Shells and Shark Teeth
Emily Irving poses with some of her Vida Boheme Copper Collection jewelry at the Juniper General Store on U.S. Highway 27 west of Ocala, Fla. on Wednesday, June 16, 2021. [Bruce Ackerman/Ocala Gazette] 2021.
Jewelry designer crafts unique pieces from Florida treasures
Each seashell and shark tooth Emily Irving finds is an inspiration.
As she carefully selects these tiny treasures from Florida’s beaches and creek beds, she envisions one-of-a-kind jewelry creations.
“I really like using things that I find in Florida,” said Irving, who’s been crafting her Vida Boheme line of copper-plated pendants, rings, bracelets and earrings since 2017.
“I’ll sit there like a little kid on the beach, digging through the shells, picking up different pieces and laying them across my hands to see — that would be a neat shape on a finger, or this one curves to my finger just right, or I like the longer-shaped ones for a necklace pendant. I just kind of get lost at the beach picking out different shells that I think would make pretty pieces of jewelry.”
After visiting beaches, including Washington Oaks Gardens State Park, near St. Augustine, and Siesta Key, on the Gulf Coast near Sarasota, Irving designs special jewelry collections from the shells at her workshop in Ocala. She sells her boho-style pieces at Juniper General Store and the Ocala Downtown Market.
“I am inspired by whatever I find,” she said.
And that includes prehistoric shark teeth she digs up from a muddy creek bed in the middle of the woods near Gainesville.
“You can’t get much more Florida than digging up shark teeth,” she said. “It’s almost like panning for gold. You take a scoop where the pebbles are and shake it through a colander. Some of these shark teeth you get are tinier than your pinky finger. You wouldn’t believe how tiny they are. And they’re dated anywhere from 2 to 20 million years old. I just kind of geek out over how old they are.”
Sometimes other people ask her to create custom pieces from treasures they’ve discovered, such as the matching pendants she designed to commemorate a couple’s anniversary trip to the Caribbean islands, using sea glass they found while diving.
“It was a special anniversary for them, and they’ve got something to hold onto,” Irving said. “It was really neat to be a part of that.”
Another commission came her way when a friend was selling her beach house. She asked Irving to craft jewelry made from shark teeth collected there on family vacations.
“She had me make them each different pieces with shark teeth. It was really neat that she thought of me to help immortalize their memories. It’s so special. It’s so flattering.”
Irving rarely wears jewelry herself, preferring to see the items she makes worn by others. An X-ray technician by day, Irving works on her jewelry in the evenings, usually accompanied by her cats, Stella and Fast Eddie.
As a self-taught jewelry maker, Irving said she finds encouragement in the local arts scene.
“It’s becoming such an artistic community,” she said. “The artists really support each other and embrace each other. It’s such a great feeling. It really does inspire you to keep creating.”