for its feathers. Our animal leather products likewise are taken as a by-product of animals that were legally killed for their meat, such as deer. And we at Fire Mountain Gems take pride in this fact and commitment. As a result of this commitment, however, our ability to get these items in may be limited, creating a backlog.

There is no denying the appeal of feathers, leather, bone, horn and other animal products in jewelry designs. Diverse in trends, but never ordinary, animal products are posh and affluent, exotic and enviable, often wild and primal. Finding inspiration is definitely not the challenge when working with these items, but what can do you so with so many choices? Do you go with our ethically sourced leather goods, or our ethically sourced feathers, or our bones, teeth or any number of other products?

Wild by Design

Leather Goods

When it comes to leather, there are plenty of design inspirations for you to draw from and more products than you could shake a stick at. Take for example this trio of leather themed products; this kumihimo leather cord bracelet, braided leather bracelet and ring with a leather cord over it surface.

All three of these fill several different fashion trends and could be great gifts for men or women. The ring, for example, is very minimalistic and features the simplistic geometric design of circles on the surface. The kumihimo leather bracelet could be a great summer trend with its warm colors and all you need to do is swap the charms out with whatever you find the most interesting or your favorite hobby. The other bracelet can have a vintage-like feel when antiqued sterling silver beads are included, and its tightly weaved design could make it appear older than it is.

Wild by Design
Wild by Design
Wild by Design

Speaking of the geometric design aesthetic, Kandinsky Band is also one that features the growing popularity of the geometric designs while still feeling rugged. But if something that is more masculine is what you're aiming for, you can combine the feel and look of leather with warrior-esque designs. The following three designs are examples of this, combining the look of chainmaille, wireworking, and leather to create a more masculine design.

The first, which features an embossed metal sheet over leather and chainmaille wireworking, takes the traditional feminine jewelry and turns them into bracelets that men could wear paired and feel a boost of confidence. Warrior cultures have always been a source of fascination and pride for those that can trace their roots back to those cultures or just to be emulated as a way of thinking; jewelry in these designs are always gobbled up. For those that look at the Nordic Vikings as a source of inspiration, this combination of chainmaille ring with leather and chainmaille single strand necklace features the small icon of Mjölnir.

Wild by Design
Wild by Design

However, leather designs don’t only have to be masculine, as you can very easily turn these designs into some wonderful and beautiful additions to any outfit. Gabriella Necklace from Bead and Button Magazine, for example, features faux leather, plenty of seed beads and Swarovski® crystals that creates a completely stunning and beautiful look that shimmers with a thousand little stars. You could also take an idea from the design featured here, also from Bead and Button Magazine, with its bib-style design more freely showing off the leather and pearls. But not every design needs to be bulky, and you can just as easily create minimalistic designs from leather. The earrings featured here have a simple and minimalistic look, until you get closer and realize the detail work put into the edge of the leaf-shaped leather.

Wild by Design

Designing with Feathers

Ever since I started taking part in charity dances and fundraising balls, I've had a soft spot for ballroom dance. While my masks are never the most stylized or intricate, as men's masquerade masks tend to be when they aren't handmade, whenever I get the chance to feature some feathers on it, I jump at the chance.

Both designs feature not only feathers, but absolutely amazing detail on their seed bead work. Mask, featuring the Venetian colombina style of mask, has a cute pig tail-like design with its dyed and natural feathers and colored ribbons. However, upon closer inspection you'll realize that the entire face of the mask has been done over in seed beads. And then just look at this beautiful design below, by artist Deborah Weaver, who took the volto below and decorated the entire surface of the full-face mask in multiple types of seed beads and Swarovski crystals, and then affixed beautiful peacock and dyed feathers to the crown.

Design Idea E638 Mask

For a more gothic feel, especially for those late-night dinners where murder mysteries may or may not be on the menu, Bead and Button Magazine provided a piece that features feathers more so as an accent to the overall appearance. However, like the bird that the piece is named after, The Raven feels very much in place in an Edgar Allen Poe story, or worn around the neck of a vampire looking to make a statement.

But not everything featuring feathers needs to be relegated to the extravagant and thematic; sometimes you can do much with just a little accenting of a necklace. These peacock feathers, for example, almost look like the Hamsa hand, ready to protect its wearer from evil forces. However, the entire look of the gold chain, African ''jade'' and lapis lazuli dyed howlite make for a beautiful design that can work with a number of outfits.

Design Idea 686C Necklace

Teeth and Bone Jewelry

Bone jewelry has been a design shared throughout cultures since people first started to wear jewelry. The bleached white produced such a jarring visual against the skin tone that it would draw your attention immediately to it. It was a sign of manhood for some cultures. In Africa, bone bracelets were used to honor and please the gods, and in the Middle East they were a sign of wealth and status.

Bone jewelry no longer needs to be a sign of status or wealth, but it can still be a beautiful statement when it comes to jewelry. You don’t need to walk around with just some teeth hanging from a cord and can create jewelry for every season. For example, when it comes to the summer months, you could wear this beautiful necklace featuring an antiqued bone sea horse inside of a gold cage. It's simple, beautiful and combines the beauty of bone with the whimsy of the seahorse.

Design Idea 687H Necklace

Or instead, if you want something that could be described as a more unisex design, you could incorporate multiple intricately carved antiqued bone and plenty of other beads. It has a pacific islander feel but does not try to appropriate any one culture. It features geometric carvings across its many surfaces, creating a different design with each bead. A clever beader may even tell a story by using bone beads in a specific order.

For a more fall-feeling bone design, there is this adorable moon face set into multiple beads including Czech fire-polished glass beads and Miyuki glass seed beads. It's cutesy, a little creepy, but if you swapped out the purple beads for orange, you could easily turn this into a wonderful Halloween-themed piece.

Now that you're a little more familiar with feathers, bones and leather designs, you can start creating your own. If you want even more detail about any of the products, see additional resources down below. But those can wait, I'm sure you've got plenty of ideas of your own already, so get to making!

Design with ... Additional Resources ...

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