Jewellery which helps wildlife
A life-long love of nature has inspired Alex Monroe’s latest jewellery collection, created especially for the RSPB.
About Alex Monroe
For 30 years, jewellery designer Alex Monroe has been capturing the beauty of nature in exquisite, gold-and-silver detail. His iconic bumblebee on a delicate chain was inspired by a weary bee rescued by his daughters in their garden in Suffolk, and this same level of personal experience and nostalgia flows through his latest capsule collection, hand-created especially for the RSPB.
It’s a dazzling morning at the end of summer when I visit Alex at his London boutique, hidden away down an historic street near London Bridge. Out this autumn, his new range features three important British species: the curlew, harvest mouse and turtle dove. They’re all beautiful creatures to depict, but there’s a deeper purpose behind the choices, as all three are currently endangered in the UK.
“When I was a kid, things like lapwing and curlew and starlings were everywhere, so it’s incredible to think that they’re actually getting quite rare,” says Alex. “With these pieces, hopefully people will see them, fall in love with them and want to find out more. Our ambition is to make people think a bit more about the RSPB and the brilliant work that they do.”
Alex’s passion for nature began as a child, growing up in the wide-open Suffolk countryside. Running wild all summer long with his siblings, he collected birds’ feathers, played in rivers and sketched all he saw.
“Birds were the first thing that got me into wildlife,” Alex tells me. “I loved to draw them; they’ve got great shapes. You can draw a duck, for example, and it’s completely different from drawing a swallow or a bird of prey.”
After applying unsuccessfully for fashion college, Alex moved to London and took up a place at the Sir John Cass Faculty of Art, where his love affair with jewellery began.
“I love making things and seeing them come to life. I call myself a fashion jeweller because my pieces are made to be worn: the hope is that someone will treasure these for the rest of their lives and hand them on to their kids. We often get people bringing in their necklaces for cleaning, who say “I sleep in it, swim in it... It hasn’t been off my neck in two years!’.”
- Words and photography by Jenny Shelton
Alex and the RSPB
“I was in the Young Ornithologists Club when I was a kid, so the RSPB is something that’s been part of my life forever,” Alex reflects.
“I have two kids now, and we spend amazing days out at your reserves – and it hardly costs anything! We love finding out about the kingfishers at Rainham, or the bee wolves at Minsmere... And it’s not just kids – anyone can be transfixed by nature. So we want to help spread the word.”
Alex's RSPB collection
Watch Alex discussing the inspiration behind his new collection for the RSPB.
Alex said: “I love this piece. I played around with him in various positions but he just didn’t work… Then I put him on a base, like those farmyard animals you had as a kid. And this is how I’m used to seeing them, sort of dabbling about with their beaks. So it feels quite nostalgic.”
Alex said: "I wanted to do a brooch as well, so we did the harvest mouse on a brooch and a necklace. The little berries were great fun to make."
Alex said: “Partly because of the book (Alex’s memoir, Two Turtle Doves), I chose the turtle doves for this bigger piece. They’re in that loving position which doves adopt where they look very caring.”