Salvaged amber crafted into jewellery

Last updated 05:00 17/10/2012
Ian Douglas holds up
SALVAGED BEAUTY: Ian Douglas holds up "Crows Nest", a piece of jewellery he designed based on Amber salvaged from the Mikhail Lermontov.

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Amber salvaged from the wreck of a Russian cruise liner in the Marlborough Sounds more than two decades ago has been turned into pieces of wearable art.

After the Lermontov sank in 1986, businessman Bill Day, who was running a dive company at the time, retrieved broken pieces of amber jewellery, which were in a shop in the ship's mall.

He used the amber to make one or two pieces of jewellery at the time but forgot about the remaining pieces, which lay untouched at the Village Goldsmith in Wellington until last year.

Its creative director, Ian Douglas, said a request from a Swiss businessman for an amber pendant reminded him of the unused amber.

He and master jeweller Chris Persen turned it into 24 works which infuse the Baltic amber with New Zealand paua and gemstones.

"It was fantastic to pull this stuff out and start dreaming about what we could do with it; it was huge amounts of fun," Mr Douglas said.

The amber was unaffected by the salty sea water or having lain dormant for so many years, although the silver and metal fixtures and clasps were tarnished.

Some pieces have been used in that state and others have been polished to create the artistic jewellery pieces.

Mr Douglas said they were all designed to be worn. "Paua and amber are incongruous, they're not usually used together. [But] they have come right back into vogue."

The pieces are for sale, ranging from $1800 for Straight to the Heart, a pendant featuring a shard of paua stabbing through a piece of amber, to $13,200 for Crows Nest, a piece mimicking a crow's skull.

The works make up an exhibition, Lermontov: Lost and Found, opening at The Museum Hotel on Monday, October 29. It runs for one week.

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- The Dominion Post

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