Gold recycled in reach

Photo by Allison DeHart

Lafayette jewelry maker JeLlyn Morvant always wanted to work in gold, but precious metal was usually out of reach and intimidating.

“I wanted to experiment with working with gold and incorporating differing casting techniques,” Morvant says of her new collection, Stay Golden, which launches this week at local women’s boutique kiki. It’s her first line to feature gold.

“I had never cut into gold or put it under fire before,” she says. “Working with such a luxurious metal came with an overwhelming sense of pressure, like I had no room for error.”

Heavily influenced by the creations of indigenous peoples throughout the Americas and Africa, Morvant has primarily worked in turquoise and other similar gemstones. Stay Golden features an assortment of newly crafted pieces in 14-22kt gold and rare turquoise, her preferred medium.

Stay Golden was enabled by ArtSpark, an individual artist funding program administered by the Acadiana Center for the Arts and supported by the Lafayette Economic Development Authority.

The funding helped her buy raw materials for the line, sold under her Bayou Bohemian Jewelry brand. Dabbling in gold was prohibitively expensive for Morvant previously.

Over the years, Morvant has paid frequent visits to turquoise mines primarily in Arizona, developing relationships with the regional artisans still mining, selling and dealing turquoise. Through study and practice, she’s developed a deep spiritual connection to the handiwork of the American Southwest. 

“The [jewelry] style happened through hands-on learning and experimenting,” she says of her work. “I like the idea of recycling trash into treasure and find beauty in imperfection and the creative journey.”

One of her favorite pieces, a 14kt gold snakeskin cuff, was inspired by a vintage leather bangle that belonged to her mother. Texture was molded from her mother’s original piece and turned into a heavy, solid gold cuff.

All of the gold in Stay Golden is recycled. Morvant purchased old gold jewelry from locally owned Coin and Treasure Co., melted it down and cast it with a variety of new techniques developed with Mimosa Handcrafted Jewelry, her partner on the line.  

“I created a handful of lost wax cast pieces, with the help of Mimosa out of Baton Rouge, including ring shanks that were tufa cast in my studio using the ancient technique of carving a mold in stone,” Morvant says.

The result is a collection that marries luxury and recycled goods, artistry and craftsmanship, earthiness and glam. It’s a mix that makes the precious more approachable.

The Stay Golden exhibit is Friday, Dec. 7, from 5 p.m.-7 p.m. Morvant will discuss her process and screen a short video created by local media production team Electric Magnolia. Several of her Stay Golden pieces will be available for purchase. Tribe Collective will have drinks and treats available.