Shakti Ellenwood makes a promise to her customers, one that ensures her authentically handcrafted jewellery is produced entirely ethically and responsibly. She does this by only using Fairtrade and conflict-free materials and personally handcrafting each and every one of her designs in her Somerset studio.
Her earthy and organic creations are a balanced blend of integrity and beauty. We chat with Shakti about how falling sick in India led her to finding her passion, blessing her jewellery and why she wants to remain as an independent artisanal brand.
When did you fall in love with jewellery?
“At 29 I found myself very sick in India. With a high fever, I was unable to look after myself. An Israeli man, Asi, who had a room upstairs from me, nursed me back to health. He was a jeweller and sat at a tiny bench, on the floor, hammering, soldering and sawing. Whilst I lay on his bed recuperating, I became fascinated by the intricacy and delicacy of the work. When it was time for me to leave, he presented me with a gold ring set with a Tibetan turquoise. It was the start of my love affair with precious metals and gemstones. I had found my passion.”
After you discovered your passion for jewellery how did you get into the industry?
“From India, I followed a boyfriend to San Francisco, where I was lucky enough to get a job as the registrar for the Revere Academy of Jewellery Arts. Fortune shined on me as they only had two administrative employees and one of them had handed in her notice the day before I sent in my resume. As I worked, I completed their Graduate Jeweller Program and then apprenticed under 5th generation Armenian master jeweller, Hratch Nargizian, for several years, who remains my mentor to this day.”
"An Israeli man, Asi, who had a room upstairs from me, nursed me back to health. He was a jeweller and sat at a tiny bench, on the floor, hammering, soldering and sawing."
What drove you to start your own jewellery line?
“From the time I began training as a goldsmith, the goal was to start my own business. All the women in my family have always had their own business’ so there was never any question in my mind that this is what I would do.”
What inspires your designs?
“I handcraft each jewel, with love, in my Somerset studio, which is attached to my home. I’m greatly influenced by the Ancient Egyptians and other ancient cultures, such as the Greeks and Romans. I also find inspiration in the wonderful jewellery created in the Victorian era, as well as ancient folklore which inspires my Animal Amulets collection. You can often find me at the British and the Victoria and Albert museums and I love to collect jewellery books about ancient and Victorian jewellery.”
"In 2015 I started my ‘Giving Back’ project, which this year is committed to donating to three environmental organisations and three animal welfare charities."
Values are really important us at Jewelstreet. What are your core brand values?
“At the heart of all my creations is my passion for ethical design. Every jewel I make uses 18kt Fairtrade gold and I only work with conflict-free gemstones and CanadaMark diamonds. All gemstones chosen are from trusted sources around the world that support small scale miners, benefit local communities and respect the environment. This commitment to ethical practises guarantees the provenance of each piece and ensures it is a thing of beauty from the inside out. My packaging is made using recycled paper and in 2015 I started my ‘Giving Back’ project, which this year is committed to donating to three environmental organisations and three animal welfare charities that help to save the orangutans and the elephants amongst other.”
What is the story behind your most meaningful piece of jewellery?
“The most meaningful piece of jewellery I have every received was a ring created for me from my mentor, Hratch Nargizian. He hand carved into the metal to create a woman surrounded by butterflies and flowers, who is holding up a lotus flower with a ruby at its centre. It deeply touched my heart to receive this most special of gifts.”
How do you want someone to feel when they are wearing your jewellery?
“I craft each piece using sung mantras (ancient Indian Sanskrit prayers) and icaros (spiritual songs from the Amazon) to imbue a blessing into them. My jewels are known as little gold prayers and I hope that all who wear my jewellery can feel this. My jewellery is designed to inspire the senses and touch the heart.”
"It is important to me that I can uphold my promise of authentically handcrafted products that have been produced ethically and responsibly."
Are there any clients who are particularly proud of?
“I have a long list of celebrities who have bought or worn my work, but the clients I am most proud of are the men who take a risk and buy a ring for their intended hoping she will say yes.”
What has been the high point of your career as a designer so far?
“My jewellery career has been more a series of little triumphant moments rather than having a big high point. However, I was asked by Marisa Tomei to create a set of my Chumana snake rings as presents for the cast of a production of ‘Salome’ on Broadway, that she was staring in with Al Pacino, which I’m pretty proud of.”
What does the future hold for your brand?
“I see my career as a journey as opposed to a destination. Within my work there is always the desire to improve upon my artistic as well as my technical skills. I am constantly learning, growing and creating – constantly wanting to do better and reach new heights. That is what drives me. I prefer to keep my business artisanal rather than become a massive company because it is important to me that I can uphold my promise of authentically handcrafted products that have been produced ethically and responsibly.”
Shakti Ellenwood's collection is available to shop on Jewelstreet here.