Pollia Condensata Slave Cuff

The world’s shiniest biological material made into jewellery - For Sale

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Pollia condensata berries, the world’s shiniest biological material, made into jewellery for the first time - London 2014

London, England: Bompas & Parr has combined the planet’s shiniest biological material, the Pollia condensata or marble berry, with sterling silver to create a world first in decorative jewellery.

In a collaboration with award-winning contemporary jewellery designer Maud Traon, known for her freeform organic approach, the rare pollia berries sit alongside other metals and gems in an explosive setting with a riotous colour palette.

Marble berries are an intriguing iridescent blue colour, covered with a glossy cell matrix that reflects light equivalent to around a third the level of a silver-backed mirror.

It is the glossy, unpigmented surface structure of the berries, which are native to west African forests, that result in the highest level of reflectivity found in nature. This type of reflection is known as ‘structural coloration’ and is created by what’s known as Bragg reflection from spirally stacked cellulose microfibrils in the walls of the glossy surface cells. The different spacings between the strands in each cell reflect light of different wavelengths, producing the iridescent blue coloring of the plant.

This was discovered in 2012 by scientists who were intrigued by a the specimen of the P. condensata berry that had been at Kew since 1974 without loosing its intense colour. Researchers from Kew, the University of Cambridge and the Smithsonian Natural History Museum were intrigued and set about discovering how the plant could keep its colour for  so long. Their results were published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences with the marble berry recognised as the ‘brightest biological substance’ in nature.

For Bompas & Parr, this is the latest in a line of unusual multi-disciplinary artistic hook-ups. Known for their early work as jellymongers, Bompas & Parr have gone on to create increasingly ambitious food-based installations such as a walk-in cloud of gin and tonic and London’s recent Multisensory Fireworks for New Year’s Eve.

Harry Parr of Bompas & Parr comments: “Marble berries are pure, nature bling, but they are not exactly abundant – we had to commission an expedition into the Ghanaian jungle to secure a supply of them. As the shiniest naturally occurring objects, birds have used pollia berries to adorn their nests, but it’s surprising that they haven’t been used in jewellery up to now, especially when you consider you don’t have to process them as you would an uncut diamond.

“The result is a piece of wearable art that fuses fashion and nature. As the pixilated colour of the Pollia condensata is inherent to the structure of the berry, rather than pigmentation it will never fade. “

And their curiously ‘pixellated’ appearance resonated with Maud Traon, recipient of two awards for pushing the boundaries of art and design, and who recently participated in Le Parcours du Bijou exhibition in Paris’s Musee des Arts Décoratifs.

She said: “Even though Pollia berries are completely natural, there is something curiously ‘artificial' about the way they look. I thought they were perfect for my signature style of maximalist, colourful and glittery jewellery. I was inspired to create a larger piece of jewellery than normal - the cuff is almost entirely covered with gradient colour navette stones sticking out of incredible splashes of colours and metal, all carefully holding the precious marble berries.

“The result creates a strange mix between what is real and what is artificial."

The one-off cuff is available for sale, priced at £9800, and can be purchased through our webshop.

For more information about the project, contact Sam Bompas, on sam@bompasandparr.com or call +44 (0)207 403 9403.

Photography by Ann Charlott Ommedal.