Contemporary jewellery can very often be intimidating but, at the same time, plays a tantalizing role with its viewers: for most people, in fact, leaving the comforting glare of pearls means leaving the well-known space of secure objects for that undetermined, quite often whimsical world where all values are subverted.

But what at first glance appears strange, unpredictable, asymmetric or even unwearable, reveals itself and raises curiosity: an indication of something fascinating, bizarre, wearable and valuable. A real Wunderkammmer full of appealing oddities.

Contemporary jewellery today bears several expressive languages: from the use of unconventional materials such as plastics, or non-precious stones and metals, to a myriad of new media of expressions able to investigate, research and offer a new range (and a new world) of personal artistic paths.

Thus, dealing with the idea of the subverted hierarchy of materials, I would like to focus my attention on the kind of artistic jewellery production which looks to the precious world of gemstones and traditional goldsmithing pieces, through unconventional materials such as silicone, old biscuit tins and everyday use metal, ceramic and textiles: the other side of preciousness.

Roberta Bernabei, or the poetry of mapping absence.
Observing Roberta Bernabei’s silicone rings, “one is immediately aware of the fact the her jewellery's “contents” go beyond mere adornment. Space, absence, presence are all key words in Bernabei’s art. […] As opposed to most Italian artists, Bernabei has made very little use use of gold, if not in a minor form for its symbolic value” (1): her rings speak about a new form of simplicity, a poetic silicone preciousness.

Roberta Bernabei

Anna Davern: the coated stone.
Australian born Anna Davern started her former research on the imagery of preciousness using old biscuit tins: with the technique of “sublimation”(2), she transfers a large-scale picture of a traditional precious stone, giving a “kind of an homage of the initial tenets of contemporary jewellery, which was to react against the use of precious metals”(3), thus rethinking the imagery and idea of value.

Anna Davern

Another side of preciousness is explored by MINA KANG and ULI RAPP who use textile and fabrics.

Korean artist Mina Kang uses ramie fabric, a traditional Korean textile, to build up her pieces using different kinds of painted fabrics in strong colours and sewing the elements together to recreate and re-think not only the form of stones, but also recalling the hills of her country.

Mina Kang

Uli Rapp is “fascinated by the Elizabethan splendour in dress decoration and translates it into wearable contemporary jewelry […] she invented a technique to apply medical plastic between textile […] Uli’s necklaces, brooches and earrings interpret a love for antique gemstones and pearls contrasting with chunky chains”(4) giving a fresh, contemporary and weightless twist to the past.

Uli Rapp

With her ring series “Super Rocks”, Dutch jewellery artist Andrea Wagner (5) gives life to precious stones by using pigmented bone china porcelain: the rings are definitively precious, their names are “Diamond”, “Garnet” “Emerald”, but the point of view of has changed, the form remains and the material (non-less precious than a gemstone) perfectly fulfills the concept of overturning values.

Andrea Wagner

And now, what can be considered valuable and precious?

Nichka Marobin Author: Nichka Marobin is a Dutch and Flemish art historian. She graduated from the University of Padua (Italy) with a thesis on German and Flemish Renaissance ornament prints. In 2011 she founded The Morning Bark, a blo(g)azette on arts and humanities, and she is a passionate collector of contemporary jewellery.

1) RITA MARCANGELO, Enclosing space, in Mapping impermanence. Roberta Bernabei, exhibition;
2) “The Technique of sublimation involves using heat to embed a printed image onto metal that has been coated with plastic surface” says ANNA DAVERN in her website;
3) ANNA DAVERN in her website;
4) ULI RAPP in her website;
5) Andrea Wagner;


    • Avatar
      Roxy Lentz
      Mar 7, 2016

      I love jewelry made from re purposed and unconventional materials, and the people who buy it even more. Beautiful things are sometimes lying in the street and passed over every day. I make my jewelry from re purposed silver plate trays, and was able to travel to Paris and Rome once from the sales.