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Artisan Spotlight: Shelby at The Yard Jewelry Company

Being a southern girl at heart, I'm super excited to take you to 'The Lowcountry' for an #artisanspotlight to introduce my precious friend Shelby, founder of The Yard Jewelry Co. Shelby conducts archeological excavations in historic Charleston, South Carolina, and hand-crafts her finds into one-of-a-kind, wearable works of beautiful art.

Shelby unearthing the treasure under our feet in Charleston, South Carolina.

As a child, Shelby dreamed of being a female Indiana Jones, dashing on adventures to excavate in exotic countries and surely being the finder of the long lost Ark of the Covenant. In the mid-2000's, Shelby met Vic Svendsen, who was lovingly referred to as "The Old Bottle Man". Vic became a friend and mentor to Shelby as he shared his passion for excavating historic sites, finding treasures in the form of household discards. Most excavators are looking for bottles and coins, but it was the porcelain remnants that fascinated Shelby. The sites date pre-1900, allowing for the unearthing of patterns of precious China that have long been out of production. Most weekends would find Vic and Shelby with shovels in hand, happily digging. Shelby was an excellent addition to the team, as her small stature fit into places the men often could not reach.

Shelby with her dear friend and mentor, the late Vic Svendsen.

Located in the southernmost tip of South Carolina, The Lowcountry derives it's name from a large portion of it's mass sitting at or below sea level. More than it's topography, the coastal Lowcountry is a cultural hub known for it's seafood, historic communities, and vibrant way of living. It's within those bustling historic communities that Shelby finds her treasures. It wasn't until the 19th century that indoor plumbing and trash municipalities became options within America and the Charlestonians in The Lowcountry were no different. This lack of amenities left families across the country burying their household refuse, often in privy pits. These sites are extremely important to archeologists, historians, and anthropologists as they provide a glimpse into pre-industrial American life. They serve as a time capsule of sorts for understanding the day-to-day living of bygone eras.

All in a day's work. Porcelain remnants from a Charleston, South Carolina dig await the cleaning and cataloging process.

In 2021, Vic lost a long battle with cancer and Shelby stopped digging. In early 2022, Shelby reunited with some of the other diggers and together they formed South Carolina History Rescue. Utilizing state-of-the-art ground penetrating radar, metal detectorists, historians, remnant experts, and researchers, South Carolina History Rescue is dedicated to conserving the lost history of The Lowcountry through research, excavation, and education. With her passion reignited, Shelby went back to digging and after some trial and error, discovered a way to showcase her finds - in the form of jewelry!

The South Carolina History Rescue team alongside a plate in the black and white 'Cologne' pattern made by Stevenson & Son circa 1830-1835 found on East Bay Street transformed into stunning earrings.

Shelby takes her finds through a cleaning process and then strategically cuts pieces to mount in settings electroplated with 18k gold. She began with earrings and has just recently launched her new line of necklaces.

Transferware pagoda necklace (c.1780-1830) recovered from a dig on Atlantic Street in Charleston, South Carolina.

Like any self-respecting archaeologist, Shelby tags her finds so that each jewelry piece crafted comes with a note including the porcelain's manufacturer, approximate date, and the location from which it was unearthed.

Blue Willow transferware (c. 1820-1860) recovered from Chapel Street, Charleston, South Carolina.

Delicate florals captured from a hand-painted porcelain plate (c. 1840-1860) excavated on Chapel Street, Charleston, South Carolina.

Shelby's handcrafted jewelry pieces are unique in that no piece is quite the same as another, making them excellent additions for those who love fashion and also have a passion for antiquities. You can shop Shelby's currently available creations here. With Mother's Day right around the corner, it's the perfect time to grab something for the ones you love, as well as for yourself! Be sure and give her Instagram account a follow to make sure you don't miss a thing. She's definitely #onetofollow

As a special gift, Shelby is offering The Faded Belle readers 10% off through Mother's Day with the code: FadedBelle and your order ships free when you spend $100 or more. I can't wait to hear about your faves - happy shopping! And who knows? Maybe I'll grab a shovel and head to South Carolina for a visit soon - my southern roots are calling and The Lowcountry hospitality is sure hard to beat!

Follow The Faded Belle on Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest to stay up-to-date on the latest adventure! You can also subscribe to the blog here or shop the vintage boutique. I'm so glad you're here and I'd be honored to have you join alongside my journey through life!



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