Bejewelled Snake Ear Clip

This was arguably the most challenging, political and life affirming commission created to date. A hearing impaired client wanted to create a piece of jewellery which would challenge stigmas associated with hearing loss and hearing aids.

The ear clip is the client’s instrument to be social and ultimately to draw attention to her ears and prompt discussion and debate to promote awareness.

 

Bejewelled Snake Ear Clip

This was arguably the most challenging, political and life affirming commission created to date. A hearing impaired client wanted to create a piece of jewellery which would challenge stigmas associated with hearing loss and hearing aids.

The ear clip is the client’s instrument to be social and ultimately to draw attention to her ears and prompt discussion and debate to promote awareness.

Background

We were approached by a client who had experienced unexpected and significant hearing loss following surgery. This led to a period of intense personal crisis, largely due to her reservations about wearing a hearing aid. After finally overcoming her resistance and embracing the aids, the quality of her life improved instantly and immeasurably. Consequently, she embarked upon a mission to challenge pre-conceived notions of hearing loss, hearing aids, beauty- and by extension, the role played by jewellery in achieving this goal. This spear headed her determination to promote the importance of hearing health and de-stigmatise hearing aids. The gold, ruby and diamond ear clip is part of this crusade.

 

The Inspiration

After considerable discussion and research, a snake was considered the most suitable symbol to represent her struggle.

Snakes have been used extensively throughout literature and mythology (irrespective of culture), often representing a duality of good and evil. They can be referenced in biblical texts, ancient sacred sites and are inextricably linked with healing via the caduceus. Many snakes shed their skin so they are also associated with transformation.

Most importantly, they have neither limbs nor ears- they cannot hear… They have to rely on their other senses to make sense of the world. This particularly resonated with the client.

 

Developing the Design

We began by creating a wax sculpture directly on the client’s ear, which was further refined and eventually cast as a prototype in silver.

The shape of our ears are as unique to us as our fingerprints, so a number of further fittings were required to ensure that the form of the snake was perfect before being cast in gold. 

The Production Process

Once cast in 18 carat yellow gold, a cavity needed to be created to set the ruby head. A white gold mount was crafted by hand to encase the pear cut ruby, and then the ruby and diamonds were set. A hinged mechanism sits behind the ear lobe to give stability, security and support to the snake, which appears from below the lobe in two distinct sections. At this stage, the snake was polished, and we deliberated about the “skin”.

We felt that snake skin is so distinctive, that the ear clip was incomplete with a polished surface. The final stage was hand engraving the gold to create the desired texture.

A Collaboration of Skills

This commission is the epitome of the bespoke jewellery process.

It involved the collaboration of a number of outstanding craftspeople who were willing to wade into unfamiliar territory without precedent or reference point. The foundation of the design was a distillation of our client’s very personal situation, and resulted in a piece which is unique, beautiful, practical and resonates with the essence of the woman who commissioned it.

Never underestimate the power of jewellery to inform and challenge opinion. After all, the movement to increase awareness of AIDS began with a simple red ribbon pin, and Madeleine Albright, as US Secretary of State, frequently used her brooches to convey coded messages.

This snake ear clip is a striking and very personal reminder to the client about her mission to de-stigmatise hearing aids and hearing loss.