Fibre, bark and leaves

Plant fibres are used to make a wide variety of objects, including jewellery. They can be obtained from plant stems, leaves, or even seed hairs such as cotton. Fibre can be used to produce practical items such as clothing, paper and rope, or for more decorative purposes like jewellery. Kew’s Collection illustrates how fibres are used to create a whole piece of jewellery or to produce twine to bind and secure other elements, as in the Dugong bone necklace.

Leaves are not often used to produce jewellery as they can be fragile, although woven or plaited palms and grasses can be made into attractive and strong pieces. An example of this is the bracelet made from screw pine leaf.

Trees often have strong cultural or religious significance, such as the birch tree in Russian culture. In folklore, jewellery made from the bark of birch is thought to relieve headaches and stress. The birch has become a symbol of Russia and benches are placed under birch trees for people to sit and talk to the tree.

Artefacts

EBC 64981

64981

  • Description: Necklace of Dugong bones wrapped in fibre
  • Donor: Edward Horace Man
  • Geographic Area: India
EBC 76105

76105

  • Description: Bangle of screw pine leaf
  • Donor: Stefanie Klappa
  • Geographic Area: Papua New Guinea
EBC 88 (temporary)

88 (temporary)

  • Description: Birch bark jewellery
  • Donor: Ruth Smith
  • Geographic Area: Russia