Ellis Mhairi Cameron: From the Land

Meet a jeweler from the Scottish Highlands, whose work with natural diamonds pays tribute to her ancestral heritage.

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“There’s nothing quite like diamonds to work with, it’s the sheer breadth and variety of colors, sizes, cuts… you would never think they could all be part of the same family,” Ellis Mhairi Cameron is telling me, eyes shining. “I don’t foresee a time when I will be bored of them!”. The Scottish jeweler is speaking from her London studio, and gesturing towards a tray of solitaire rings. They range from bright orange to slate grey, via mossy green and sunset red, recalling the rocks, soil and springy turf of her native Scottish Highlands.

Since starting her brand in 2018, Cameron has grown a dedicated following for her singular 14kt yellow gold and natural diamond jewels. Her signature ‘organic bezel’ setting allows her to bury the stones low into the metal, so they emerge, glinting in the light, like treasure from a forgotten hoard. “The reason I make things is to communicate,” she says, and the textured gold of her jewels conveys the craggy terrain and rugged coastlines of home.

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V Old Cut Diamond Stud Earrings
$2,452
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X OOAK 1.2CT Old Cut Diamond V Shape Scatter Ring
$5,169
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X 0.48CT Old Cut Diamond Engagement Ring
$2,970

Cameron grew up in a small village near Oban, North West Scotland, with her mother, an elementary school teacher; and her father; a mechanic. She “learned through doing, out in nature, with lots of collaging and crafting”, and would spend hours watching her father fix cars — “sparks, flames and fire are just ‘wow’ at any age, aren’t they?”, she laughs. After high school, she studied jewelry at the famous Glasgow School of Art, where she discovered wax casting: “I knew I’d found the technique I needed. It allowed me to capture themes more effectively than sheet metal, it was what had been missing from my practice.” She went on to do a Masters in jewelry design at Central Saint Martins Art & Design School in London, which she chose because of the tough interview; an early example of the self-awareness that has since made her an astute businesswoman. It was a chance to explore ways of bringing her Scots heritage to the fore, and she developed a strikingly clear narrative.

From Scotland to the US; via London, where she makes the pieces herself, with a small team of craftspeople. She tested the waters across the Atlantic just 18 months after starting her brand and is now stocked in 15 independent jewelry stores nationwide. “People buy big in the States,” she tells me, referring to the generously proportioned diamond shield rings, and thick baguette scatter bands that her US clients can’t get enough of.

Cameron describes herself as “creatively greedy” and is passionate about maintaining her skills and developing new ones. Inspiration can come from anywhere, like “a strange-shaped twig in a London park, or a leaf I’ll color match with a diamond,” while mood boards are full of pictures from home, earthy textures, and close-ups of rocks. She develops ideas through sketches, wax carving and model-making, before casting in a base metal and experimenting with texture.

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Legacy V White Half Eternity Scatter Ring in 14-karat yellow gold set with mixed shape diamonds, $1,676

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Legacy X Lemon Baguette Diamond Scatter Extra Large Stud Earrings in 14-karat yellow gold, set with lemon baguette diamonds, $6,463

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Legacy X Ooak White Diamond Legacy Cocktail Ring in 14-karat yellow gold, set with a single oval white diamond surrounded by baguette & round white diamonds, $10,344

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Legacy X Ooak White Diamond Scatter Crown V Shape Band in 14-karat yellow gold, set with marquise & brilliant cut diamonds, $9,698

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Legacy X Lemon Baguette Diamond Scatter Hoop Earrings in 14-karat yellow gold, set with lemon baguette diamonds, $9,698

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Legacy X Old Cut Small Oval Pendant Necklace in 14-karat yellow gold, set with five old cut diamonds, $7,757

The most lucid expression of her story is the recent Legacy collection, which is based on Medieval objects found on her family’s land back in Scotland. Cameron visited her grandparents’ farm with local metal detectorists in April 2023, to see what the earth would throw up. “We were hoping for a few old coins, but we got so much more”, she says. From a tiny apothecary pot dating back to 1503 to a locket and a brooch, all independently dated; “the volume and breadth of finds were incredible.”. The haul sparked a reflection on her personal history: “What sort of things would my ancestors have been wearing? Were some of the items worn by a clan chief, or someone who sought to invade my forebears?”

What sort of things would my ancestors have been wearing? Were some of the items worn by a clan chief, or someone who sought to invade my forebears?

In her contemporary jewels, Cameron references details of the artifacts. A necklace fob inspired a ring, and the way certain pieces were found in the earth led to different arrangements of diamonds, in a bright palette that captures the thrill of discovery. Reverse-set lemon yellow baguettes lie alongside each other, buried in gold, while old cut white diamonds are nestled into earrings. She has plans to make traditional Scottish daggers, rich with engraving and gems, to be buried back into the same land for future generations to rediscover.

The most significant find was a Cameron clan pin, decorated with an outstretched arm carrying a spear. The Gaelic inscription reads ‘We come bearing weapons’, which for Cameron, “speaks volumes about the resilience of my ancestors. Delving into their history has ignited profound reflection and excitement. The Legacy collection is a homage to my roots and heritage.”. The collection also pays tribute to her conquering spirit, expressed through a bold and coherent aesthetic born of the peaty earth of her homeland.