Contemporary Jewelry Design

Contemporary jewelry design, to the cognoscenti, is a wearable sculpture. The wearability of a jewelry piece, and how it moves on the body, are very important to the designers who create it. Contemporary jewelry is a product of the heart, head and hand, with the head reigning supreme. They can be of anything: recycled junk, found objects, plastic, textiles, and even paper mesh. If the jewelry has precious gemstones or metals, they are rarely included in the conventional form. Most collectors are professionals and a big part of them are men.

Subversion and humor are two intrinsic elements in modern jewelry, which explains why the Netherlands has become a happy hunting ground for collectors. Jewelry curators and historians say that the Dutch have a fierce merchant mentality, but they usually don’t like to show off their wealth, and instead prefer to highlight their intellectual power. China, on the other hand, has come up with its unique designs on modern jewelry. The fad seems to be catching up all over the world.

A number of jewelry designers are exploring the concept of value, preciousness, and beauty by subverting the traditional materials and techniques. Otto Kunzil, a leading designer, famously made a rubber bracelet that had a concealed gold ball. Karl Fritsch, another contemporary designer, ground gemstones to powder and then reassembled them with glue. He is now experimenting by drilling holes in gems and knotting them back in various configurations. Ulrich Reithofer, meanwhile, has combined glass shards and gold in a necklace. Droog cofounder of Gijs Bakker-a contemporary jewelry design company, combines costume pieces with gemstones.

In fact, using conventional materials is another way of accentuating value. While some designers are using for creating huge neckpieces, others are covering animal bones with some flesh colored flock. Sebastian Buescher, for instance, is known for pinning together eclectic combinations of materials collected outdoors. Lisa Walker, on the other hand, assembles 3D collages on found plastic items and then turns them to wearable pieces.
Storytelling is another major element in contemporary jewelry design. The narratives often range from the very personal to collective. Individual memories are frequently incorporated to tap universal themes. For instance, costume jewelry pieces are now being made from discarded plates that are carefully configured into necklaces.The designs include a hint of intellectual snobbery because the buyer often believes to be buying a part of the designer’s brain as well. Design ideas are as varied as the designers themselves, as are the materials for production.