In the vast bead markets of Accra in Ghana, Sally wondered at the ancient trading beads from all over the world, that sat side by side with brass and gold Ashanti weights heavy with symbols and proverbs that she was yet to understand. These beads and jewels signified rites of passage that demarcated the journey through the stages of life. With her first pocket money she started a bead collection of her own that was to last a lifetime, and at thirteen she made her very first necklace.
Sally has always loved the story-telling aspects of jewellery – pieces handed down from one generation to the next “It has an almost mystical energy from whoever was wearing it before, as if a piece is laden with meaning”. She studied anthropology and history of art at university, specializing in the symbolism of adornments and their use in rites of passage. When her parents moved to Yemen, all of this knowledge was brought to life by the people she encountered and Sally’s career designing jewellery began.
Yemeni adornment fascinated Sally and to be amidst a culture where jewellery was so important was a turning point. Tribal women were laden with silver, much of it fashioned by the exquisite craftsmanship of the last of the Jewish community. “Women wear their jewellery like a bank account and at the time, silver was just not valuable enough.”
Yemeni wedding heirlooms were being melted down and silver was being abandoned and replaced by gold - this made a deluge of unique pieces available, which Sally bought eagerly in an effort to save them from being lost forever. Amongst the Bedouin of the Hadramaut she found treasures of exquisite flowered filigree, fertility talismans and heavy wedding belts. Some of these, curated over many years, remain in her collection to this day. Her discerning taste, she discovered, gave her the impetus to roam the world further to find inspiration for her work.
Sally’s love of other cultures was beginning to take hold:
Spurred on by her obsession with silver, Sally moved to Cairo to learn to make her own designs from the local silversmiths. Downtime was spent in Khan-Al-Khalii buying ancient silver and treading the museums of Cairo where the ancient pharonic jewellery brightly set with lapis and turquoise were to prove a huge inspiration.