Thursday, 24 March 2011

Material World Part II - The Alternatives...

Precious metals, of course, are not the only choice if you want to invest in exciting, lasting contemporary design.

To all appearances, Dominic Jones’ work is designer silver and vermeil, with polished finish and all metal designs. However, his pieces are actually created from a core of brass, with a gold plating five times the usual thickness to make them just a little more durable and precious than standard plated product.

Dominic Jones Ring

While Dominic Jones uses this technique to offset the cost of heavyweight, chunky designs, I have less understanding when I see expensive designer pieces that are plated despite being very small scale. Silver is not yet so expensive that little pendants need be plated when we’re talking designer prices.

Giles & Brother Sterling Silver Pendant

Giles & Brother have countered this by offering their more lightweight pieces, such as charm necklaces and stud earrings, in silver and vermeil, while heavier pieces like cuffs are offered in gold or silver plated brass.

Giles & Brother Railroad Brass Bracelet

Both Polli and Nervous System exploit the properties of a metal still relatively unusual in jewellery, stainless steel, to create large yet lightweight pieces;

Nervous System Stainless Steel Earrings

Polli Stainless Steel Necklaces

Then, of course, there’s costume jewellery – the term in itself covering extreme ends of the market. There’s a vast difference between mass produced, churned out or practically copied designs you can pick up on the high street and good designer or vintage costume jewellery. I’m not into jewellery that makes your hands smell like pennies, breaks as soon as you wear it or that I wonder how on earth it could have been produced in anything other than a sweatshop for the price.

Erickson Beamon 'Duchess of Fabulous' Necklace

Spending a few hundred pounds on a necklace made from base metals might seem like a crazy outlay, but you can add another nought or two to that figure if you want the same scale and level of design made from gold or even silver. I love working with and wearing precious materials, but I think this is where costume jewellery really comes into its own – pieces that pack an immediate statement in size, colour or design. Plus, it’s a way to get bona fide runway impact when you can buy (relatively) affordably into catwalk staples Mawi and Erickson Beamon.

Mawi Gold-plated Bead and Crystal Necklace

There’s no real ‘conclusion’ to this post, as what material you prefer your jewellery to be made from is personal choice and - ethical issues aside - there’s nothing to say what’s right or wrong. What I really love about the modern jewellery market is not only that ‘design value’ is becoming as important as metal value, but also the much freer way in which jewellery is worn. Throw on your finest gems with costume jewellery, precious metals with handmade friendship bracelets, diamante (or diamonds!) with a scruffy t-shirt...

Featuring: Dominic Jones, Erickson Beamon, Giles & Brother, Mawi, Nervous System, Polli

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