Concept of Sustainability in Jewellery

Sustainability is a new term which applies to complex subjects of the environment. Sustainable development was defined by the UN in 1983 as, ‘meeting the needs of the present without compromising the needs of the future generation’.

More emphasis is required for the need of the hour & ways to influence the legacy of the future in terms of raw materials availability & ecosystems.

Sustainability is just not confined or associated with macro-level such as architecture, building materials, timber, etc. but also influences micro levels such as Fashion Accessory-Jewellery. This concept of sustainability can be adopted and encouraged in the budding designer’s group, to explore more avenues, diversifying the understanding of the theme by interpreting it with imagination, looking around and thinking laterally too.

Sustainability as a concept can work amazingly for contemporary or costume Jewellery. Choosing various materials available to make jewellery is important, allied with how they are used.

Few of them have found new ways of replacing a forbidden material such as Ivory with something which looks similar. Vegetable Ivory is a seed of a palm tree which can be harvested without chopping the tree.

 Ecological awareness might sound a bit more advanced in some areas of art & design than others. But many designers have explored this concept too, such as furniture designer Tejo Remy who made a chair from old clothing & fashion designer Martin Margiela who developed a collection on resizing old clothes, among others.

Beppe Kessler, a Jewellery designer, made ‘Rope of Pearls’ necklace in which real pearls are set in burnt salsa Wooden big beads, embroidered with black cotton threads, giving it a new look. Here the designer has tried mixing the various materials very differently and it is difficult to judge which is more important and precious out of all.

‘Rope of Pearls’ necklace by Beppe Kessler (Balsa wood, Pearls & cotton thread); image credit- Pinterest

There are different ways to approach the concept of sustainability for Jewellery such as:

(a) Recycling the jewellery to give it a second life and new meaning.
This might be achieved by wearing it differently from the previous way, melting it down, reworking it, adding to it or casting it in another material, etc. -Katja Korsawe made Coral chain necklace using rubber bands, twisted and put together in such a way that necklace resembles coral.

Rubber band Coral chain necklace, by Katja korsawe ; image credit- Pinterest

-Nadia El Sabei created a safety chain necklace made out of safety pins and button link together to build a beautiful nest-like structure.

safety chain necklace, by Nadia El sabei ; image credit-

(b) Using different discarded materials to make Jewellery.

(c) Looking at the new genre, Ephemeral jewellery, which gets the topmost rating in sustainability stakes, requiring no physical materials to make.

It’s created using marks on the skin through dust, light or reflection of images projected on to the body. Photoshoots, Fashion shows and performances can embrace these positive methods.

(d) Also, there can be some transformations which can be made in worn-out jewellery to enable it to be worn. Wear and Tear are part of every product, different materials age in a variety of ways, like metals acquire Patina caused by changes and abrasions in surface or their colour, wool starts to pill, textile becomes thin or threadbare, acids or sweat from skin can instantly cause metal jewels to rust & silver jewellery to tarnish.

Designer Miriam Verbeek has inculcated such concept in the necklace design, ‘Tears Collar’ made from car glass melted into tiny balls and added a frill of Nylon around these glass balls to create a tear effect.

(e) Jewellery made from naturally existing material such as bones, fruit seeds, stones, leaves, feathers, shells, etc. Working with natural materials can connect with ancient and primitive materials.

Peter Hoogeboom created a heavy necklace using cobblestone combined with glass & Iron metal, collected from the beach of the Greek island of Crete. The love for travel & collecting ethnographic objects from faraway places are major highlights of Hoogeboom’s work.

Verena Sieber used Cork in a completely different manner by making a collar which looks like a fine net on which tiny pieces of cork are floating.

Cork Collar, by Verena Sieber; image credit-

Hans Stofer designed a contemporary finger ring using Olive stones, steel wire and glass construction forming a cage-like structure around the stones.

Similarly, there are endless examples of work done by various designers who have explored and created beautiful & extraordinary pieces based on this concept such as Paul Derrez, Bas Bauman, Warwick Freeman, Anemone Tontsch, Leonie Philpot , Maria Donato & Ana Smaldon, etc.

Kumud Kedia, Lecturer, LSA Department, Unitedworld Institute of Design (UID)

Disclaimer: The opinions / views expressed in this article are solely of the author in his / her individual capacity. They do not purport to reflect the opinions and/or views of the College and/or University or its members.

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