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Tuesday 26 September 2023 Dublin: 15°C
Daniella Cardillo Jewellery created by Daniella Cardillo
# Jewellery
Horsehair and rodent bones inspire Irish jewellery designer
Daniela Cardillo has been shortlisted for a big European award and says her work is not made to shock: it is to remove stigma from death.

HORSEHAIR AND RODENT bones are not the typical materials you might associate with jewellery – but one young Irish designer is on a mission to show that they can be beautiful.

Daniela Cardillo, a 23-year-old Kilkenny native and graduate of the National College of Art and Design (NCAD) in Dublin, creates intricate and striking pieces of jewellery using bones from rodents and horsehair, and now her work has been nominated for a European award.


Cardillo has been shortlisted for this year’s European Prize for Applied Arts – Young Talent, and her work will go on display from 14 July to 9 September in Belgium. She will find out next week if she has won an award.

Speaking to, Daniella explained that her work isn’t about shock value; instead, it is about creating something beautiful.

“It’s great – I’ve been really busy lately,” said Cardillo of her nomination. She has recently returned from London, where she met with retailers to discuss the possibility of selling her work in stores.

Since graduating last year, she has met with an enterprise board and taken a ‘start your own business’ course, while working on getting funding together to set up her own studio.

She hopes to have her online store up and running next week and is working on creating pieces that are less labour-intensive and more affordable than her previous work.


“I’m still sticking with the same materials,” said Cardillo, adding that she is heavily influenced by Victorian mourning jewellery and hair weaving techniques. “It is a lost craft,” she said of hair weaving.

I spent a lot of time researching it and taught myself it. I want to keep going with it – it’s quite rare.

Shock value?

Cardillo describes the pieces in her range as relics, and though they are made out of unusual materials, this is not in order to shock. “I didn’t want to just do this to have a shock value. It is the opposite,” she said.

It’s trying to have a better attitude towards death. These objects, they are really beautiful but people have a stigma attached to them.

Cardillo wants the beauty to transcend the stigma and show that bones and hair can be beautiful. Reactions can be mixed, but she said often people who like her work before finding out what it is made from like it even more after.

She began using hair shed from horses she herself owns before taking to buying it online when she needed more, and sources the rodent bones either on her own land or online.

I always had wanted to work with horse hair; it’s a very interesting material.

Rodent bones, meanwhile, are “so small and delicate”, and Cardillo gold-plates and encases them in metal by electro-forming, making them look like precious objects.

The long-term aim is to employ staff, but for now Cardillo is concentrating on starting up her own business herself. As time-consuming as her work can be, and as unusual as the materials are, she is focusing on getting her award-winning work out there, online and in stores.

“Ideally I’d like to have it in a couple of stockists and shops,” she said, adding that she will be opening an ASOS boutique very soon.

These ‘organic’ materials have some precedent – this photograph shows an 18th century piece of Irish jewellery, made of dyed horsehair, which is on display in Collins’ Barracks Museum of Decorative Arts and History in Dublin.

(Pic: Susan Daly/

Read: Irishman designs jeans made from… beer bottles>

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