Materials like wood, titanium and steel are being used in edgy jewellery for quite some time now. However, recent times have seen jewellery design evolve and explore even more unconventional materials for creating jewellery. We take a look at three unconventional yet beautiful materials being used to create jewellery today.
The world of jewellery is in a state of rapid evolution nowadays. While precious metals such as gold, silver and platinum still reign supreme, many jewellery designers are experimenting with innovative designs using new materials.
Giving jewellery a new meaning, designers no longer simply wish to create something decorative or beautiful. Instead they seek to make a social or political statement or express a personal feeling through their work.
Unusual materials such as recycled wood, plastic, rubber, paper and charcoal are being used in jewellery. But there are some even more unusual; mokume gane, botanical jewellery and wood and we unravel their mysteries in this article.
Against the Grain
Many artists who work with wood describe it as a material with its own life. With grains, colours, cracks, and different tactile textures wood promises challenges unknown to metal-smiths and possibilities unimaginable to enthusiasts. Swedish artist Lena Olson has been working in wood for 18 years. Having graduated from the HDK School of Design and Crafts at Gothenburg University she runs her own design studio in Gothenburg since then. Desiging wooden jewellery like bracelets, rings, and pendants she perceives wood as the most common material that she enjoys lifting up from an 'every-day' material status to precious. Wood jewellery is not merely the preserve of the Arts and Craft bastion. Renowned jewellery designer Roberto Coin too creates stunning jewellery starring wood where he combines highly polished and sculptured wooden elements with gold and diamonds. UK-based carpenter-turned-jeweller Kris Rogers runs Shiruba Tree, an alternative collection of wooden jewellery, specialising in wood rings. Handcrafted wood sourced sustainably from different parts of the world can be combined with precious metals to create bespoke jewellery and wedding rings.
From Japan with Love
Mokume Gane is an ancient metallurgical art where layers of metal are fused and then sliced along the width to create beautiful patterns and textures. Originally used to create the hilts of Samurai swords, mokume gane today is used to create unique wedding rings and men’s jewellery. Jim Binnion is a recognized mokume gane artist and metal smith, with several papers and awards to his name including one presented to the Santa Fe Symposium, an international conference on jewellery manufacturing technology. His work has gained much exposure for this ancient art in the US. After extensive research on mokume gane, Jim developed a modern method for fabricating it and has pioneered the use of the electric kiln for mokume gane lamination techniques. Working with metals such as platinum, differently coloured gold, palladium, silver and/or iron, he creates wedding bands and other jewellery available on his website.
The translation of the exquisite details of nature into jewellery is what botanical jewellery is all about. Artists use forms combining the complexity of flowers, leaves and twigs in metals and other materials. Artists like Michael Michaud and Elizabeth Scott have made distinct names for themselves in this sphere. The Michael Michaud Jewellery Collection is a world renowned collection of botanical jewellery created using soft patinas on bronze accented with pearls, beads, coral and stones. The jewellery is made by creating moulds directly from botanical elements in a process similar to lost-wax casting where the artist uses an actual leaf, branch or flower in place of the wax model.
Michael’s collections are commissioned by leading museums such as The Victoria & Albert Museum, The Art Institute of Chicago, The National Gallery of Art and theChâteau de Versailles.
Elizabeth with her two art degrees is something of a specialist bench jeweller using nature and even water as inspirations for the range of silver and gold rings, bracelets, bangles and earrings which she sells online through Etsy. Through her Etsy shop, Elizabeth has sold over 20,000 pieces and has had her work featured in several magazines and blogs in the US. She was chosen as Etsy's featured seller in 2008, and her work was even seen on the Martha Stewart Show during a section on Etsy.