From Ring to Chain to Sculpture

Masterthesis 2023

Contemporary jewelry pieces mostly highlight the body, but are often challenging widely shared notions about form and function. The pieces alter, compliment or draws attention to the body, and with that, change the way we interpret jewelry. 


Many contemporary jewelry designers today refer to their work as “contemporary jewelry art”. Placing themselves in between the genre “art” and the genre “contemporary jewelry”. But when does something become art? Are large contemporary jewelry pieces wearable sculptures? Or do they become an object, not possible to compare with other art? Or is jewelry in itself art? 


Trying to answer these questions I came up with my designs. They balance somewhere between contemporary jewelry and art. They change and morph in shape and size, with intricate patterns that seem simple and plain when repeated over and over again, but are still highly complex. 

Choosing circles, as they are seen as wholesome and perfect. And by using only this one shape, the ring, I want to see where the border between sculpture and jewelry is blurred. Using something so simple and plain, in larger quantities, but changing and transforming the size, I want to create the in-between. Making objects that can be seen as traditional jewelry, as contemporary jewelry and as art. 


Through using old chainmail patterns, and the diversity and variety in different sized rings. I have created wearable jewelry and objects that look like jewelry, but are no longer wearable, pushing them to become so large, that they loose the connection to the body. Trying to challenge the viewer into seeing jewelry design in a new manner. Starting a new conversation about contemporary jewelry, art and sculptures.


The design of the pieces follow certain parameters to narrow the possibilities of different design options. I have only used round rings. They are made of metal. One piece will consist of only one size of wire, with one diameter, but the rings created from this wire, can have different sizes within the work. So the rings are either all the same size, with the same diameter wire, or the rings change size within the work, while the wire stays the same, and thereby creating a change or transformation within the piece. 


I wanted to look at the proportion with the human body, seeing if the size of the piece change this relationship. Seeing what happens when more rings are added or taken away. Since jewelry, especially chains, are mostly mobile and agile, I want to make objects that are agile too. By hanging the pieces, I am showing the relationship with the body, and also have a lot of mobility in the sculptures. 


Contemporary jewelry design has taken up a role in between jewelry and art and created its own new modern and provocative art movement. Where jewelry is not just a token of wealth and social status anymore, that can be handed down from generation to generation, but is a way of expressing emotions, criticize injustice and describe the designers’ attitude towards life and general opinions on different themes. 


Using repurposed or recycled materials that are uncommon in jewelry, that are not seen as “valuable” like gold, silver, or gems. And with that, creating a new worth, through telling stories and expressing their opinion on important themes with every jewelry piece. 


Contemporary jewelry is not just about adorning the body, but is more about making a statement, often creating unique and limited pieces. Modern jewelry artists challenge clichéd stereotypical representations of themselves and want to put focus on topics that are different and unusual.


Many artists are not trained in jewelry making, but they still produce wearable art or jewelry sculptures, that challenge the boundaries of traditional design. Not having trained as a goldsmith, being un- bounded by the goldsmiths restraints, can give artists a freer rein to explore more conceptual work, that make a statement, more than making perfectly executed jewelry. 


The first goal of contemporary jewelry is not to enhance the beauty of the wearer, like traditional jewelry, but to challenge the wearer and the viewer into thinking.


By looking at the transformation this genre has gone through, since the style slowly emerged in the 1930s, and what it is today, we can learn to embrace the fast paced change happening in contemporary jewelry. 


There is a very narrow line between art and contemporary jewelry, and the research in this work will take a closer look at the different genres, and if it is possible to blur the lines between them.


And by looking at the history of contemporary and traditional jewelry, it can inspire new work and new aesthetics. By compiling this knowledge, new ideas have the space to grow. 


Using cultural heritage as an inspiration also gives the project a new and also emotional level, creating tension and making the finished pieces more than just contemporary jewelry or art. Lifting the designs to a new level and strenghtening the expression of the pieces. 





Laquered Steel


From Ring to Chain to Sculpture