Sorrel Bay is one of the leading lights in ethical jewellery, and it has just dropped a brand new collection, Linea. The hand-hewn Fairtrade or recycled gold jewels have a thoughtfully textured finish inspired by designer Marie Walshe’s fascination with the rugged Sussex coastline she lives on.
“Texture has always played a huge part in how I use gold,” says Walshe. “I am fascinated with rock formations. The chalk formations revealed at low tide along the south coast [of England] are millions of years old and have the most stunning worn markings from millennia of tidal ware. It’s truly fascinating and incredibly inspiring, therefore such details end up within my collections.”
Set into the gold of the Sorrel Bay Linea collection are a selection of off-beat gems including raw Australian opals, irregular hand-cut indicolite tourmalines, rose-cut included grey diamonds and fern-like dendritic agates. Such geologically interesting gemstones are a hallmark of Walshe’s work.
“The true magic of how a gem is formed deep within the ground, the precise chemical combinations that occur, by chance, to create the gems that we use will never cease to amaze me,” she says.
Walshe talks enthusiastically about the background of such gems: dendritic agates are formed over thousands of years from iron ore growth between the growing layers of the agate; Australian opals are formed deep underground in the desert from the leftover silica residue from long-disappeared running water; Afghanistan indicolite tourmalines are formed in the veins of molten magma. “I could go on,” she cries. “I love the DNA of the gemstones – the inclusions, the visible growth within them. I do not see them as flaws. Nothing in life is meant to be perfect or flawless. It seems a shame to shun the one thing that makes everything so unique. No two growth patterns can ever be the same. That’s truly special.”
Such connections with nature are incredibly important to Walshe, and a strong sense of eco activism flows through both her personal life and her work; she grew up in a household that cherished fairly traded goods and it’s a passion she’s passed on to her own children. A tagline of Sorrel Bay is ‘conscious luxury’, a term that Walshe has actually trademarked as she feels it best sums up her approach to making jewellery.
“Now, so many words are banded around – ethical, sustainable, transparent – and while we are, for the most part, attempting to be all those things [at Sorrel Bay], what I know I am being is conscious, in all aspects of my life, not just my work,” says Walshe. “I love making precious pieces, future heirlooms that will be treasured. My work is not cheap or throwaway; it’s forever, it’s for handing down through generations.”