Resurgance of Ornament

In the most recent issue of Metalsmith Magazine, there is an interesting article titled Mining History: Ornamentalism Revisited. Contemporary jewelers and designers usher in a revival of ornament, but with a twist.

Authors Lena Vigna and Namita Gupta Wiggers focus on the evolution of ornament, and its resurgence within the field of contemporary jewelry. There are many artists who are inspired and energized by the past, and who also exploit the familiar and resituate traditional historical elements into new, contemporary pieces.

The article states that a contemporary vocabulary is emerging in which the baroque, the rococo, the curvilinear and the unabashedly ornate features of historic jewelry are taking a new, redefined center stage. Artists are … democratizing forms and patterns previously preserved for royalty through a range of new materials and unexpected vehicles.

This relationship with the past is articulated in five senses: fragmenting and abstracting historical forms, employing new technologies, creating updated versions of familiar jewels, neutralizing markers of luxury, and examining the relationship between jewelry, the body, and space.

Contemporary makers are intervening in traditional concepts of jewelry, subverting and responding to notions of worth and value. Through the democratization of materials and identity, jewelers are making adornment more accessible physically and conceptually to the public. It seems appropriate that in an era of hyper awareness and scrutiny, that artists are able to use their work to question class, taste, and materiality.

I appreciate that this article does not consider the current use of ornament or explorations of the past to be a passing trend, but acknowledge it as an inevitable awareness of the identity of the jewelry field. The work discussed in this article explores the mediums own identity, it is jewelry about jewelry. Not only does it acknowledge and pay homage to makers that came before, but this vein of contemporary work challenges current notions of value, material, and wearablility.

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