One of the great things about working for The Rake is the diverse range of brands and artisans we’re able to wax lyrical about. No matter how established or little-known, if a brand or artisan fits The Rake’s criteria, they’re worthy of being showcased in our pages. One such brand is Red Rabbit Trading Company, an artisanal jewellery maker from Albuquerque, New Mexico, that takes inspiration from pre-1955 south-western jewellery.
“I essentially started out in my grandparent’s garage and through research of different techniques, I came upon some south-western jewellery,” Mike French, founder of Red Rabbit, tells me over coffee in London a week after our first meeting at Pitti Uomo. He continues, “Initially, I didn't like it because, as for the most part, all I could see was that 1960s and 1970s stuff which had this hippy and bohemian vibe. I couldn't get into it until I started to find the really early stuff that was pre-1955. It’s a lot more archaic and primitive with heavy, masculine imagery with great cuts of stones. So, I followed it down the rabbit hole under the same idea of, 'Well, if I can’t afford to buy jewellery that’s 120-years-old, I might as well make my own.'" It’s a very niche line of work, and Mike reckons that there are less than 10 people in the world who produce accessories, such as bracelets, money clips, pendants, rings and tie bars, in a similar, labour intensive fashion to him.
The industry for this style of jewellery came to fruition following the opening up of the south-western states with the advent of the American railroad, in the early 20th century. “It was very much the new frontier,” he says. “Everyone from the east coast who wanted to see the Grand Canyon and the Native Americans had to travel there via railroad. They probably had a bit of money on them, so anything the locals could capitalise on to make a buck from the tourists, they made in silver.” Roll forward 50 plus years, and south-western-inspired jewellery has never been more en vogue, favoured due to its rugged, imperfectly perfect nature.