Through a chance encounter with a box of 19th century seals, designers Wade Papin and Danielle Wilmore have transformed crumbling wax into fine handcraft jewellery, with their brand Pyrrha. With a care for the environment each piece has been made from reclaimed sterling silver, bronze and 14k gold, which has been quickly snapped up by the likes of Liberty’s who could see, ‘unique designs culled from heraldry.’
Heraldry Pyrrha may be but the choice of celebrity sightings in Papin and Wilmore’s wears leave little to encompass Pyrrha’s heavy coat of arms. With Taylor Swift, Miley Cyrus and Selena Gomez among many likewise counterparts all choosing Pyrrha it makes me slightly dubious to don a necklace with Pyrrhas brand association.
So when I spoke to the design duo I wonder if I would remain a ‘pyrrha’ or be enthralled into the wearing the jewels of this new Canadian brand…
Pyrrha was the daughter of Epimetheus and Pandora and wife of Deucalion, who in Greek mythology famously threw rocks in battle that turned into women. So, I’m wondering how Pyrrha ties into the brand aesthetic of ‘Pyrrha Handmade Jewellery?’
Pyrrha and Deucalion repopulated the earth by throwing the “bones of their mother” (stones) over their shoulders, and the stones that Pyrrha threw became women. When we named the company, we thought this seemed fitting as our metals and gems were a rough-hewn product of the earth and the name carried a strong image of female empowerment. Our jewellery ties into the mythology aspect of the name directly with the heavy emphasis on symbolism and story-telling.
What brought you both into the world of fine jewellery?
We started out very small with beaded costume jewellery, and worked our way up. We learned techniques as we thought we needed them, asking established jewellers in our community for help. They were extremely generous with their time and knowledge, leaving us forever in their debt.
It is really interesting that each piece of your jewellery collection is made from reclaimed metals. What are they reclaimed from? I love the idea that my necklace for example was to be made from a battered old candelabra, which had seen one to many exotic dinner parties, or is that just my imagination running wild?
No, not really, although it could have just as easily come from someone’s old cellular phone. There are a surprising number of sources for reclaimed silver and gold – some romantic, some not so romantic, but what’s important is that we don’t need to damage the environment just to have a new piece of jewellery.
Would you then say your jewellery is almost a protest to an ever increasing throw-away society?
Yes, definitely. We designed this line with the fact that there is a constant glut of mass-produced overseas factory produced jewellery that is destined for land fill after a few weeks of wearing. Our pieces are meant to be worn every day and kept as personal talismans. There is no shelf life or trend cycle for a piece of jewellery that speaks to you intimately.
I read you found all of your 19th century designs, in a box. I’d love to know more. Was there anything else in the box, where did you both even find it!?
We found our first set of wax seals in an antique store in Vancouver, along with some letters and post cards. There were only a handful of them, but we were instantly intrigued with the symbolism and the personal nature of them. Initially we weren’t sure that we’d be making jewelry out of them as they were very fragile. The idea of giving them new life and permanence by casting them into silver was the impetus for the new line. We collected them for several years until we were ready to introduce a full collection.
Do you both have a particular fetish for the 19th century or did that come with the findings in the box?
Yes, we have both always loved the 19th century but our fascination has definitely has been taken to new heights with the creation of this line. As long as space permits we also pick up a few oddities from the time period on each of our travels.
Outside of your chance encounters with the 19th century seals, what other things inspire you both?
Music, art, film, antique furniture, architecture, food, our friends, each other. We don’t specifically search out inspiration, we like our design process to play out organically.
‘Rich in symbolism, each of your designs have unique meanings culled from heraldry.’ What is your ultimate symbol to define Pyrrha?
We love the Gryphon, a mythological creature that is half lion, half eagle. It represents death defying bravery. Risk taking has always been an integral part of our growth as designers so the Gryphon holds special meaning for us.
What do you have planned for the future of Pyrrha? Are you busily trying to hunt down a new box of wax seals?
We’re always looking for new seals, but right now we’re working on an 18 karat collection that isn’t strictly seals. It references the seals, but has a little more of a couture element to it: more random imagery, more precious stones. In general we try to avoid too much planning…we like to be open to whatever opportunities life throws at us.