The designer of Cleopatra’s Bling learned how to make jewellery from old Turkish men in the bazaars of Istanbul

Words by Maki Morita

Bling Ring.

I doubt the last Pharaoh of Ancient Egypt would have called it ‘bling’ but nevertheless, Cleopatra’s regal jewels and pyramids filled with treasure would be termed ‘bling’ today.

It’s this blending of ancient practices with contemporary values upon which Olivia Cummings founded her jewellery label, Cleopatra’s Bling.

Inspired by the little details and a perpetual sense of wanderlust, Olivia’s designs are informed by the beauty of her adventures in Paris, Istanbul and Italy. “Even little things like Turkish tiles or those bunches of dry tomatoes from the Vesuvio region, they all influence my work,” she explains.

Turkish culture is particularly influential for Olivia. With a melting pot of historical influences dating back to the Ottoman and Roman empires, Olivia instantly fell in love with the place after a trip to Istanbul. She moved there on her own “with a suitcase and not a lot of money, and just started learning how to make jewellery”. 

A true apprentice, Olivia learnt how to make jewellery “from some old guys that only spoke Turkish, so I was learning Turkish really fast – which was pretty bananas. And it just took off from there.”

Olivia felt inspired by her own travels and the style of nomadic cultures to make a jewellery line that embodies this kaleidoscope of ethnic influences and aesthetics. Armed with jewellery-making knowledge from the bazaars of Istanbul and a strong design vision, Cleopatra’s Bling was born.

After living overseas for 13 years, Olivia returned to Australia to ground her jewellery-making practice in her home town. Now based in Melbourne among a vibrant community of independent jewellers, Cleopatra’s Bling will feature in an independent runway show and a panel discussion at VAMFF 2020. The runway show will be a not-for-profit event at the Abbotsford Convent, showcasing jewellery designed by Olivia and made by refugees and asylum seekers. All profits will go directly to charities benefiting these communities.

Olivia will also be talking in a panel discussion about storytelling and responsibility with her good friend Erika Geraerts from Fluff cosmetics. Known for its ‘makeunders’, Fluff is a Melbourne-based beauty brand that promotes conscious consumption and body positivity. Olivia and Erika will chat about storytelling through design and address the issues related to having a responsible creative practice.

Storytelling is very much tied to Olivia uses her design practice as a storytelling mechanism and a tool to express her beliefs. “Design is a direct reflection of life experience,” she muses. The notion of design as purely aesthetic, or creating a piece just so it exists has never resonated with her.

As a jewellery-maker and storyteller, Olivia wants Cleopatra’s Bling to be a jewellery line that can be “a vehicle of values”. She wants to make people feel comfortable and accepted and to embrace notions of beauty that don’t conform to the unrealistic standards currently dominating our Instagram feeds.

And for that, we salute her.


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