Meet a JMGQ Member interview with Toni-Maree Savage

Jeweller Toni-Maree Savage
Image by Jewellery by Toni-Maree

We thank Toni-Maree Savage for speaking with us. Toni-Maree is one of our Jewellers and Metalsmiths Group of Australia, Queensland Chapter Inc. (JMGQ) Social Media Coordinators. Toni-Maree resides and makes jewellery in Brisbane.

Toni-Maree let's talk about your creative journey. When did you become interested in art in general and in jewellery making in particular?

As a child, I had a passion for art making and art history that persisted throughout high school. Although I was accepted into art college after graduating from Grade 12, I ultimately chose to pursue a different path and attended university instead. While I completed tertiary qualifications in several subjects, my passion for art remained strong, and I eventually completed a Bachelor of Fine Arts at Queensland College of Art. Initially, I had planned to specialise in sculpture, but the college did not offer ceramics. One day, I happened upon the jewellery studio and was immediately captivated by what I saw through the window. The pieces on the workbenches looked like miniature sculptures, and I knew from the moment I picked up a jeweller's saw that this was the path I wanted to follow.

Can you describe your studio? What might a day in your jewellery-making life look like?

I recently graduated with my Bachelor of Fine Arts, specialising in jewellery, so I am still exploring my career as a full-time jeweller. Most of my time is dedicated to improving my making and familiarising myself with the ins and outs of running a small business. I am taking a technical course on jewellery fabrication, which takes up one or two days of my week as I work on assessment pieces. Other days are spent designing new pieces, researching sustainable and ethical jewellery practices, trying out different materials and techniques, updating my website, creating social media content, taking pictures of my jewellery, and making pieces to sell on my website or at market stalls. My husband has been incredibly supportive in helping me to create a fantastic jewellery studio. Although it is still a work in progress, I have all the essentials and even some extras like a kiln for enamelling and metal clay. Overall, I feel very fortunate.

Your jewellery practice "adheres to a philosophy of thoughtful and considered making." How so?

I strive to be mindful of the environment and people while creating my jewellery. Unfortunately, our industry has a history of causing harm, such as environmental damage, exploitation of child labour, and human rights violations. However, we are becoming increasingly aware of these issues and taking steps to address them. As an individual jeweller, I can make a positive impact by adopting sustainable and ethical practices, such as being conscious of where I source my materials and the techniques I use in my studio. Although it's a significant endeavour, I'm continuously learning and growing to uphold this commitment. Living and working in a way that maximises my impact for good is important to me.

Please tell us more about "fairmined metals".

The Jewelry Glossary Project by Ethical Metalsmiths is an excellent resource that defines terms related to sustainable and ethical practices in the jewellery industry. The project was developed by a group of experts, including jewellery designers, sustainability experts, educators, gemstone wholesalers, and goldsmiths. According to their definition, fairmined gold and silver are sourced exclusively from artisanal and small-scale mining organisations that meet the requirements of the Fairmined Standard written by the Alliance for Responsible Mining (ARM). This guarantees that the gold or silver is traceable and extracted using the best mining practices to preserve the environment and support the development of artisanal and small-scale mining communities. Unfortunately, there are no certified fairmined suppliers in Australia at present. However, some international suppliers provide shipping services to Australia. For more information on fairmined gold and silver, visit the Fairmined website at

You sell items made from recycled 925 silver. How do you ensure that your silver is recycled?

The term "recycled" is a complex one that requires careful usage. According to the Jewelry Glossary Project, it refers to metals and gemstones that are either purchased or used by consumers (post-consumer), a by-product of manufacturing (pre-consumer) or finished goods that were never in circulation (pre-consumer). In my practice, I use both post-consumer and pre-consumer recycled materials. There are certified post-consumer recycled gold and silver suppliers in Australia and other countries, such as Pod Jewellery in Victoria. I am also learning to refine old jewellery and recover gemstones from it. I gather all scrap metal and refine it into pre-consumer recycled metals as part of my production process. For more useful definitions of sustainable and ethical jewellery practices, I suggest checking out the Jewelry Glossary Project at

You offer a repair service to support a circular economy. Can you explain what you mean by a circular economy?

