Creative Arts,  Fair Fashion

Digby and Iona: Handmade Jewelry with a Whimsical Touch

Aaron Ruff, the designer behind Digby & Iona, in his Brooklyn studio.

It’s rare that I obsess over jewelry; I am lucky enough to have inherited all my grandma’s and great-grandma’s necklaces, rings, hatpins, brooches and bracelets, pieces from 1880-1980, and rarely find anything that’s as interesting or beautiful as what I already have. I’m darn picky, in other words, and only respond to jewelry that’s really interesting or different. When I stumbled up on Digby & Iona, I audibly exclaimed; here was a collection of interesting, humorous, intelligent pieces that compliment each other or stand on their own. And was I excited to hear that it’s made here in NYC from recycled metals? You know it.

Designer Aaron Ruff’s latest collection, Me and My Arrow, is made up of and is inspired by “…the classic Harry Nilsson album The Point, Me & My Arrow retells the fable about Oblio, the only round-headed boy in Pointed Village, where everyone and everything had to have a point.” I got a chance to ask Aaron a few questions about his new line and his design process, and he was generous enough to provide the answers herein.

The bluejay arrow necklace

Starre Vartan: Where do you find your inspiration? I’m loving the arrows collection, how did you come up with the idea to use real bird feathers?

Aaron Digby: I’ve mainly worked with silver and brass for the last few collections and really wanted to use color. The feathers were a great natural material with a huge range of colors and textures I could work from. Almost all my designs are rooted in my childhood. Anything that interested me as a kid seems to bubble up to the surface in my designs, I was a little obsessed with Indian craft techniques. The bow and arrows are just miniature version on the ones I made when I was 8.

The Inspector Clouseau necklace.

SV: What are your sustainable/ethical practices, and why do they matter to you?

AD: I work with one of the few metal casters in New York who casts recycled sterling silver. The materials I work with are a limited resource – there’s only so much of any given precious metal on the earth, especially silver and gold and the vast majority of it has already been mined.

The 14-point stag ring.

SV: If you could make any piece of jewelry, price and resources being no object, what would it be?

AD: If we could add an unlimited timeline as well that would be the icing on the cake! I’ve always dreamt of making some little clockwork masterpiece that was not only beautiful and intricate but also fully functional.

The Stump ring.

SV: Can you give us a hint about what your next collections will be influenced by?

AD: I have a few collections I’m developing at the moment but haven’t decided what will be released for Spring 2012. So far it’s down to one based off of implements of measurement or the War of 1812.

A pendant-type bow necklace.

It’s a worth a look through all six collections on the site; the woods-and-sea background of native Mainer Aarron Ruff comes through variously and in different iterations but is always present.

Starre Vartan is founder and editor-in-chief of and the author of the Eco-Chick Guide to Life. She's also a freelance science and environment writer who has published in National Geographic, CNN, Scientific American, Mental Floss, Pacific Standard, the NRDC, and many more. She lives on an island in Puget Sound with her partner and black cat. She was a geologist in her first career, and still picks up rocks wherever she goes.