Someone asked me the other day what I meant by ‘contemporary jewellery’, which is one of the types of jewellery we have at Platform. Most people are more familiar with commercial and costume jewellery – pretty, decorative items that you will find everywhere from traditional jewellery stores to markets to ebay. Contemporary jewellery generally uses the same, traditional jewellery making techniques, but what sets it apart is that it is conceptual, portraying an idea beyond pure decoration. Often the pieces are one-of-a-kind, many of which could certainly be described as ‘art’. But don’t let that fool you – contemporary jewellery features as much everyday wear jewellery as it does bold statement pieces.
I asked some of our jewellers, and a long-time jewellery collector, for their take on the distinction between contemporary and commercial jewellery – given that it’s a term without formal definition, and it can mean different things to different people.
Claire Brooks, a jeweller from South Australia, says “For me it means extending upon a wealth of traditional jewellery making techniques to express an opinion or theme that is relevant to that moment in time. I believe contemporary jewellery is an important indicator of social, environmental and cultural context.” Claire’s sterling silver Interlace range at Platform is a pared back version of her recent exhibition work, which is about the environmental damage plastic is doing to our oceans.
Madeleine Chalfant, a Katoomba-based jeweller, thinks that contemporary jewellery is “that which doesn’t draw literally from ethnic or historical designs, but lends itself to using non-traditional materials and experimenting with technique.” Madeleine draws much of her inspiration from her love of printmaking, and uses printing techniques like rolling and stamping to create intricate textures in precious metals.
Mt Victoria resident Julie Ankers, who has been collecting contemporary jewellery since the 1960s, fell in love with the way each individual jeweller is able to make work that expresses both themselves and contemporary ideas, rather than just being a decorative object. “I am so passionate about contemporary jewellery, and am driven to owning as many pieces as I can, to promote and celebrate the makers’ creative vision,” says Julie. “Beautiful pieces freely designed and expertly wrought…I salivate at their craftsmanship and ingenuity. Oh, bring them on!”
At Platform we feature the work of six contemporary jewellers from the Blue Mountains, Sydney and Adelaide, and our range is growing. We have work in precious metals like gold and silver, pearl, opal, plastic, resin, wood, leather and found and upcycled objects. You can see our range in our online store or pop in to Platform to try the works on in person.