These jewelers are crafting unique designs from nature

Wear a piece of West Virginia!

The wild Mountain State abounds with natural riches: regal cliffs, deep hardwood forests, and hushed meadows. It’s so inspiring, artists turn to the wilderness for their necklaces, bracelets, and earrings.

Take a look at these studios:

Wildscape Jewelry

Though it seems unlikely, caddisfly cases make remarkable jewelry.

As larvae, these insects make protective coverings from pebbles, shells or whatever they find on the riverbed. They bind their handiwork with “silk” and develop inside; once they hatch, a glittering tube remains — a natural pendant of sorts.

It wasn’t missed on some people that caddisfly artistry had the potential to go even further. For example, what would happen if you introduced larvae to gold and precious stones?

That’s what Kathy Kyle Stout does at Wildscape Jewelry. From her home in Wheeling, she presents caddisflies with ornate material like amethysts, turquoise, tiger’s eye and more. The results are fascinating — and unusual to say the least.

A single caddisfly case decorates all of Kathy’s necklaces, earrings and bracelets. Since each one is made by an insect, no piece is alike. Most pieces are finished with strings of freshwater pearls, too.

Intrigued? Browse her website, place an order or request a custom design by Kathy and her caddisfly troupe.

Pretty Pickle

If you’ve ever wished an exquisite wildflower or leaf could last forever, Megan Brown does just that with her jewelry!

Using simple media like resin and bezels, this Fairmont artist preserves Pretty Pickle flower pendants, WVfragile flora and fauna as pendants. Megan doesn’t “gild the lily” with unnecessary ornamentation; nature’s glory is the jewel.

From her Etsy shop or site, you’ll find clear pendants of demure daisies, tiny maple leaves, Queen Anne’s lace and pansies. A few pieces have delightful still-life scenes, too, like a magenta carnation paired with a fern.

Megan even makes pendants and necklaces from real butterfly and moth wings! Clear resin seals each one, so all you see are rainbows, spots or iridescent glitter — just as visible as what you’d see on a living insect.

Best of all, Megan only sources wings from collectors or what she finds.

Visit her online gallery or shop at Tamarack; most Pretty Pickle pieces are reasonably priced, so the only problem you’ll have is picking your favorite!

WV Coal Jewelry Studio

The Mountain State’s foremost natural resource makes a dramatic statement as jewelry.

Brenda Johnson of Erbacon hails from a long line of coal miners, so it makes sense that she incorporates this glittery black rock into her artwork. Her Etsy gallery showcases jewelry like reversible pendants; crushed coal fills the backs of anything from little pocket watches to medallions.

Brenda spends hours working with her fragile medium. Using coal she sources from Webster County mines, the jeweler crushes it into a fine powder. Next, she pours jewelry resin into the cavity of a pendant. Coal follows. After a lengthy drying process, Brenda coats the back with acrylic sealant.

Medallions aside, her Etsy shop also boasts elegant teardrop pendants or more natural jewelry, like wire-wrapped coal.

Alterra WV

Wear pins made from feathers and firearm casings!

At this solar-powered farm, Bob Hoffa and Tenley Shewmake create Appalachian art and raise heritage livestock. Both pursuits occasionally merge into eye-catching jewelry.

Using feathers collected from their flocks of Chinese ringneck pheasants and guinea fowl, the artists create hat and lapel pins. Brass 12-gauge shells secure the spotted, striped and exotic plumes. The result is distinctive, with an unmistakable West Virginia vibe.

Kaizer Custom Knives

Daggers aside, this gallery has a hunter’s eye for pendants.

It’s not often that you find ornamental bear and wolf claws, but that’s exactly what Barry Kaizer crafts in his studio. Since 1985, he’s made elegant pendants from bone and precious media like turquoise, malachite and silver.

He also makes jewelry from antlers. Like the teeth and claw pendants, these are capped with precious stones and metals.

Feathers, leaves, flowers … what’s your favorite form of Mountain State jewelry?

This post was last updated on March 16, 2022