The concept of a circular economy aims to reduce waste and promote sustainable use of natural resources by reusing, repairing, refurbishing, and recycling existing materials and products for as long as possible. In contrast, our current economic system follows a linear model of extracting raw materials, manufacturing products, and disposing of them as waste long before the products need replacing. In the jewellery industry, the circular economy can be supported through various practices such as repairing jewellery, recycling precious metals, designing more easily recyclable jewellery using cold connections, avoiding toxic coatings, and repurposing old jewellery. William McDonough's book Cradle to Cradle is an excellent resource for understanding the circular economy better.

Can you offer us some tips on tool maintenance?

As a jeweller, it's important to take care of your tools to ensure they have a long lifespan and work well. This not only saves you money, but it's also better for the environment. The maintenance required varies depending on the type of tool. Whenever I get a new tool, I make sure to learn how to care for it properly.

Here are some easy ways to maintain your tools:

  • Regularly wipe your tools with a soft cloth.
  • Avoid using harsh or abrasive cleaners on your tools.
  • Keep your tools dry to prevent rust.
  • Store your tools in a way that prevents any damage to other tools.
  • Regularly oil and polish your tools.
  • Keep any vents clean to prevent overheating.
  • Regularly inspect your tools and address any issues as soon as possible.

In parallel with your art practice, you aim to live your everyday life by the same precepts of sustainability and kindness to the earth. Your backyard must be a very special place. Please tell us about it.

We have many happy times there as a family. We grow a wide range of fruit and veggies. An organic vegetable garden takes up the entire length of our backyard, and the veranda and yard are full of numerous pots and plant bags. Some lucky ladies live in our chicken coop. They provide us with organic eggs, but I treat them more like my pets. My husband also has his woodworking shop here.

Do you have a favourite recipe you'd like to share with us?

My current favourite recipe is sweet potato soup. We grow our sweet potatoes in plant bags, making harvesting them easier. This recipe is perfect for the cold months and easy to make. I use a kitchen wand in the saucepan to puree the soup but be careful not to splash yourself if it's still hot. It's delicious on its own but also pairs well with a bread stick.

Sweet potato soup recipe

You also talk about slow fashion. How does this manifest itself in your life?

Slow fashion is a mindful approach to clothing that considers the resources and processes involved in its production. It values quality designs over trend-based pieces that quickly end up in landfills after only a few wears. As a jeweller who prioritises a sustainable and ethical practice, I align myself with the slow fashion movement. I prefer to purchase clothing from brands and makers who share this same ethos. I apply a philosophy of conscious consumption in all aspects of my life, including clothing, footwear, and beauty products. While I've made mistakes in the past as a consumer, I'm now more aware and committed to using environmentally responsible and ethical products.

Would you like to tell us anything more about your sustainable and ethical practices?

Developing sustainable and ethical practices takes time. It's best to focus on one aspect at a time and move on to the next once you've achieved your goal. For instance, you might start by avoiding toxic chemicals in your making process. This will require research and experimentation with non-toxic alternatives. The idea is to keep learning and improving your practices over time. Joining Ethical Metalsmiths and participating in their events and forums is a great way to start your sustainable and ethical jewellery journey. Alternatively, you can enrol in Christina T. Miller's online course, Foundations for Sustainable Jewelry Practice. Remember, it's all about continually growing and enhancing your knowledge of sustainable and ethical making. To learn more about Ethical Metalsmiths, visit, and to read more about Christina's online course, visit

Let's look at some exemplars of your work.

"Bloom" is a statement of hope and encouragement in a time of insecurity and trauma, using materials at hand to create something of beauty. Please tell us more.

Bloom, 2020. Aluminium. copper, found plastic, leather cord, 21 x 16 x 8 cm.
Image by Jewellery by Toni-Maree.
Bloom, 2020. Aluminium. copper, found plastic, leather cord, 21 x 16 x 8 cm. 

