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Jewellery Design Inspired by nature: a lesson from the birds

I get a lot of inspiration for my jewellery from the garden. Not just from the plants, but from the wildlife too. For example, my rainbow haematite silver earrings are inspired by the wonderful summer plumage of starlings. The way in which this plumage comes about is fascinating and I thought I'd share the story with you - along with an inspiring message that can be taken from it .

Starling showing off its colours in the sun

I love watching the birds in our garden. They visit not just for the food we put out, but for the bird baths too. Birds love to bathe and any water, even that in a planter saucer is a place for them to splash about. We don't get anything regarded as exotic, but even the most common visitors are beautiful and entertaining to watch.

Some of my favourite visitors are the starlings. They are noisy, boisterous and always very hungry but they are welcomed as much as any other. They also love to bathe and do so many times a day. I love their plumage. In winter they are covered in little white hearts and in summer they are iridescent with a dark plumage with ever-changing colours as they catch the sunlight. The colours are a mix of deep metallic blues, purples and greens and shine in the sunlight.

Starling in early summer - still has some of its heart shapes left

Recently I discovered the fascinating background to starlings' iridescent summer plumage. Unlike most birds, they do not moult from the winter plumage to their summer colours. Instead, the beauty of their summer feathers comes from wear and tear. They moult just once a year, at the end of summer, and the new feathers at this time are dark with a white tip, producing the white, heart-shapes markings of winter. Throughout winter the pale areas get worn away as the birds move through branches and other plants and the pale parts gradually disappear as they are worn away. By summer, all that's left are the dark areas of the feathers which are more resistant to wear and tear because of the pigment they contain. It is these remaining worn down dark feathers that result in the summer plumage. The iridescence comes from how these dark feathers refract and reflect the light when the white pigment is no longer there to scatter it.

A lesson for us all perhaps? Wear and tear doesn't necessarily decrease beauty - it can actually add to it.

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