The simplest definition of art jewellery is effectively a piece of art that is wearable – it might be called a necklace ring or bracelet, but is likely to be like nothing you’ve ever seen before. Art jewellery is a bit of a case of “you’ll know it when you see it” as the definition is broad and the boundaries are fluid, but we’ll explain a few different interpretations here.
Art jewellery is sometimes made in precious materials and gems, but generally a piece of art jewellery is more about the design, the making process, or a concept, than about the intrinsic value of the piece. They are often pieces of unusual scale and may be made of a mix of unconventional materials. The field can be broadly split into three categories – artists who make jewellery, conceptual art jewellery makers, and jewellers who make art.
Artists who make jewellery
Some people argue that art jewellery is jewellery made by established artists in other disciplines, and many artists do branch out into jewellery at some point in their careers. Famous examples are sculptors and painters like Pablo Picasso and Salvador Dali.
Some artists will make their own jewellery – for example the sculptor Alexander Calder. More often they are collaborations with a trained goldsmith who helps translate the artists ideas into a piece of jewellery. Either way the artist is often instantly recognizable from the piece of jewellery – for example Anish Kapoor’s pendants and rings strongly echo his large scale sculpture.
Conceptual art jewellers
There are also many makers who specialize in conceptual art jewellery – for them it was always about a concept, exploring a technique, or pushing our ideas of jewellery design. They may incorporate materials like fabric, wood, paper, resins, hair, bone … the sky’s the limit really.
Don’t be fooled by the humble materials though, as art jewellery generally commands prices similar to their classical counterparts. A few examples of conceptual art jewellers are Felieke van der Leest, Seliena Coyle, and Lisa Walker.
Jewellers who make art
Occasionally jewellers will turn to making special projects as a creative outlet, or they might make a technically complex piece to showcase what they are capable of making. Depending on the end result, it might fall into the category of high jewellery, or it might cross over to art jewellery. Generally they are one off pieces or very small editions, made in a mix of gems, noble metals and other materials.
For example Hemmerle is known for their bold one-off creations in unusual metal combinations. Every year they work on a special project that pushes the boundaries of their skills and imagination – their most recent project Nature’s Jewels is a collection of hyper-realistic recreations of fruits, seeds, leaves and plants.
Another one not to miss is Lydia Courteille: antique jewellery dealer at heart, she creates exquisite collections of jewellery so she can share her passions, knowledge and creativity with her clients.
In Ireland there are very few makers of art jewellery and particularly few that dedicate 100% of their studio practice to art jewellery. There are certainly a few gems out there – so continue reading our blogpost Irish Art Jewellery to find out about Irish makers of art jewellery.