Bloom, 2020 was a piece created in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Medical masks symbolised fear and anxiety during this time, but I wanted to reposition this emblem as one of positivity and growth. The mask is adorned with blooming flowers, representing life and reminding us that we can get through the pandemic if we work together. I hoped that my piece would encourage positive thoughts, especially for those struggling with mental health issues during this time. Taking care of ourselves and each other during and after this traumatic event was essential. Bloom was created using discarded aluminium and copper, with recycled plastic as an additional layer of the flowers. I used surplus aluminium wire and a leather cord from a previous project, so I didn't have to leave my home for any materials. As a community, it was crucial that we stayed at home and only leave for essential supplies to manage COVID-19 and safeguard the health of our communities. This project helped me to be productive at home while supporting this critical prerequisite.

Your pieces of "Everyday Armour" aim to provide protection, support and empowerment to the wearer. How can jewellery do that?

Left: Waterlily #1 (Everyday Armour collection), 2020. Sterling silver, cubic zirconia. 5.5 x 5.5 x 2.5 cm. Centre: Waterlily #3 (Everyday Armour collection), 2020. Sterling silver, cubic zirconia. 7.0 x 10.0 x 1.5 cm. Right: Waterlily #2 (Everyday Armour collection), 2020. Sterling silver, bronze. 7.5 x 7.5 x 2.5 cm.
Image by Jewellery by Toni-Maree.
Left: Waterlily #1 (Everyday Armour collection), 2020. Sterling silver, cubic zirconia. 5.5 x 5.5 x 2.5 cm. Centre: Waterlily #3 (Everyday Armour collection), 2020. Sterling silver, cubic zirconia. 7.0 x 10.0 x 1.5 cm. Right: Waterlily #2 (Everyday Armour collection), 2020. Sterling silver, bronze. 7.5 x 7.5 x 2.5 cm. 

For centuries, people have believed that jewellery can offer protection and strength. In ancient times, symbols of good luck and icons were often used as amulets, talismans, and charms to ward off negativity. Nowadays, people attach their beliefs and values to their jewellery, giving them personal and emotional support. Wearing such adornments can help the wearer face challenges, increase positivity, and reduce anxiety. Everyday Armour, 2020 is a collection of brooches that subtly convey psychological and emotional protection. The inspiration behind this collection was the waterlily, an icon that represents hope, pleasure, peace, and new beginnings. It symbolises emerging from daily hardships towards a more positive life, as it can bloom from murky and muddy waters. Everyday Armour empowers the wearer to meet the stresses of daily contemporary life by assimilating the positive meanings embodied in the symbology and wearing of the pieces. The works provide a powerful sense of safety and self-expression without being overtly defensive. The series personifies a keen recognition that jewellery, as author and editor of Metalsmith magazine, Suzanne Ramljak, reminds us “is a necessity, not an accessory when it is protective.”

Your "Family Portrait" necklace is richly imbued with stories and meaning. It is a form of narrative jewellery. What is meant by "narrative jewellery," and who is it for?

Family Portrait, 2021. Sterling silver, found Eucalyptus wood. 53 x 20 x 2 cm.
Image by Jewellery by Toni-Maree.
Family Portrait, 2021. Sterling silver, found Eucalyptus wood. 53 x 20 x 2 cm. 

According to Jack Cunningham, a contemporary art jeweller and academic, narrative jewellery is a wearable object that expresses the maker's intention to communicate a message visually to the audience through the wearer. I completely agree with this definition as it highlights the significance of the maker, wearer, and viewer in narrating a story. The true essence of narrative jewellery is brought out when all three parties collaborate, and it is meant for all three. As the maker of the necklace Family Portrait, 2021, I have infused it with my family's story through symbolism and depictions of family members. However, the wearer displays it to the audience, and the viewer responds with their interpretation. The narrative is enriched by each participant's contribution, elevating its social value as a mode of storytelling.

You used many different techniques and engaged in a great deal of research in order to create your series "I Am Not an Object". Have you been able to observe reactions and responses to these pieces? What effect has the whole process had on your subsequent work?

