Prehistoric beasts turned into intricately beaded jewelry
Dinosaur bones and meteorites are not the materials that first come to mind when thinking about fashion accessories. But Portland-based design company William Henry is proving that these rare finds can add a surprisingly beautiful embellishment to a bracelet or necklace -- and attract celebrity clientele.
The company, which specializes in men's accessories, entered the luxury sector nearly two decades ago, turning prehistoric materials into hand-crafted pocketknives. Now, they've expanded to include necklaces, bracelets, cufflinks and pens.
Bracelets from rare materials
The unique look and feel of these materials is what first compelled the company's CEO, Matt Conable, to experiment with carving and crafting prehistoric rock.
"Dinosaur bone has been solidified over millions of years, it can't be confused with any other bone, and there's nothing else that looks like it," he says, when describing a deep-red rock. "Woolly mammoth teeth also have such a specific look and feel that nothing else in the world looks like them."
He said the rarest material ever used by the William Henry brand was a petrified dinosaur egg, from which they constructed a single, one-of-a-kind gold pen.
Searching high and low
But of course sourcing these raw materials is challenging.
"There is no one shop or retailer that you can just walk into and purchase these rocks. There is a lot of hard work that goes into finding them. You're shifting through deserts, you're looking on seafloors."
A sudden spike in interest from the market, however, could change everything.
"If the 'big boys' decide to step in and start working with dinosaur bone and other fossils, the supply would dry up almost immediately."
This has already been the case for some of William Henry's favorite materials.
"In the past we would work with meteorite a lot, but now it's only used as a limited edition material. It's become increasingly popular, and therefore, become increasingly expensive."
From dinosaur rock to hundreds of tiny beads
But digging through the dirt is only half the battle. Once in hand, these materials can take upwards of six months to craft into jewelry. Even then, a large portion of the rock will often fall to the wayside.
"The crazy thing about this is that sometimes you find this 'cool' new material, and it works wonderfully. Other times it fails completely and you're back at square one," Conable says, using the mammoth tooth as an example.
"It's been underwater for thousands of years, and when it's found, it has to be dried for two whole years before you can even start to make anything with it. Sometimes, if you're lucky, it works out. Sometimes, you touch it and it all falls apart."
Conable says that dinosaur bones are also very sensitive to construction, even though they have been petrified to solid rock.
"You can have a bone and expect to make 200 beads from it, but when you carve it, it's full of cracks and fissures, and you end up with a small handful."
The niche concept has helped the brand build a celebrity following. Brad Pitt, Anthony Hopkins and Harrison Ford are all customers. But joining this celebrity fan club comes at a price. One of William Henry's most intricately crafted pocket knives costs a cool $35,000.
See the gallery above for more prehistoric luxuries.