Thursday, April 12, 2012


Sterling Silver Spooky Tree Pendant Necklace
Named after the first explorer to circumnavigate New Zealand, Captain James Cook, Mount Cook (also known by its Maori name, Aoraki) is the tallest mountain in New Zealand. 

Due to its stormy peaks only skilled climbers scale its heights.  New Zealand is also home to Ashley Hilton.

Although the good-natured, flirtatious e-mails of an unwitting male customer suggests otherwise, don’t let the first name fool you; Hilton is a bona-fide, red-blooded male!  

Like many jewelry artisans from New Zealand including Ruth Baird, Lynn Kelly, Louise Douglas, and Jasmine Watson the country’s unique landscape is a powerful muse to the one-time chef.

His subdued, hushed aesthetic is counterbalanced with engraved imagery of “spooky” tree roots, dandelion puffs, and Kanuka trees.  While his collections do not possess statement making razzle-dazzle these classic designs of sterling silver, 14-karat gold and titanium are imbued with a charming nuance.

“I began making jewelry in 2003 and the relationship between creativity and construction intantly clicked.  The way in which the tools, materials, process and design affect each other has driven me.

I try to reflect both the human and natural environment in my work by using symbols and materials that have meaning to me and represent where I come from.”

Sterling Silver Art Deco Rose Ring
Hilton’s understated cuff bracelets, gold rings and gold pendants also reflect his concern for the environment.  After carefully researching the impact of gold mining, Hilton was determined to create eco-friendly jewelry. 

Initially he was not sure on how to proceed and was concerned he would have to give up doing something he loved; but he then realized the solution was right in front of him. 

“I source my gold locally in my hometown of West Coast of the South Island.  My dad had been a gold prospector for years and I remembered that he had done a couple of seasons work as part of a two-man operation right here on the west coast of New Zealand,” he recalls.

“My father used a vaccum device to collect beach gold.  No huge pit mines; no gallons of cyanide dumped on the ground; no exploitation of communities.  There is a community of people here who prospect for gold using small-scale, home-built machinery. 

As the price of gold has gone up drastically, it is making this kind of mining more viable.   I like the idea of getting gold directly from the person who mined it to the person who wears it with just me in-between.”

Hilton brings a straightforward yet distinctive flair to his ready-to-wear and custom jewelry pieces like his sterling silver apple and peach rings made from thin sheets of the metal.  Again, the engraved outlines of indigenous plant-life featured on everything from dangle earrings men’s cufflinks and pendant necklaces evoke crisp, clean air within a natural setting.

“I realized pretty quickly that not only would jewelry making allow me to put my design skills to good use it would give me the perfect excuse to buy all kinds of awesome tools and spend hours tinkering away.”
Sterling Silver Kanuka Grove Earrings
Be sure to check out Hilton's Etsy store.
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