Narrative Jewellery

A few days back, I was asked to design a ring to represent a person who passed on recently. My client wanted a jewel to remind her of the spirit of her friend and to help her cope with the grief she is feeling at the moment. What an honour for me and a responsibility. We chose emeralds (her birthstones), and an engraving of a tiny dragonfly (her spirit) inside the band to accomplish that.


This got me thinking. What is jewellery about and why do we even wear it?

Looking back at the history of jewellery, it is clear to me jewellery has existed since we have been around as a species. The idea of expression through it is not a new thing at all.

Pre-Columbian groups within Costa Rica used metalworking to create pieces which were traded and used as body ornaments, ceremonial objects, and burial offerings. During the period of transition birds, frogs, toads, and other figures were represented.

Back in the prehistoric era, we made it out of bones, feathers and shells. Later, tribes used it as a sign of hierarchy. The leader would wear his characteristic piece. It made him stand out from the rest and it gave him status.

Forward in the timeline to the medieval times. Jewellery has been used as social power. It’s from this period that we got the category of precious gemstones (diamond, emerald, ruby, sapphire). They all made it into this category because only royalty could afford them back then.

From left to right: ruby, diamond, emerald and sapphire

 

The status of these precious stones is relevant to this day. Thankfully the market has been more open-minded about exploring different gemstones from the traditional ones and we jewellers, sporadically get to play with unconventional ones.

In today’s context, the reasons for wearing jewellery haven’t changed that much after centuries. We want to express a specific economic status, or show the subcultures we subscribe to that embody certain ideologies.

We use fashion as a means to find or highlight our identity but really most of us want to find and create meaning.

Looking around in my closest circle of friends, I noticed most of them have pieces they always wear, and other pieces that come and go, depending on the mood of the day. Often the pieces that stay, are the ones that tell the greatest stories. Some people get tattoos, others jewellery - they are all symbols.

A design for a charm bracelet that I am currently working on. It has the name of my son and in the centre it will feature a tanzanite since it is his December birthstone.


Maybe the jewellery is a reminder of giving life, or a reminder of somebody that has gone. Sometimes it is a symbol of happiness or sexuality, a talisman of protection and good luck, or even a political statement.

The reality is that jewellery is whatever we want it to be. There are no rules. As long as we embrace our expression, we really can’t go wrong.

I made this rabbit pin for a good friend of mine as a joke, we discovered that we are both 'rabbits' in the Chinese horoscope and although we do not believe in it, we are struck by having that in common.

 

When designing, my priority is to ensure that my own prejudices about how things could look or where the design needs to go does not interfere with telling all the stories that need to be told. This, in the end, is where I find the most challenging and fun projects. So please keep them coming...


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