Creatures great and small: Matthew Campbell Laurenza’s exquisite naturalistic jewellery designs

Matthew Campbell Laurenza’s insects in precious materials encompass magical forms

Dragonfly in precious jewels by Matthew Campbell Laurenza
(Image credit: Matthew Campbell Laurenza)

Naturalistic study meets jewellery design in Matthew Campbell Laurenza's ‘Precious Life’ collection. Campbell Laurenza, who recently showcased a selection of his newest work at Maison Gerard’s fair during NYC Jewelry Week, celebrates the intricacies in nature in anatomically correct dragonflies, beetles and butterflies.

Naturalistic jewellery by Matthew Campbell Laurenza

Jewellery like mushrooms

(Image credit: Matthew Campbell Laurenza)

 ‘Living in Thailand, which houses many bugs, I am able to play with and observe these real insects, so I try to stay as accurate as possible when creating my “Precious Life” sculptures,’ Campbell Laurenza tells us. ‘With the larger pieces, the legs and wings move so that you can rearrange them in a way that a spider or a dragonfly might move. There are, however, some limitations because of the materials I use –for example, we have to make some of the sculptures’ antennae thicker so that they do not break off or bend easily.’

Jewellery scorpion by Matthew Campbell Laurenza

(Image credit: Matthew Campbell Laurenza)

Pieces are exquisitely crafted in precious stones and materials. Campbell Laurenza forbids the use of adhesives to fix stones into place in the creation process, instead opting for a labour-intensive method that sees stones painstakingly hand-set.

‘When building the larger “Precious Life” sculptures, like the spider, which is made up of about 390 smaller pieces, we have to be very careful to make sure the seams are present while hand-carving the wax,’ he adds. ‘Without the seams, if there is too much pressure, then the whole piece could collapse at any given moment. Stone-setting is also a challenge and most time-consuming. A master stone-setter can set on average around 400 to 500 stones in one day, so with my larger pieces, one of which comprises around 90,000 stones held by little prongs, it can take months just to add the jewels.’

Branch with flowers created out of precious jewells by Matthew Campbell Laurenza

(Image credit: Matthew Campbell Laurenza)

For Benoist F Drut of Maison Gerard, Campbell Laurenza’s work is imbued with a magical quality, ‘this magical component in the work of Matthew that is combined with a technical engineering and inventiveness that is rarely seen in jewellery,’ he says. ‘For example, a red cardinal perched on a picture frame can be detached and worn. A giant dragonfly nearly three feet wide, covered with no fewer than 57,000 semi-precious stones, is tribute to an excellence that can rival an egg by Fabergé or a brooch by JAR. In Matthew’s hand, even the most feared insects such as a black widow spider or a scorpion become the most vibrant objects.’

Naturalistic spider in precious jewels

(Image credit: Matthew Campbell Laurenza)

Flower in precious jewels

(Image credit: Matthew Campbell Laurenza)

Hannah Silver is the Art, Culture, Watches & Jewellery Editor of Wallpaper*. Since joining in 2019, she has overseen offbeat design trends and in-depth profiles, and written extensively across the worlds of culture and luxury. She enjoys meeting artists and designers, viewing exhibitions and conducting interviews on her frequent travels.