Text: Joanna Rodger
Monique Péan, fashion’s favorite eco-friendly jewelry designer, is an unapologetic paleontology nerd. “Growing up, I was never as interested in jewelry as I was in dinosaurs and fossils,” explains the D.C. native and U Penn–educated business whiz. The fascination persists to this day: her most prized possession is a fossilized stegosaurus hip bone, scored while scouring the market for new materials. So it stands to reason that when she started her line of sustainable jewelry in 2006, the designer went straight for a cache of fossilized woolly mammoths, dating from anywhere between 10 and 150 thousand years ago. The material has since become her signature. This spring, Péan is stepping even further back in time—about 300 million years—using petrified dinosaur bone from the Jurassic era. “I love the idea that you can take something that old and make it into something new again,” she says. Sourced from the Colorado plains, the only area in the world where agatized dinosaur bone can be found, these specimens contain minerals and impurities built up over millennia, which give the bones their unusual hues—from lavender to yellow, black, rust, and gray—and repeating geometric motifs. “The patterns and colors are like nature’s abstract art. I think of a Rothko,” Péan says of their organic beauty. But pretty as fossils may be, they can also be tricky to work with. First, obtaining the artifacts is no easy feat: Péan works with a pair of paleontologists who contact her when they find small agatized bone fragments (larger, intact specimens generally go to museums), and then plunking down the money is risky. “You take a chance on each purchase, because you don’t know exactly what you’ll find inside,” explains the designer. Once a sale is completed, processing the stones presents the next challenge: dinosaur fossils tend to be soft, brittle, and difficult to cut. “Yeah, we broke a lot of them,” Péan deadpans. But the end result, a cut, polished, and diamond pavé–ringed fossil—a wearable slice of ancient history—is a piece of cocktail hour–worthy glamour, to say the least.