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A Jewelry Designer’s Prehistoric Inspiration

Yiwu Dongrong Jewelry Co.,Ltd | Updated: Jun 30, 2016

Jewelry designer Monique Péan dug deep for a rare dinosaur bone.

When traveling for inspiration, the designer, based in New York, typically purchases materials she plans on using in her designs. But Ms. Péan did something rare last year: She ended up splurging on something for herself, not for use in her collection.

“It was such an incredible specimen that I couldn’t pass it up,” Ms. Péan says of the 6-inch by 4-inch fossilized dinosaur bone she bought while on a trip near the Four Corners in southern Utah. “I instantly fell in love with it. I couldn’t imagine not having it.”

The purchase was a splurge, she says. The designer says she doesn’t remember exactly how much she paid for the bone but would “value it upward of $10,000. It is absolutely something that I will definitely have for the rest of my life. It’s priceless.”

Ms. Péan, whose women’s jewelry is sold at high-end stores like Jeffrey, Maxfield and Barneys New York, which also carries her men’s jewelry, says fossils fascinate her. “You literally feel like you’re holding 150 million years in your hands,” she says. “There’s something so magical about that.”

The bone fossil she purchased, from one of the artisans she works with in the Colorado Plateau, is somewhere between 146 million and 156 million years old, she says the artisan told her.

Ms. Péan, who started her line of sustainable fine jewelry in 2006 after working as a fixed-income analyst at Goldman Sachs, says she has adored dinosaurs since she was a young child. The designer uses conflict-free precious stones, diamonds and fossils in her line, as well as 18-carat recycled gold and recycled platinum, sourced through fair-trade initiatives and gathered with no mining involved. Her materials only come from private land. Her pieces are handmade by artisans.

This particular bone fossil stood out for her for a number of reasons: “It’s incredible to find a piece fully intact,” she says. “You don’t typically find a full bone in its original shape in larger form. Most of the bones from the Jurassic period, they are cracked, so to find a bone completely intact is so special.”

Ms. Péan was also struck by “these incredible colors,” a mix of black, white and peach tone. The black is formed from iron particles, the white is from petrified silica crystals while the fossilization took place, and the pastel and peach colors from manganese, she says.

“It’s almost as if you’re looking into a galaxy. I’ve been collecting fossils over 10 years, but I have never seen such a rare specimen of fossilized dinosaur bone with this combination of hues.” The colors grabbed her attention for another reason: “I also happen to love neutrals.’’

The designer had considered keeping the bone in her home, with plans to build a custom base for it. At present, it rests on a table in her design studio. “I love being able look at it daily,” she says. “It also really reminds me of the trip I took to Utah,” the one that inspired her recent collection, called Solcin.

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