How to… make tribal jewellery

tribal trend
You don’t need to go to Africa to nail this season’s tribal trend. Priyanka Mogul explains how to wear it the eco-friendly way

‘Fashion is looking to indigenous tribes for trend inspiration,’ says Lianne Ludlow, director of ethical fashion site ‘Every season you see global influences in fashion from Africa to Peru and beyond on the catwalks, and always in jewellery.’ From Olivia Palermo at Paris Fashion Week to Jessica Alba at the CFDA Fashion Awards 2011, tribal is a trend that celebrities and fashion editors alike have taken to heart, with the result that it’s coming to a high street near you. ‘Each year the tribal look returns and more people have the confidence to wear large statement pieces which look stunning with the ever changing fashion,’ says Caroline Rutter, editor of style website of But you don’t have to go to Africa to pick up a piece of tribal jewellery. You don’t even have to hit the shops because tribal is one trend that translates easily to DIY. Not only can you cut carbon, you save pennies too. Fashionable and green; what’s not to like? Here’s how to get involved:

‘Tribal-themed jewellery has actually been popular for several years now, reappearing in different forms,’ says International Jewellery London’s event director, Syreeta Tranfield. ‘Ethnic influences from Africa, India, Asia, South America and more, as well as religious and cultural symbols, are an inspiration for this trend. It has a real international, exotic feel and is sometimes used to portray interesting eras in history around the world.’ Different people tend to associate tribal jewellery with different things. While some see it as being quite rustic, others stick to simple beaded chokers. ‘How we perceive it is very often quite rustic statement pieces made with bone, wood and beads,’ says Rutter. ‘It always looks great teamed with chunky layered bangles and earrings.  It can be very colourful as well as in muted natural tones.’

International Jewellery London is the UK’s major jewellery trade event. According to Tranfield, exhibitors are often inspired by their travels or heritage, leading to the creation of great tribal-themed collections. A recent example of such a designer is Sarah Ibrahim, who launched a collection that had a real ‘East-meets-West feel’ inspired by tribal jewellery from South East Asia. Another such designer is Sonal Talgeri-Bhaskaran who will be showcasing her new collection at this September's International Jewellery London event. New pieces made from silver, gold, rose gold vermeil and bronze, merge industrial and Indian style to create fashionable and easy-to-wear jewellery.

‘The idea of genuine tribal jewellery is to denote a position or status amongst a tribe so it can be ornate but is always based on organic shapes and colours seen in nature,’ says Ludlow. ‘As fashionistas, we have adopted the look and the modern take can include man-made materials and far from natural colours, such as perspex in fluoro colours, but always strong basic shapes.’

Make it
Making your own tribal jewellery isn’t hard and doesn’t require much time since it can be made with virtually any material. Look for fabric offcuts, old bits of rope and large beads - anything goes! ‘Firstly look for strong shapes, such as circles, inverse triangles,’ advises Ludlow. ‘Then decide what materials you want to use and let your imagination run wild. The larger the shapes the better, and it’s also worth making a curved piece of wood or perspex as a base on which you can place stones or beads or fabric. To mirror the chunky shapes, use chunky chains, leather or rope for the chain part of your piece.’

Ludlow explains that tribal jewellery can be altered to suit anyone’s taste because it’s all based upon the colours and materials used to create the pieces. While more ‘street’ and ‘youthful’ pieces include fluoro colours and modern materials such as Perspex, a pared down take on the trend could make use of wood and vintage beads.

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