Tessa Packard recycled plastic jewellery: vintage Americana

Tessa Packard’s recycled plastic jewellery celebrates vintage Americana

The Plastic Fantastic collection sets precious gems in recycled lucite and resin

Recycled plastic may not be the first material that springs to mind when it comes to fine jewellery, but when set with a rainbow of precious gems, it makes for pieces both precious and sustainable.

Jeweller Tessa Packard’s new collection, Plastic Fantastic, celebrates unexpected combinations and joyful design ticks in a range of rings, necklaces and cuffs. ‘I like playing around with how certain materials sit together – in this case gold and gemstones and plastic,’ she says. ‘The last collection we launched did the same with verdigris, and previous to that porcelain and bone. There’s something about contrasting matte textures against shiny metal or stone that I find extremely appealing, possibly because it calms down the intensity of the ‘bling’ and makes even the most statement of jewellery wearable from morning to night.’

The collection is inspired by Florida in the Fifties, paying tribute to the joyful explosion of colour in the decades following WWII. ‘It’s about as Americana retro as you can get,’ Packard adds.

The jewellery is created from a combination of vintage lucite and home-made resin which, in some pieces, is set with precious gemstones. Clear acrylic plastic – or lucite – was a popular choice for costume jewellery in the 1940s and 50s, although notoriously difficult to recycle: one of the reasons Packard was keen to utilise it now.

‘As long as you get your ratios right, pouring resin is a fairly simple craft to grasp,’ says Packard. ‘It only gets complicated when you get the proportions wrong and the resin doesn’t set. Once the resin is set you can’t reverse the design. Vintage lucite and acrylic are easy to work with in the sense that they take little effort or skill to drill – which is necessary if you want to set gemstones into it. Like epoxy resin, however, they don’t take kindly to mistakes. It doesn’t have the same easy ‘recycling’ properties like silver or gold, where you can melt the metal down and start again. And that, in short, is one of the reasons why plastic is such a problem in this day and age.’

The mix of traditionally high and low materials and an abundance of colour capture all the fizz of a pool party. Pearls are set in resin in the Coco Gone Loco earrings, while a brass, acrylic and lapis lazuli Palm Beach necklace adds a zinging play on texture. Aquamarine is enveloped by vintage lucite in a cocktail ring, while shells and smoky quartz sink into mustard-hued resin in the Thousand Island earrings.

‘This is the era of polka dots, ice cream sundaes, sweet-heart necklines, glamorous Hollywood starlets, shiny Cadillacs, Grease Lightning and the birth of Barbie,’ says Packard. ‘As a designer, it is such a rich era in history to glean inspiration from, and one that I think most adults (through popular culture or film) can identify with. And who doesn’t love a sunny day by a really luxurious pool?’ Not us – pass us a cocktail. §