Guest Blog: Mudlarking finds transformed into unique jewellery

At our most recent event, the Galapagos Garden Party, we hosted an auction to raise money for the Galapagos Future Fund. One piece that saw a lot of interest was a necklace made from clay pipe fragments. It helped us raise an amazing £750 towards the future conservation of the Galapagos Islands. In this guest blog designer, Jane Parker, tells us all about how she started making jewellery by recycling her riverbed finds. 

necklace example

An example of a necklace made from clay fragments.

The River Thames has for many centuries been a big draw for the mudlarker. Hundreds of years of history along this major thoroughfare means all sorts of things have been lost or discarded within its murky depths and washed up on its foreshores. It’s said that 200 years ago there were so many boats on the river that one could walk across them from North to South without getting wet! 

Under Blackfriars Bridge looking towards Tate Modern and the City.

Under Blackfriars Bridge looking towards Tate Modern and the City.

Victorian mudlarkers eked out a living digging in the Thames silt looking for items to sell in exchange for food and lodgings. Today’s mudlarkers are mostly searching for archaeological antiquities and to do this they must hold one of a handful of foreshore permits available from the Port of London Authority (PLA) and restrictions apply.

Jane Amelia Parker likes to turn her finds into new and useful things. She has a special, one of a kind, PLA permit that specifically allows her to collect fragments of old clay smoking pipes and turn them into beautiful and unique jewellery pieces, small accessories and items of print.

Jane told us, “The idea first came to me in 2010 when I was on the foreshore at Wapping after a visit to the Museum of London Docklands. I found a handful of beautifully coloured short fragments of clay pipe stems all with different colours and patinations and to me they looked like slender tubes of marble. I knew that they would make a fantastic necklace. So I cleaned them thoroughly and threaded them up. That one necklace received great compliments and so I was encouraged to create a full range which now includes many more necklace styles, earrings, bracelets, cuff links, key rings, plus items of print featuring my collages and small leather accessories.

“I never cut or colour the fragments. I am particularly drawn to the ones that have been eroded and coloured by time and tide over the centuries. My work brings together my loves of London, history, recycling and puzzles because matching up fragments of the same length and colour can often be the most time-consuming part of the process.

“Every fragment is totally unique and therefore every necklace, every bracelet, every key ring is a one-off. – who knows what stories they could tell…”

jane-amelia parker


cardsJane trades as Amelia Parker and sells directly to the public online through her Etsy store, and at occasional London markets and events. A selection can also be bought from gift shops at The Foundling Museum, The Old Royal Naval Collage, The Wellcome Collection in London and the Museum of The Gorge in Shropshire.

You can find out more about Jane via her website, Facebook page, Twitter page or through her online shop

Words and photos by Jane Parker


Upcoming GCT Events

Our next event will be Galapagos Day on 01 October 2015 at the Royal Geographical Society (with IBG) in London. At this marine-themed event we’ll be celebrating the incredible diversity of the Galapagos Marine Reserve with talks from TV presenter, Monty Halls, and award-winning filmmaker, James Brickell. With Galapagos-themed art and an exhibition of artefacts from Darwin’s HMS Beagle voyage, we have got it all covered. To round off the evening, we will be giving away a fantastic selection of prizes in our Galapagos Day raffle. If you would like to join us for this exciting evening of underwater discovery click here to buy your ticket

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