A cuff of the ‘shiniest biological material on Earth’

Published:  April 4, 2014

The glossy, unpigmented surface structure of the Pollia condensata berry, or marble berry, has the highest level of reflectivity found in nature. Native to west African forests, this type of reflection is known as ‘structural coloration’, and its unique ability to hold this colour caused it to be studied by scientists in 2012 after they noticed that a specimen of the berry in Kew Gardens had not lost any of its iridescence in 40 years.

The findings also caught the attention of Bompas & Parr. Known for their early work as master jellymongers, the duo have gone on to create increasingly ambitious food-based installations (such as a walk-in cloud of gin and tonic) and projects of unusual multi-disciplinary artistic collaboration. The commissioned an expedition into Africa to collect a small batch of the uncommon berries, and worked in collaboration with jewellery designer Maud Traon in using them in a decorative, wearable piece.

“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,” commented Harry Parr of Bompas & Parr. “As the pixilated colour of the Pollia condensata is inherent to the structure of the berry, rather than pigmentation, it will never fade.”

In a collaboration with award-winning contemporary jewellery designer Maud Traon, known for her freeform, organic approach, the rare pollia berries were worked into a ‘slave cuff’, entwined in sterling silver alongside other gems.

“Even though Pollia berries are completely natural, there is something curiously ‘artificial’ about the way they look… 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.”

Whether you think it is incredible or ostentatious, this feat of biology, jewellery and design is almost certainly out of your price range, at £9800 ($17 600AUD).


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