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Crystal Gazing: Billy Bride

Crystals are no longer just for adherents of nu age philosophy and mystical fortune-tellers; the debut Apollo collection from Billy Bride jewellery has the power to make even the most ardent sceptic to release her inner-city hippy. Created and designed by Renee Warne and constructed from raw mineral specimens sourced from around Australia, each piece is one-off and one-of-a-kind, holding spiritual properties that work in synergy with its wearer.

“Jewellery is a huge part of my life,” Renee tells us, recalling the first time she realised its profound significance as a family heirloom. It was her grandmotherʼs deep ruby engagement ring passed down to her mother that cemented Renee's interest in the symbolic function of jewellery. “It was transformed from a simple piece of gold and stone into a brilliant treasure of family history. Jewellery has a uniqueness and character, and provides a link between one generation and the next,” she says fondly. This fascination, fostered in early childhood, compelled Renee to study jewellery design later on in life, graduating with a degree at COFA and undertaking Fashion Technology studies at TAFE. “The majority of what I have learnt was discovered through the process of trial and error, and a lot of haphazard experimentation along the way,” she explains of her technical background. Her design talent combined with her qualifications saw her go on to work with iconic Australian labels such as Sass & Bide, Willow, Colette Dinnigan, Akira Isogawa, and, more recently, Ksubi.

All of the crystals used in Billy Bride jewellery are naturally occurring indigene Australian minerals, resulting in inimitable pieces that are laden with their own individual histories and narratives. Renee has been an avid collector of minerals and stones her whole life, and from her travels around Australia over the past few years she has found many special specimens that were “unearthed in the most extraordinary and unexpected places.” Taking the view that “each stone is like a small piece of a larger puzzle,” Renee's ever-expanding collection inspired her to put them into a bigger work, hence the birth of Billy Bride.

A strong believer in the meditative and healing power of crystals, Warne includes
summaries of their properties with each piece. The Auroro ring, for example, is crafted from citrine, which promotes wealth and prosperity, as well as encouraging creativity in the individual who wears it. “I think the spirituality of stones is abundant and undeniable. What I find most interesting is the way certain stones identify and resonate with different people... Crystals are a vessel of earthly energy through which people are able to connect with the spirituality of nature,” Renee tells us. Using raw minerals in her jewellery designs, Renee stays true to the unadulterated forms found in nature, saying, “I think the beauty of crystals lies in their rawness and essential vulnerability. They are the purest expression of nature at its most divine extreme.”

Investing in the sentimentality of stones, Renee says that her favourite pieces of jewellery are those that have been given to her as gifts from loved ones. “I think it takes a unique perception and a lot of bravery to choose jewellery for someone else, and it almost becomes harder the better you know them,” she says. Her favourite piece from her personal collection is a turquoise and rose quartz ring given to her by her boyfriend as an anniversary present. “Rose quartz is my stone,” she tells us, adding, “every time I wear it I am immersed in the resonant energy of the quartz.”

The name of the label, Billy Bride, finds its inspiration deeply rooted in music: Johnny Cash, The Doors, Danzig, and, of most influence, American songwriter Will Oldham (aka Bonnie Prince Billy). “His collaborative work with Harmony Korine for the piece ʻNo More Workhorse Bluesʼ explores the darkness of relationships, haunting isolation, and the inexorable ties between commitment and burden,” Renee explains. “This work was of a particular inspiration to me when I decided to start this design label.” Warne still looks to music for inspiration, listing late ʼ70s Australian music like The Scientists and The Birthday Party, as well as GOD and The Hards Ons, as helping to inform her recent work.

While Billy Bride is currently confined to rings, Warne is open to options on expanding the label to include other jewellery pieces. “Iʼm wrestling with some pretty unpredictable concepts for the new range, which will flow on from the experimental and contradictory aesthetic of the Apollo collection,” she tells us. While ensuring us that the new designs will incorporate other forms of jewellery, Renee goes on to say that it wonʼt be in the conventional sense that we might expect. If the Apollo collection is anything to go by, Renee can take comfort in the fact that the unconventional materials and unexpected forms of Billy Bride is exactly what we love.

words: Ingrid Kesa


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