OffeRings part 2: Gifting treasure back to the River Thames
Having conceptualised the idea of incorporating unearthed historical "treasures" from mudlarking on the Thames foreshore into a set of rings, Ruth imbued each design with a sense of the found materials' own history.
Inspired by bygone eras and the richness of nature’s imperfections, Ruth set out to create a modern statement with a nod to the historical riches of the Thames. Each one-off ring carries the story of its past while becoming a wearable treasure to be carried into the future.
Consciously choosing not to fashion a conventionally beautiful collection, the OffeRings’ imperfect nature reflects both the experience of mudlarking and the effects of time and water on the materials.
Ruth was particularly drawn to the decaying nails she discovered which had bonded with stone and gravel to create unique forms, offering a fascinating depiction of decay coupled with the creation of a new object.
Regulated by The Crown Estate and the Port of London Authority, mudlarkers are not permitted to profit from their findings. So, taking inspiration from the Hindu philosophy of pooja, Ruth decided to send these rings back into the river as a true offering for posterity; a gift to lay dormant until discovered by future mudlarkers or passers by in years to come.
Whilst some associate mudlarking with a sense of the lost, Ruth enjoys the mudlarking mentality of bringing back a sense of the ‘found’, allowing us to connect with rediscovered objects to better understand the past and the histories of our communities.
Ruth hopes to highlight the hidden beauty and rich historical provenance of London through this new collection which is often overlooked and obscured due to the murkiness of the river.
“This project was a step on from our Encrustations collection which shows the jewels as coral reefs, all teeming with life. But these ring designs weren’t based on an idyllic concept. It is more about the here and now and what we have in front of us when we really look at the Thames, the City... I am keen to highlight the hidden beauty potentially overlooked within the dirty Thames.”
With the Thames currently changing shape, the river is believed to be offering up more treasures than usual to mudlarkers on the lookout for interesting discoveries. Amongst Ruth's finds were a clutch of garnets, Tudor brass dressmaking pins, glass beads dating back to circa Roman times, an array of nails in varying states of decay, and various natural remnants such as broken shells and animal bones. Combining these materials with intricate gold work, Ruth created 4 unique pieces:
OffeRing 1: Destiny of the Thames Garnets
Materials: Thames garnets, 14ct yellow gold set with garnet fragments.
"This ring realises the destiny of the garnets, so it is set in gold and accompanied by garnet dust. For centuries, people have used crushed garnets for its abrasive properties so I wanted to honour that. It raises the question of how they came to be in the Thames. Did a heist go wrong? Were in a bag dropped by The East India Company while unloading a ship? Or perhaps they were lost by the Anglo Saxons who used to use them a lot in jewellery."
OfferRing 2: Mudlarkers
Materials: Thames garnets, Tudor brass dressmaking pin, 18ct white gold.
"This ring is about discovery and looking closer to find the garnets amongst the gravel, needing an eye for the minutiae, but also emphasising preciousness as a contrast to the mud and earth. To draw the eye in to discover the tiny details, a small inscription for the finder of the ring has been engraved into its surface. Reminiscent of a Victorian poesy ring, the message reads “I am yours”."
OffeRing 3: Time Capsule
Materials: Ancient green and yellow beads, broken glass, abalone shell, rusted metal, 18ct yellow gold.
"This ring isn’t about inherently precious materials, but about the pure preciousness and value of time. These objects have existed for hundreds - some thousands - of years before us and will continue long into the river’s future."
OffeRing 4: Homage to the Craftsperson & Pin Maker
Materials: Thames garnets, Tudor brass dressmaking pins, 18ct yellow gold.
"This ring was created to honour the London pin makers: women and girls who handmade these pins to fasten incredible Tudor clothing, as well as the other craftspeople from a bygone era. This was important as so many fragments found in the Thames were originally created by craftspeople."
Connecting to the past and understanding historical cultures is central to Ruth’s inspiration for her jewellery, with the OffeRings collection designed to offer the finder a sense of the Thames’ richness and the effects of time on both man and nature’s creations.
To Ruth, the Thames represents eternal flow with the objects it holds reminding us of the permanence of nature’s materials, contrasting with the fragility of human existence and the transience of ownership.
Creating the collection has allowed Ruth to express her personal interpretation of treasure. Every mudlarker searches for their own treasure through their own lenses, with Ruth drawn to objects illustrating the imperfect collaboration of man and nature, exemplified by the rusted metal in the Time Capsule OffeRing. Such an approach allows for the creation of a new history by opening a new chapter in the life of the material...
The Thames OffeRings will be available to view at our atelier on Thursdays and Fridays, 9am-5pm, from 28 October - 19 November 2021. No appointment necessary.
Read more about this story in the Financial Times