Margaret Cross creator of Goldengrove Jewellery, Brooklyn, NY, designs and makes beautiful pieces inspired by antique momento mori jewellery. We talk to Maggie about how she started her business and her tattoo collection…
Photograph by Maxim Ryazansky
How long have you been creating jewellery? I took my first silversmithing class in college in 2003, but I was creating jewellery for a few years before that.
How did you start, what inspired you? After taking a few classes in the jewellery department in college, I realised that I loved the process, it’s tedious, but there’s a lot of freedom for your mind to wander while you work, so I’m constantly filing, designing, sanding, etc. Jewellery was a sweet relief from the printmaking department in college where I majored. I’d hide up in the jewellery department casting and soldering human teeth and tiny animal bones for me and my friends to wear. My focus shifted to mourning-specific jewellery after the sudden death of my best friend in 2008. It was really traumatic. I bought my first antique mourning piece in memory of him, and made memorial pieces for each of his family members and began to wonder why something so seemingly important to the grieving process had become so obsolete.
I use his writing desk as my jewellery bench, with his eye glasses sitting on top, my daily memento mori. I still mourn him.
Photograph by Maxim Ryazansky
Did you take a course or study? I have a BFA from Pratt Institute, my scholarship program wouldn’t allow me to be a jewellery major (the materials are really expensive) so my electives were in the metal arts department, and I stayed an extra year to focus on jewellery. I still occasionally take classes independently to learn new techniques and skills.
What inspires your pieces? I’m obviously inspired by antique memento mori and mourning jewellery, but I also draw inspiration from travel. Both of my parents are immigrants and I draw a lot of inspiration from their respective motherlands (England and Italy). After a trip I’ll usually come home and design a new collection with direct references to places, people or pieces I’ve seen. I see both cultures influence in my work. I still continue to make pieces in memory of my friend as well as pieces that might be comforting to someone going through the same thing today.
Where do you source your stones? Each stone is hand picked by me in New York City. Some stones are salvaged from antique pieces ruined beyond repair. My favorite stone dealer has been in the business for 57 years, he’s a WWII survivor and such a pleasure to see every week. He likes to say he “knows a little about stones”. He must be in his 90s, he’s great.
Can you tell us about your tattoos? I started getting tattooed really young at shitty street shops in the city. I’d also let my friends practice on me and we’d give each other stick ‘n’ pokes, so I have lots of that stuff, little inside jokes and punk band references. I’ve become a little more discerning and now I only get tattooed at Rose Tattoo in Brooklyn. Mostly by my husband Mark Cross, but also Hillary Fisher-White and Frank William really appeal to my macabre sensibility, plus there are always great guest artists coming through.