Why re-purose antique French costume jewellery?
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Melanie Dooley

Owner, designer

Hello, I’m Melanie Dooley, the very busy and perpetually inspired individual behind this world of creativity called Empire de Talaru. I’m chief maker, designer, administrator, shipping person, customer service contact, webmaster, online shop maintainer…well actually, I do everything. I create my jewellery designs by hand, I layout my cushion cover designs in my home studio using Photoshop. I answer customer enquiries and I spend a lot of time sourcing all of the lovely elements used in my designs. In fact it’s the ‘hunt’ for antique treasures that I most love; the designing comes out of necessity to keep my collection manageable and not keep everything I find.

It’s all about composition

The art of putting things together

Some of my earliest memories are of attending antique auctions with my father, or sitting next to my mother sewing doll’s clothes and making things. Coming from a long line of ‘makers’ – mainly dressmakers, tailors and knitters – I have found my nice in Antique Assemblage jewellery and digital collage. If you think about it for a bit, you will realise that all of these forms of creative expression have one thing in common – they’re all about composition. If I was to define the skill that is central to all of these artistic endeavours, it is the art of putting often random elements together to create a new and harmonious design that looks like it was always meant to be that way.

Photo of designer Melanie Dooley
But why?
Bringing the past into the present

It all began with King Tut

When I was about eight years old my step mother came home from a trip to Europe with a catalogue from the Tutankhamen exhibition touring the world at the time. I still have this catalogue, and its many dog-eared pages are proof of my early and ongoing fascination with the past. I long ago gave up the notion of actually becoming an archaeologist but at every opportunity I indulge in a whimsical escape to places, people and events long past through my jewellery and design. It is testament to the quality of the antique French costume jewellery that I use in my designs that they still exist today; having long been cherished and cared for by past owners. They are now ready for me to pass them onto new owners and become heirlooms for tomorrow.

I can’t find anything to wear

Why I started making jewellery

Probably the funniest thing about the fact that I am a jewellery designer is that I never used to wear much jewellery. I look back on early photos of myself, from late teens and onwards, and I rarely ever wore jewellery. I did collect it – digging in dusty boxes at antique markets and junk stores for shiny treasures, some of which I still have. I could never find jewellery that was unique, interesting, artistic and that had some soul to it. In fact, it was while I was looking online for brass embellishments for a handmade book I was working on that I found people selling jewellery on Etsy made from all manner of antique and vintage elements. From that point, I never looked back. I taught myself how to make the sort of jewellery I wanted to wear…and Empire de Talaru was born.

My hunting grounds


You will notice that I draw a strong influence from all things French in my design work, materials and inspirations. I can still taste the ‘tarte aux framboises‘ I ate during my first visit to France in 1993, purchased from a little place called Abu e Pain just near the Arc de Triomphe. I’ve been back there more than 10 times since, and even lived there for a while. There is a synergy between the country, and my work.  France is a place that honours and celebrates its past with reverence of traditions. The country is a source of remarkable high quality, interesting costume jewellery that forms the basis of my designs. This vein of tradition runs through private life as well – in the meals shared, the dishes cooked and the stories told around dinner tables. My designs are an extension of this tradition…to continue the story of the pieces used in my designs.