A Sculptor in Gemstones: Charlotte De Syllas in the Goldsmiths’ Company Collection

By The Goldsmiths’ Company Curator, Dr Dora Thornton

Charlotte De Syllas’s exceptional technical mastery in gemstone carving makes her work look deceptively simple. She has a particular affinity with jade, which she transforms into flowing sculptural forms.

‘Swift’ brooch, 2012, Charlotte De Syllas, Private Collection.
Photography by Simon B Armitt.

Her ‘Swift’ brooch is a sensuous abstract sculpture in bicoloured Russian jade and is cut from a single piece. She has used the natural colouring in the layers of the stone to differentiate the brown wings from the white body. The shape is not exact but the curve in the stone suggests the bird’s swooping flight over water as it hunts. De Syllas lives in Norfolk, where she observes the swifts’ migration every year. The beautiful brooch from 2012 relates closely to a necklace in white nephrite jade which was commissioned by the Goldsmiths’ Company in 2013. It evokes flocks of migrating birds. Making it, De Syllas says, “I kept thinking of refugees ‘in flight’, longing for wings.”

‘Flight’ necklace, 2013, Charlotte De Syllas, Commissioned for the Goldsmiths’ Company Collection.
Russian white nephrite jade with 18 carat white gold joints and catch.
Photography by Simon B Armitt

The art of carving gemstones requires special artistic and technical skill. Charlotte De Syllas has created a unique body of work, giving jewellery a distinctive sculptural dimension. Here we show Charlotte’s process of creating jewellery, using both lapidary machines and hand finishing techniques.

Blocks of white jade on Charlotte’s workbench.
Charlotte rarely draws, instead she designs her pieces in 3D by creating a model.
The process of making the ‘Flight’ necklace starts with a plaster model. 
Individual segments are blocked out on Russian white nephrite jade. 
Individual segments are blocked out on Russian white nephrite jade. 
Carved jade segments for the ‘Flight’ necklace.
Individual segments in Russian white nephrite jade with 18 carat white gold joints.
Carved jade segments, front and back view.
Finished ‘Flight’ necklace, front and back view, photography by Simon B Armitt.

With special thanks to Charlotte De Syllas.

Object photography by Simon B. Armitt.

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