Jet McQuiston’s CSM MA Design Jewellery graduation collection ‘1 Minute to Midnight’ is inspired by a family heritage in conservation work. Her project explicitly focusses on our climate and biodiversity emergency, by heralding and commemorating vulnerable species and natural environments in precious jewels. Jet’s design process was informed by visits to private archives of Britain’s most eminent natural history museums. Here she worked closely with scientists exploring ways she could include details and data from critically endangered species in the jewellery.
Jet is inspired by the micro and microscopic forms seen in the endangered species that she features in her jewellery collections. For example, in her Threatened Sea Songes Statement Ring she used minuscule elements of sea sponges called ‘spicules’ to inform the shapes in the ring. She then incorporated the names of sponges that cure fatal illnesses such as HIV and leukemia under a sapphire crystal lens which both magnifies obscures the data mirroring the importance and plight of these precious species. Using objects like lenses and nano screws borrows vocabulary from the scientific community and is an important part of the design process.
Jet’s work is all handmade in Britain, using a range of craftspeople, heritage workshops and traditional processes. To incorporate tiny details in the jewellery, Jet uses a range of contemporary techniques that she researched and developed over the two year course of her MA including micro casting, laser engraving and CNC machining. Designing with ideas from science and technology communities is a crucial part of the approach with the project highlighting the value for a symbiotic relationship between the natural world, science and craftsmanship.
Jet’s graduation collection uses recycled materials – re-used gold, vitreous enamel and salvaged gemstones, including those inherited from family pieces. For these Genetic Surrogate Rings, Jet used the colours and forms of the eyes of these critically endangered species to inform the designs and incorporated an accurate identifying strand of genomic data under the surface of the enamel. She obtained this data from scientists at The Frozen Arc Project, who are aiming to preserve every species on Earth in light of the biodiversity crisis.
Use of advanced machine-led processes can be seen in Jet’s Biosphere Pendants that relate to different regions of the surface of the earth: the atmosphere, hydrosphere and lithosphere. Each pendant includes a spinning enamel piece of just 20mm that incorporates CNC micro engravings of 65 critically endangered species pertaining to these regions. The lid can be opened, and the sapphire crystal lens used by the wearer in order to inspect the names of these precious creatures. Some of the wold’s most critically endangered species can be found in this hydrosphere pendant including the vaquita, great whale shark and sea otter. Jet’s graduation collection can be thought of as contemporary mourning jewellery- a marker of our times.