Sights of the sea inspire Hayling jewellery designer

Charlotte Cornelius'' ''Picture: Malcolm Wells (143-5838)
Charlotte Cornelius'' ''Picture: Malcolm Wells (143-5838)
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Waves crashing against the pebbles, seagulls soaring overhead, and seaweed strewn across the shore.

The stunning landscape at the bottom of Charlotte Cornelius’s road has been a constant inspiration for her jewellery collections for the past 20 years.

Jewellery by Charlotte Cornelius

Jewellery by Charlotte Cornelius

The 47-year-old, of Bacon Lane, Hayling Island, recently scooped the Woman in Fashion title at The News Woman of the Year Awards for her constantly innovative designs in ethically-sourced precious stones and metals.

Charlotte set up her business around a year after her twin daughters Emily and Bethany, now 18, were born.

She had previously worked for a jewellery manufacturer and wanted to react to what she saw as the staid market for reproduction jewellery.

‘There was such a lack of design, nothing new, special or innovative,’ says Charlotte.

Jewellery by Charlotte Cornelius

Jewellery by Charlotte Cornelius

‘Unless you went to London it was so uninspiring.

‘There is nothing wrong with the classic, D-shaped yellow gold wedding band, but not everyone wants that.’

As Charlotte’s twins grew up, the business grew at the same pace and now Charlotte is helped in the handcrafting of both bespoke and limited edition pieces by her locally-based team, including a silversmith, goldsmith and specialist diamond mounter.

Her signature collection is the bubble range, a gloriously eccentric take on traditional rings, inspired by the seaside.

Jewellery by Charlotte Cornelius

Jewellery by Charlotte Cornelius

Charlotte says: ‘Hayling beach is pebbly, you get sea spray, and where the waves crash on to the shore you get bubbles in the water,

‘The original inspiration was the contrast between the harsh rocks and the soft pebbles, I like the texture. It’s quite extreme and people love that.

‘I get to experience that landscape every single day. It really does influence a lot of what I do.’

A former pupil of Purbrook Park School, Charlotte studied for a foundation art court at Portsmouth Polytechnic, now the University of Portsmouth.

‘The course gave me an opportunity to try a bit of everything’, says Charlotte.

‘I really enjoyed working with ceramics and metal.

‘But, unfortunately, the ceramics kept breaking and blowing up. You could make this fantastic creation and then it would explode. Metals are a bit more forgiving.’

A stint at art college in Preston followed where Charlotte decided her heart was set on following a path into jewellery design, working with precious stones and metals.

She said: ‘I love the colour and the way you can join bits of different textures through heating. And I love the contrast with glass.’

Charlotte goes for daily walks along the seafront, in all weathers, and adores the light and the landscape on one of the south coast’s most beautiful beaches. So much so that she has even cast actual Hayling seaweed in silver.

But the precious stones come from Africa, including rubies, tanzanites, pink sapphire and spinels – which are all ethically-sourced.

And the diamonds are mined under the Kimberly process, meaning they do not fund conflict.

A piece of Charlotte Cornelius jewellery can set you back anything from £40 for a ready-to-wear piece to thousands of pounds for a bespoke design. But she has always wanted to make her jewellery accessible and will work to whatever budget clients have to make a piece of one off jewellery they will treasure forever.

She says, ‘It’s a great joy to work with the raw materials and natural raw elements and also I love working with people as well. The majority of the time I’m making something for someone that is really special, like a wedding ring, a maternity ring, or for a birthday. It’s satisfying because it means so much to people.’

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Another great passion of Charlotte’s is Off The Record - a free and confidential counselling service for young people which is currently under threat because of huge budget cuts.

Charlotte is a volunteer counsellor at the Leigh Park base but the charity covers the whole of south-east Hampshire – including Portsmouth.

She says, ‘I was met with a very warm welcome and immediately I felt at home, which is exactly the atmosphere that it seeks to provide for the hundreds of young people who are brave enough to walk through the doors and ask for help.

‘It is a unique service as it is independent and fully confidential, as well as completely free.

‘I enjoy working there one afternoon a week as it’s lovely to work in a supportive team of volunteers all from different walks of life, yet all with the same goal.

‘Off the Record serves 11 to 25-year-olds and is invaluable.

‘Our waiting lists are ever–growing – especially as we are getting so many more referrals from GPs, schools and social services as they cut back their own facilities.

‘This is why I am so passionate about preventing the service from being forced to reduce, or even close, owing to the financial crisis.

‘There really is nowhere else for these young people to turn. Most clients who I see have multiple issues, often stemming from loss and low self-esteem and a lack of stable relationships and support to help them to negotiate a safe passage from childhood through adolescence into healthy and responsible adulthood.

‘Self-hurt manifests itself in many ways such as suicide attempts, drug and alcohol misuse, eating disorders, depression and anxiety, out of control anger, as a result of abusive relationships, unemployment, bullying, family breakup, bereavements.

‘In my experience there is rarely a single issue but a combination of problems that are just too much to cope with without a strong and stable family and friend network to support the young person and they lose trust in people, lose self-worth, and lose hope in life.

‘That is so sad.

‘However, there’s always hope and people who care, and this is what Off the Record gives to those who venture through its doors.

‘It is so rewarding to see lives changing. Sometimes it can be just a few weeks that are needed and sometimes many months or even years.

‘Off the Record is determined to continue to be available with the friendly non-judgmental and confidential help that is needed for generations to come.’

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