I Just Want to Walk to School (I Am Not an Object series), 2022. Pre-consumer recycled Sterling silver, brass, copper, vitreous enamel. Locket 12 x 6.5 x 1 cm, Chain L 30 cm.
Image by Jewellery by Toni-Maree.
I Just Want to Walk to School (I Am Not an Object series), 2022. Pre-consumer recycled Sterling silver, brass, copper, vitreous enamel. Locket 12 x 6.5 x 1 cm, Chain L 30 cm.
I Am Not an Object series, 2022. Pre-consumer recycled Sterling silver, brass, copper, vitreous enamel. Locket 12 x 6.5 x 1 cm each, Chain L 30 cm each.
Image by Jewellery by Toni-Maree.
I Am Not an Object series, 2022. Pre-consumer recycled Sterling silver, brass, copper, vitreous enamel. Locket 12 x 6.5 x 1 cm each, Chain L 30 cm each.

I've been fortunate to observe responses to my I Am Not an Object, 2022, lockets on a few occasions. The series aims to bring attention to the issue of sexual objectification of those who identify as female by men in contemporary Australia. When I wear one of the pieces in public, some individuals are curious and inquire about the lockets, while others seem uneasy and unsure how to respond. Whatever the response, I tell them that the lockets are meant to start conversations and bring attention to the issue of sexual objectification in our society. Unfortunately, my research has shown that Australia has a particularly sexist culture, with girls as young as seven experiencing sexual objectification. By wearing the lockets, we can continue to address and stop this harmful behaviour.

This was a year-long project, and I learned that it is crucial to dedicate ample time to thoroughly exploring a topic visually, conceptually and technically in order to achieve the best possible outcome. My work underwent multiple stages of development, and I recognise that it would not have had the same impact without the time I spent researching the concept and expanding the design. This project also heightened my awareness of the power of artwork, especially jewellery, to influence the public and bring about positive change.

Your work "Weight of the World" is a statement of the present for today's society to contemplate and respond to. It is also a historical statement for tomorrow's society to look back on and hopefully learn from. Please tell us more about this.

The Weight of the World, 2023. Repurposed steel, aluminium, brass, eco paint. 45 x 60 x 60 cm.
Image by Jewellery by Toni-Maree.
The Weight of the World, 2023. Repurposed steel, aluminium, brass, eco paint. 45 x 60 x 60 cm.

History preserves past memories, such as how we lived and engaged with each other and with nature. When future generations look back on the present, they will see a society dominated by corporate greed, environmental destruction, pervasive narcissism, poverty, homelessness, poor mental health, and many other ecological, ethical, and social issues. Gladly, many social movements are working to make a change, but to keep moving forwards, we must remember to look back. With this in mind, Weight of the World, 2023, is not only a record of current issues but also a provocative call to future generations to avoid repeating previous errors. The work uses long-lasting, repurposed materials to make a statement about contemporary issues without adding to them and to last for future generations to reflect on. I'd like to think that when the work's message becomes irrelevant, it will be disassembled and its parts repurposed. The whole thing is put together by hand. Bolts repurposed from electronic waste, aluminium from a decommissioned outdoor heater, and steel from a local hot water installation company all found their way into the final work. The brass panels on the headband were etched in an environmentally friendly manner using a combination of salt, water, and low-voltage power from a recycled mobile phone charger. The piece was coated with water-based, low-Volatile Organic Compound (VOC) paint to reduce environmental impact. Like all my work, this project is based on the sustainable and ethical principles central to my studio practice and personal ethos.

What advice or encouragement would you offer to aspiring jewellery makers?

It's essential to practice as much as you can and be patient with yourself. If you encounter difficulties, take a break and return to it later. It's a lifelong learning process, so don't expect to master it in one go. Read up on jewellery history, look at as much jewellery as possible, and dedicate time to understanding current social issues. Consider what message you want to convey through your work and attend artist talks, workshops, and exhibitions to expand your knowledge. Keep learning, questioning, and exploring - you can do this!

Thank you very much for speaking to us. Is there anything more you would like to say?

If you want to be more involved in jewellery, consider joining the JMGQ Committee to become more engaged in the industry. Being a Committee member will allow you to connect with fellow jewellers who share your interests, and you will gain knowledge in jewellery exhibition planning, social media, email communication, newsletters, and administration. It's an excellent opportunity to be more active in the industry you are passionate about.

You can find more of Toni-Maree's work and story on these sites:

This interview appeared in the July 2023 issue of the JMGQ Metalsnips newsletter.

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