Unearthing nature's treasures with jeweller Ruth Tomlinson

Ruth Tomlinson's jewellery holds a very special place in my heart. It was with one of her beautiful antique cut diamond rings that R asked me to marry him one windy September evening on a beach in Pembrokeshire as the sun went down, and it was with two of her wedding rings that we exchanged our vows in a sunlit field in Wales in front of our families and friends 10 months later. 

When Ruth asked me if I would be interested in collaborating with her therefore, I didn't hesitate. I have followed the development of her work over the last few years and remain as enchanted by her jewels as I was when I initially came across them 5 years ago. 

One of the aspects of Ruth's work that fascinates and delights me is its deep connection with the natural world, and the strong sense of the mystery and wonder of nature that her pieces evoke. The intricacies and curiosities of nature are a constant source of inspiration for my own textile art, and so I was particularly interested to find out more about Ruth's personal relationship with nature, and the way in which this informs the unique style of her jewellery. 

Your work is heavily inspired by the shapes, patterns and textures of the natural world. What sort of natural objects are you drawn to, and how do you translate these into your designs?

I’m always looking for the unconventional beauty in the world. I guess you could say I’m very inspired by the Japanese concept of wabi sabi meaning "perfectly imperfect". I am fascinated by the entirety of nature's life cycle and often see beauty in the unfinished or even in the first stages of decay, both in the natural world and among the objects in my life. I am wide open to the idea of beauty in the world and can find it in a common weed or a rarity in nature that I will most probably see only once, like the way a shell might be attached to a twig.


You have an amazing collection of "found" treasures that you've picked up on your travels, which inspire your work. When did you start collecting objects?

My interest in collecting treasures was definitely inspired by the way my family taught me to look at and appreciate the natural world from a young age.  I learnt very early on to enjoy the free things in life, from a shell on the beach to a flower in the woodland. Another strong influence on me was a curiosity cabinet made up of big drawers divided into tiny match box size sections belonging to my inspirational Aunt and Uncle, whom I lived with as a child. They had the most amazing collection of minutiae, from tiny bird skulls to Italian millefiori glass. I was encouraged to add to the collection myself, and thereby developed an instinctive sense of the precious and curious. From the age of about 4 years old I have therefore been fascinated by tiny curiosities and collections, but I like to think my eye has developed over the years.

When did your fascination with nature begin? Have you always enjoyed spending time outside?

Yes, nature is in my soul! I grew up developing a very strong and even magical connection with nature. I spent lots of my childhood by the sea and walking in the Lake District. I think that you can learn all you need to by watching, understanding and witnessing the natural world around you. It puts everything into perspective!

Which natural places inspire and refresh you? Where do you go to escape city life?

My calling is definitely to the sea! I was brought up on the salty sea air of Morecambe bay in Lancashire and now that I live in London I find that I need a regular fix  of the wide expanse and possibilities of the ocean in order to feel connected to the rest of the world.  I am drawn to the sea wherever I travel, whether I'm in Australia or in the UK.

The jewels pictured above are taken from Ruth's "Hoard" and "Lustre" collections, which contain some of my favourite pieces . Both collections draw heavily on the minute intricacies and ancient details of the natural world, and all of the pieces have a wonderfully organic, honest feel which I think is what I love most about them. Ruth regularly uses raw, uncut diamonds, which creates a purity and authenticity to her work, and which connects the pieces directly to the earth and rock from which the stones have come.  Somehow, she manages to capture the rich and singular beauty of the natural world, while also celebrating its irregularity and inherent imperfection. This, I think, is what makes her jewellery both unconventional and unique. 

Ruth is opening her lovely East London studio as part of the Cockpit Arts Open Studios between 9 and 11 June (this coming weekend!) if you fancy popping in to meet her and take a closer look at her pieces. More information about Ruth and her beautiful jewellery can be found here

This post was created in collaboration with Ruth Tomlinson but all thoughts and opinions are 100% mine. 

Mary x