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Bone has been used in jewelry making for thousands of years. But quite honestly, do we really know where the bone we use comes from? Nope. One participant at a beading party was slightly alarmed and actually asked me about the bone beads in my collection - like, were they human? I reassured her they weren't but I thought it might be cow bone but I couldn't be sure.

One designer who does know where his bone comes from is Andrew Ross for his raw material came from an abattoir. A graduate of Dundee University (UK), Ross recently won the The New Designers Swarovski Crystal Palace Award for innovative product design. His prize was £1000 (approximately $2000) worth of crystals and a 2 years membership to He said, "I’m impressed that Swarovski saw the potential of my project as mainstream material."

His winning idea was to convert waste cow bones into a variety of objects including jewelry. What's so great is his project shows all kinds of alternative uses for cow bones rather than being regulated to the dump. Cow bone used to be ground up as animal feed but that practice was halted when the BSE - bovine spongiform encephalopathy or mad cow disease as most know it - crisis occurred. The infectious agent is spread when cattle, which are really herbivores, are fed the remains of other cattle in different forms including bone meal. If humans eat infected carcasses, they develop a variant of the Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD or nvCJD).

This designer's jewelry is markedly different from the bone jewelry we normally see. Instead of reshaping the bone material into beads, his necklace still retains the original shape of the bone. His ring is also unusual although it would be hard to pinpoint which bone in the cow's anatomy it came from. Any guesses?


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  1. I haven't a clue! Seriously.
    It is so amazing what people can make jewelry out of, but I guess bone has been used forever, hasn't it? It just didn't look like this!

  2. Vertebra? I draw the line at wearing t-bone....

  3. I thought it might be vertebrae too. T-bone? That's hilarious! I had visions of artisans collecting the leftover bones after a good steak dinner! I suspect most of us will still stick to our familiar bone beads but this designer does encourage us to think outside the box.

  4. There is still question about how the prion which causes CJD is passed on… and we do not know how to rid tissue of it… how can we be 100% sure there is not prion left in the bone of these pieces (which are innovative and masterfully worked).

  5. Rest assured, current research shows the primary mode of transmission of these prions or rogue proteins in animals is by ingestion. You have to EAT infected meat to be at risk.Just as carrying a package of cigarettes doesn't harm you but inhaling cigarette smoke does - the causative agent has to enter your body somehow.

  6. Then I wouldn't chew on those chops! lol Actually some tend to put their pendants into the mouth while playing with their ware, especially when distracted. We use Deer, Elk and Moose Antler in jewelry and there have been infections in the wild with these animals. We get the antler from hunters for free. They assure us the worry for CJD would be from ingesting brain or spinal matter that got into the meat...the same goes for cows.

  7. Tina - those hunters are absolutely right. It is important that infected cows don't enter our food stream through today's huge meat processing plants.


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